Not everyone takes issue with mess. But if you're like me, a type A individual who prefers her surroundings to be neatly organized and aesthetically pleasing, then you may agree that Parenthood happened to your surroundings the way a Golden Retriever comes bounding into a house and knocks everything in sight only for you to have to clean it up like it's Groundhog Day.
What are we aesthetes supposed to do with perpetual mess? Simple. We buy aesthetically pleasing toys, beautifully woven baskets to hold the toys and a high chair that matches our decor. That way, the mess is more like a Jackson Pollock rather than a careless daycare. If you're thinking, "Yes, but a Pollock's worth a fortune and a careless daycare isn't," then perhaps this is an opportunity to think resourcefully. Let your friends know you would be super appreciative of any hand-me-downs. Find some affordable baskets from World Market. Search for a used high chair that suits your taste. Even better, take this opportunity to reach your Minimalist goals.
However you do it, just remember that it's absolutely vital to our sanity to surround ourselves with things that make us feel good. It's not about Instagram, it's not about fashion over function - it's about the simple fact that colors and shapes - though subtle as it seems - actually make a difference to our psyche, along with things associated with positive memories versus things associated with negative memories. What if this entire blog post was written in red bold italics instead of this? It all adds up and your reaction to a stressful scenario at home (children throwing toys at each other, stepping on a spiky dinosaur barefoot while you're trying to save your toddler from falling off a table, cleaning pasta off the high chair which mysteriously made it under your child's butt) makes all the difference when you're surrounded by the colors you like, the shapes that feel poetic and the toys that you adore. They may be plastic, they may be wooden. What matters most is that when you see your child play with them, they add to the adoration you already have for your child.
Once, I came into the room where my boys had been playing to their heart's content. One of our caretakers was with them and I very casually made the comment, "Oh, boy, it's messy." Not meaning anything by it; just merely made an observation, so I started cleaning up. I wasn't freaking out - no stress accompanied that statement - yet, the caretaker took it upon herself to say in a rather convicting tone, "It's okay, Ariela. You should be happy that your boys are playing with their toys and not ignoring them." It was a bit out of place, but perhaps she remembers a parent who normally loses it at the sight of a mess. A risky reaction to have as it might make a child feel guilty for playing with her toys. "Having fun = Mom getting mad." Not the message we want to be sending our children. Yet, it happens, and I wonder if it would happen less if the items we had to clean up were imbued with positive associations and fond memories.
I understand if all of that sounded ridiculous just now. I almost chuckled at myself. Some of you may wonder why I've put so much energy in thinking about the quality of mess. Did Instagram instigate an obsession over the way things look because suddenly everyone turned into a product photographer? Yes, I think there's some truth to that. But perhaps that's a good thing. The way that we can give credit to Instagram for pressuring cafes to up their coffee game and now you can find good coffee on every corner. No one actually paid attention to coffee until taking pictures of it became a trend on social media. So, what, we have Instagram to thank for making us think more mindfully about the beauty that surrounds us. By the way, I haven't had an Instagram account for about three months now. I can triumphantly say that quality of life has gone through the roof. My aesthetically pleasing surroundings have reclaimed their purpose to serve my own happiness and not the attractiveness of a social media account. Hallelujah.
Whoever you are - type A or type B - I invite you to take pause next time you see a mess. How was it created? Undoubtedly from Love. Your children love their toys ... Mess. You feed your children out of love ... Mess. You love your child so much that you'd rather play with them than fold clothes ... Mess. Now take a deep breath if you must... and clean.