Misplaced Shame



I often feel ashamed that I’m not a better housekeeper.


I mean– I just don’t keep a good handle on things, I guess. It seems every time I think I have things under control, I turn around and things blew up all over the surfaces.


My husband’s MBA work has taken over the coffee and end table. My kids art supplies and proud homework achievements spill out over the dining room table and the hutch. The kitchen table seems to be the landing spot of all sorts of randomness. My counter space is so quickly overtaken when I embark on a half dozen simultaneous kitchen projects and, if I don’t put the griddle away right away, I lose almost 50% of that space straight up.




I come from a family in which the women tend to be better at this than me– I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I don’t know why I don’t put more effort in. I don’t know why I can ignore the papers sliding onto the floor in favor of trying a new orange chocolate scone recipe– but I can.


It’s not that I don’t like or appreciate a completely tidy home–  I do! I just lack the drive and determination to keep mine that way, I guess. My husband passes zero judgment on me about the whole thing– in his opinion, I work plenty hard– so I think that makes it easier for me to let things get away from me. Still, I let myself feel shame because of it.


One of my good “IRL” friends is incredibly neat. She will confess that she actually feels like she has obsessive thoughts about cleaning and she can’t have things out of place or unscrubbed or she starts feeling twitchy.


I feel intense pressure when she comes to my home.


I’ll suddenly look around somewhat frantically. Now– I KNOW my house isn’t “dirty.” The bathrooms are cleaned, the counters wiped, the dust bunnies vacuumed. Laundry is almost always caught up. It’s not perfect, but there’s nothing disgusting happening here.  But… still. I’m not looking at any carefully cultivated tableaux around here. Not even close.


And I hate that. I hate that I would feel anything but joy at the idea of a friend coming over. I hate that I can’t make my stupid self just do a better job already– what is WRONG with me? Why don’t I just fix myself already and do a better job? Other people can. Other people do.


And, then, as I look over at the jam-packed “art center” and inwardly cringe, I hear an email alert on my phone.


It’s from my impeccably neat friend.


“Hey–” it reads, “as you’re no doubt flitting around trying to pull your house together, please know that I have never– not once in my life– made brownies without a mix.”


I smiled.


Sat down and laughed.


It’s true.


She feeds my kids goldfish and capri sun and entenmann’s cookies and you know what? I don’t care. It’s never occured to me to judge her for that. So she doesn’t bake or cook much– so what? What do I care? It says nothing about who she is, as a friend or a wife or a mother.


But I feel shame about myself. I feel bad about my own shortcomings. I assume others see FAILURE stamped across my forehead when they see my far-from-perfect abode.


Is it possible that that label is written in invisible ink? In ink that only I can see?


Maybe it’s time to try to release the misplaced shame. Maybe I need to accept that, while I could definitely do better, my goal shouldn’t be to have a home as tidy as the tidiest of my friends or family.


I know one thing for sure– that thing you think makes you a failure? That thing you think you don’t do as well as everyone else? It doesn’t make you a failure.


And maybe it doesn’t make me one, either.



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1 comment to Misplaced Shame

  • I really had a good chuckle reading this post. Several of my homeschooling friends and I were talking about something similar recently. They were all saying how terribly messy their homes were and how awful they felt that so and so stopped by and saw the mess. Yes, it can be embarrassing, I will admit but I have been to their homes when they were at “their messiest”. You know what, we all have those days and their “mess” was no worse than my own or our friends homes have been. What is important is to have good friends who can overlook our messes and cheer us on! They are the best!

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