Most neat people are always searching for things that in a fit of cleaning spree they very deliberately had placed somewhere- only they can’t seem to remember where. You could be messy and still be organized because you know the mess like the back of your hand.
My husband is neat while I am organized. Yes, neatness and organization are two different things. How different our lifestyles were, we realized that only once our second baby was born. Like most mothers, I had developed a higher threshold for mess watching the kids play and picking up after them only once they were put to bed. The husband was posted away for most of their initial years and once he returned to live with us, I would find him picking up every toy that hit the floor, orchestrating the kids to engage in the cleanliness dance and fretting when they got bored and moved on to make more mess. It is a testimony to these patient children that they finally got him in their gird and even included him in a lavish tea party that had the teacups and saucers spread over the entire bedroom floor.
There needs to be some amount of freedom in ‘free play’ and as a psychology student, the one thing I learnt was that kids learn the most when left alone with their unbound imagination. Research connects chaos with creativity. So while neatness may be good for our mental health, it is chaos and mess that feeds our creative soul. The clean nurtures linear thinking while the mess encourages lateral thinking. Most intelligent people have desks similar to a grenade explosion. Not just writers and artists but famous computer enginners like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates take pride in their untidy work stations.
I grew up in a household where the kids were allowed to touch stuff and perhaps this was an unacknowledged positive that I carried over to my parenting. Freedom to touch things at home, to make a mess has given a kind of self-control to my children. They don’t act like animals out of a cage in homes of others. Having made enough mess in their rooms, they display impressive self-restraint outside their home.
A home should look lived in, not like something that resembles the photoshoot of ‘Architectural Digest’. While I would love to have a house that would dazzle everyone with its clinical cleanliness, I am willing to have my kids make a mess for now. They get to be children for such a short duration, after all. This house is made home by them. If the kids don’t have the freedom to just be themselves in it, what was the point of it all?