Why it’s better for kids to grow up in a messy house…

On a daily basis, our messy house really depresses me.   I mean, before I had kids, I was a clean person.  How did I let this happen?  I just can’t seem to keep up with the mess — and my kids (and husband, let’s be honest) are like the worst, most disgruntled maid service you would ever want to have.  I knew something had to change, but what?  Teach our dogs to take out the garbage?  Buy a fleet of Roombas and have them constantly bumping into our ankles?

As it turns out, the only thing I had to change was my perspective.

It all happened one day when I put an enormous pile of laundry in front of the washing machine.  I was procrastinating sorting it, when our youngest son, August, started to jump over the pile.  His brother and sister joined in and for a good hour my kids played a rousing game of, “Jump over the Daddy dirty underwear pile” — far worse than any pool of hot lava, from what I am told.  (By the way, the pile of dirty laundry was not just my husband’s underwear.  My kids just thought it was a clever name.  Preparing to wash hundreds and hundreds of my husband’s dirty underwear would be a very different post and possibly on some medical website.)


I sat back happily watching them fly through the air and thought, “They’re learning balance, coordination and how to work as a team.  None of this would have been possible if had done the laundry any sooner.”

It made me wonder what other valuable skills my kids would have if I just gave up cleaning entirely — skills they would never acquire by living in a plain old, boring “clean” house….

Here are a few I’ve come up with:

Refrigerator  Round Up – What do kids learn by getting food out of a clean fridge?  Absolutely nothing.  But digging through a fridge of half rotten food not only develops children’s sense of taste and smell, but it expands their vocabulary with words and phrases like “stench” and “expiration date” and “botulism”.


Clutter Treasure Hunt — Every child loves a good treasure hunt so why wait until once a year on their birthday to provide them with this engaging activity?  And the best part?  You don’t have to buy any prizes.  The prize for the clutter treasure hunt is simply their other shoe or puzzle piece or a spoon — whatever your child is near tears looking for because nothing is ever in the right place in a messy house.  This also provides another very necessary skill in life — determination.

Dusty little Picasso — So you buy a twelve pack of play dough, your kids play with it for twenty minutes, leave the lids the off and by the next day you’ve got to go out and buy more play dough.  You feel guilty because you want your kids to be creative, but you hate to see them waste all these art supplies.  The solution?  Never dust again.  A dusty counter top is perfect for all your child’s finger painting needs in addition to practicing grammar.  Sure, they might write, “Someone help me” in the dust, but hey, they’re writing.  After they’re finished, they can knock all the dust off the counter, get out the light sabers and play, “Sandstorm from Star Wars”.

Garbage Gross out – Garbage left unattended quickly becomes a scientific teachable moment.  Things are biodegrading, spores are everywhere and if you’re lucky, maggots are too.  Most people are horrified by even the word maggot, but maggots are really just baby flies, and who doesn’t love a baby?  I highly recommend Garbage Gross Out as a strength building exercise if you have a teen in your house.  Carrying a forty pound sack of reeking, maggot- filled garbage at arm’s length all the way to the can outside is amazing for the triceps and abs.  In fact, I’ve starting lifting weights with our garbage and you should see my buns.  Thank you, maggots!


Pet Hair Party — If you don’t have an animal living in your house right now, run, don’t walk, to get one.  Not because they’re so cuddly and great to have around (everyone knows that already), but because of the pet hair!  Do you want your kid to be one of those people who literally can’t walk into a house where a cat lives?  I have friends like that and since there are more than 60 million cat owners in America, it makes their social life rather challenging.  Did you know that people who grow up in houses that have pets (especially cats) are far less likely to have asthma?  So go to a shelter and find the hairiest dog and cat there, adopt them and let them shed over every inch of your house.  Sure, your kids will go to school looking like Woolly Mammoths, but they’ll be allergy-free woolly Mammoths.

I hope this helps you feel better about whatever state your house is currently in and that you’re not scarring your children forever because all your hangers aren’t facing the same direction.  In fact, you just might be helping them.

And if for some reason all of this doesn’t make you feel better about your mess, just watch “Hoarders.”  That show always makes me feel like I’m a neat freak.


  • Ginny says:

    If your pet happens to have long hair (say a Golden Retriever for example), then you also get a cool teaching point regarding air currents and how they effect matter. A visitor might say, “Eww, there is a hair ball under the stool.” What they don’t realize is that ball used to be individual strands of hair in the living room. Hours of air currents created by energy in motion (aka children) collected those individual hairs and formed a unit so cohesive that it can travel into the next room on yet another air current. Or shoe. Physics of the natural world, right there in your own home.

  • katy L says:

    Your the best! Thanks for the housemaid pick me up, I think kids should come with owners manuals and shop vacs!

  • Bo says:

    Hilarious…and that pile of laundry is really huge..how often do you have to do that??

    Dennis bought one of those robot sweeper/mopper and I have NEVER seen the floors so clean..everyday, several times throughout the day, he turns Rob on, talks to him and lets him go about his cleaning chores. Where’s Rob? has become a regular saying around the house. The dog hair and the sand that the dogs bring in every second is continuously being picked up by this sweet, angelic little machine. Despite the fact that I had minimal care about being really clean (b/c you just can’t care with 6 dogs and 2 cats..), I do feel amazingly better that the floor is not like walking at the beach..

    • Holly Hester says:

      So those things really work? I’ve always wondered if they would pick up the amount of dog hair we have! I’ll get one. And that pile of laundry is like 5-7 days worth. Insane…

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