People say the kitchen is the lifeblood of a house. It’s where family and friends congregate and eat; it’s where parties linger, conversations flow and occasions are celebrated.
I spend a significant portion of my day standing in my kitchen, which usually doubles as a home office because Mama needs a command center! As a military family we have lived in many houses but rarely have these floor plans offered a work space close to the kitchen. Consequently, I usually commandeer a corner and claim it as my own.
What happens then? Clutter. Some chaos. An endless stack of school papers and bills residing next to the bowl of bananas. It’s enough to make Mrs. Marie Kondo weep. So the reality is that my kitchen is usually a bit messy!
While I am definitely capable of sanitizing the space for the public eye, if you spontaneously pop over for a visit, you will definitely see clutter and maybe a half-eaten piece of peanut butter toast which my kid insists she will finish after school. (Truthfully you will see clutter in other areas of my house, too, but that’s another story.) As my favorite letterboard quote says: “My decorating style is ‘There appears to have been a struggle.’” **Sigh**… housekeeping is just not my strong suit.
Years ago I had a new acquaintance who often spoke about her tidy home. The subject weaved itself into our conversations over and over again until I began to grow suspicious. As she spoke about her wonderfully organized house and her constantly well-behaved kids, I sensed her need to project an image of perfection but wished she would simply RELAX.
Desiring to know her better, I invited her to my own house for a last-minute cup of coffee (this is another word for “mom-speed-dating”). Immediately after coordinating the date, I thought about this woman’s spotless house and began tidying my messy kitchen, fearing judgment for my housekeeping failures. Halfway through the process, I stopped. What was I doing? Was I trying to prove something to her? Was I also trying to project perfection in order to be her equal? Man, it was contagious!
In a moment of clarity, I realized that if I desired to know this friend better, we needed to push through this façade. So I decided to leave the clutter. I don’t recall the exact state of affairs but surely a stack of mail cavorted with some school papers, children’s drawings and dirty dishes. While the scene felt slightly awkward, I hoped that in revealing my imperfection, this new friend would feel more comfortable revealing hers and we could move forward on equal turf. No competition here.
Did she notice? I will never know. But later that evening I confessed to my husband that I had intentionally left our kitchen in chaos for this woman’s visit and said “It’s my ‘Messy Kitchen Ministry’. It’s my way of subtly telling people that perfection isn’t important to me.”
From then on, “Messy Kitchen Ministry” became a catch phrase in our conversations as we marched forward, striving to be transparent and authentic with the people we meet. We learned that showing our “weaknesses” went a long way in making people feel comfortable. Our real lives involve unfortunate mistakes, unflattering photos and untidy corners…the messy stuff… and I have learned not to be afraid of it. (And frankly, there is usually humor to be found in much of it.)
The truth is that life is a bit messy for everyone, is it not? I’m talking beyond the kitchen walls now. And yet…
Do we ever choose to reveal a little of our mess or do we wrap ourselves into a pretty package and project the perfect life? Do we shove our weaknesses and failures into cupboards with the hope that no one sees them? Do we only post the best parts of ourselves on social media to convince the world that we have it all together? It’s tempting to live this way.
I’m not saying we should showcase our mess, plant our flags and marinate in it forever (our end goal is not to live in a state of chaos), but rather, wouldn’t it be nice to end the charade and be our honest selves? Can we all admit that we are works in progress, striving to be better? Can we all admit that sometimes our homes don’t look like magazines, our kids don’t always behave and our lives don’t always go the way we planned?
I have an idea….
What if we collectively raised our hands and said “I am not perfect and I don’t expect my friends to be”?
What would happen to us then?? I think we would find great community, intimate friendship and a more grace-filled perspective! I think we would stop comparing ourselves to Pinterest and start laughing with our friends about our failures (crafting and otherwise). Maybe we could finally admit to some of our struggles without fearing judgment. Perhaps we would be more honest, more relaxed, and feel more accepted.
Because when life boils down to the basics, that’s the way I want to live- leftover peanut butter toast, crumpled utility bills and all. Let’s start a new movement. Let’s choose to be honest and messy and find friends who do the same.