We’re headed “home” for the holidays tomorrow. Home (in this case) meaning Pennsylvania, where I have never actually lived but where my folks, my sisters and their families and my eldest daughter will be waiting with coats and boots and hugs enough to keep us from freezing in our flip flops.
Yesterday, while packing and cleaning the fridge and making ready last-minute, it occurred to me that most of us, whether coming or going, preparing for departure or anticipating a hungry houseful are carrying extra stress right now, not necessarily because we HAVE to be, but because we think we should.
We think we should bake cookies for everyone’s teachers.
We think we should buy a little something special for our boss, our girlfriends, the guest bathroom.
We think we should clear “unsightly” evidence of life from our kitchen counters, the laundry room floor, the backdoor coat rack.
And while I get it (I mean, I don’t care to come home to moldy leftovers either) the idea of my people stressing out in anticipation of my arrival — of ME — kind of bums me out.
So, I thought I’d clarify a few things before heading north:
I don’t care that your bookshelf is shoved full of un-filed papers and half-finished projects. I like to see the way you live.
I probably won’t even notice that your pantry is a wreck, and if I do, I’ll smile knowing we have one more thing in common.
I don’t mind stepping over your dirty clothes pile to get to the toilet. I do it every day.
And if your bathrooms aren’t clean yet by the time I get there, just point me toward the scrub brush and give me twenty minutes. I’m pretty good at it.
What I do mind is that you might be a bit of a mess right now on account of me. That instead of holiday cheer, you’re living the all-popular holiday hell just so you can be sure the halls are decked and the pies pretty. What I do mind is that you’re stuck in traffic instead of warming your toes by a fire with a hot mug of sweetness. And what I do mind is that your kids see you stressed in order that I might see you calm and collected.
I realize there’s not a single photo of a dirty sink or a messy mudroom anywhere you’re shopping or looking for last-minute inspiration, which can leave you feeling like you’re the only one whose house doesn’t feel like a gingerbread fairytale right about now.
Here’s a thought: maybe it does. Maybe the sweetest gingerbread houses have laundry stacked on every horizontal plane, just like at our house…
Maybe the fairest of all forget to take out the compost, too…
Maybe a crowded coat rack is just a journal of our journeys…
And abstract yard art a tangible twist in the tale…
Everyday normalcy need not be hidden or rushed through in order to get to the good stuff. Everyday normalcy is the good stuff.
And so, dear loved ones, what do you say we make a deal? I promise not to look under your couches or measure your worth by the height of your laundry mountain, if you promise not to forgo making a merry mess or taking a needed nap on account of me.
Because the truth is, all I want for Christmas is time together, and nothing you can buy, make or bake is worth more to me than your peace, your joy and the quality of your NOW.
Have a beautiful break, my friends. Sending love from my home to yours.
Oh I could just HUG you right now!!! This is such an important and uplifting message. What really matters — you just nailed it! Wishing you safe travels!
Lovely! I keep telling my friends (and myself) that. Enjoying each other’s presence is more important than some dust. 🙂
I think that I actually love you, what a fantastic piece of writing. I had some friends round for a cuppa & cakes & I tidied a bit but then decided that actually my friends couldn’t care less about my messy house – they call it homely & welcoming 🙂
Ok I guess we don’t have to stress about christmas but seriously mom. WE ARE LEAVING TOMORROW AT 10 IN THE MORNING AND OUR HOUSE IS A DISASTER AND WE HAVE TOTAL STRANGERS COMING TO LIVE IN IT FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON!!!!!!!!!!!!! But. No stress. Noooo stress. Right?
love it! As much as I’d love to be stress free, there is someone in the family that probably does some stressing 😉
Happy Holidays you all!!! I miss visiting your messy home here in Austin and I miss your kids and mine messing both homes up! Enjoy your holidays!!! Hugs to each of you and extra hugs to Taos 😉
I’m running here and there to finish everything I think I should do before Christmas. I feel exhausted and I’m anxious for that time of the year to be over. Your post arrived right on time to remind me of the essential: enjoy every minute spent with my family. The rest really does not matter and the mess can wait. Because, really, who cares? Thank you so much and have a wonderful Holiday season.
This was a balm to my weary heart. When did the measure of our guests’ comfort and our self worth become wrapped up and measured by the complete absence of anything resembling real life?
…..and this is why I regard you as my best friend~ everybody chillllllll and just enjoy each other!
Written right from the bottom of my Heart… Right now I’m leaving the laundry right where it ist, enjoying a nice Cup of tea…. Thank you so much!
Wow! This is perfect! I was just thinking the other day how often women apologize for their messy house when someone comes over unexpectedly. I was wondering, who are they apologizing to? The guest, because it’s expected that they only enter into clean homes? To all the women before them who kept a clean house? To themselves? The truth is we almost never go into someone else’s home unexpectedly so the host usually has time to clean. So when we visit we are lead to believe that this person (and everyone else) always has a clean house. But they are thinking the same thing about you when you invite them over and clean before hand. We’re perpetuating the myth of a tidy, yet lived-in home. Let’s stop the madness!! None of us want to live in squalor, but I think none of us expect anyone else to keep a clean house all the time and we shouldn’t expect it of ourselves. All that time cleaning would be better spent doing just about anything else. Kudos for bringing light to this the way you do so many other great things…Thanks!!
Bliss! Brilliant writing!! And I love the comment
By Taos too!! I adore the picture of folded and unfolded washing!!
Fantastic! Thank you!! X
I wholeheartedly agree. The mess doesn’t matter. My house is a mess right now. It needs to get a little cleaner and I have no time for it. But it is different for me, see I have a husband that loves when it is clean, he likes order, he is in a much better mood when everything is in it’s place – which lately is NEVER around here (just 2 kids). I absolutely need to frantically clean as much as I can and loose some peace because it would be really hard for him to enjoy the holidays in this mess, and I get him. The great thing is, we’re not having company! Our house is too small for guests, cramped. So that’s the bright side 🙂 I can still shove some stuff in the closet and pretend it’s not there even if only for the holidays 😉
PErfect – he needs it to be clean, he can clean it 😛
Omgoodness Beth! You are SO full of wisdom for someone so young!!! I only WISH I had those ideas at your age! The holidays for myself and my kids would have been sooo much more fun! I wish you were my neighbor!! You are too adorable and smart and funny!!!! xxoo
Merry Christmas!..I was gonna bake today…but I’m tired..having a glass of wine and being OKAY with it! Thanks!
WEll said………..it’s about the time together to make memories and nothing else at all!
ah – thanks for this! I do enjoying the making & baking because I am sharing a part of ME. But I am usually on the late side and have learned not to stress about that. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family! 🙂
OMG that should be on a poster we should all hang as you walk in our doors! True spirit of LIFE not just holidays – here I am! Come and just be joyful with me! Thank you I really needed this
THANK YOU!!! I needed this today as I continue to trip over piles and stacks, cursing myself for letting myself fall so far behind over the holidays!!
Yes!! I love this. I feel exactly the same way. I have made it a point not to apologize to my friends and family when they come over and my house is a mess (which is always).
Thank you! So timely – just took a break from frantically cleaning for Mom’s visit. I learned this madness from her. She promises she doesn’t mind our mess and doesn’t want me to stress, but old habits die hard. Thanks for the reminder that it isn’t worth it. Love and miss that Taos, too!
Please come up to Oklahoma City and pick me up and take me with you…Just drop me off somewhere warm and I will call my family to come get me, 🙂 I really would love to get home for Christmas this year, it would be such a surprise to my family…I haven’t been “home” in PA for over 5 years…
It’s not that I disagree with you, but I do want to state that when I make a long trip to see someone and they make no preparations for my arrival I do feel bad. I don’t know if it’s un welcomed or a bother or just not that looked forward too. I do not feel this way with my family and friend who live nearby and whole I visit with normally. But when I travel 16 hours and nothing or 1 or 2 things have been completed or planner or prepped it’s almost like that person doesn’t care too much if I come or not.
Taos!!!! I love you!! And Beth your incredible, wish you were coming to stay with us. Trust me you would feel 100% better about your perfect chaos. Stinkin love you guys like crazy!!
sniff. thanks ♥
Just the reminder needed this time of year and all year long. I LOVE this.
You are officially my favorite blogger. Thank you I needed to hear every word of this today!
Duly noted 😉
I think you’re awesome.
Amen, Beautiful Sister. Infinite love to you and yours!
Thank you!!! My house may be a mess, but it’s MY mess! Laundry, books, cats, dishes, dust, cozy recliner, fuzzy socks, hot chocolate. It’s all there, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
love this post. I had thought of posting about this at some point as well 🙂 Lets show our messes too!
I so wish I had this 20 years ago – it’s what I told my family EVERY time I went home for a visit – mostly to no avail. Maybe if they could have read this, and realize I wasn’t “just saying it”, they would have saved themselves alot of stress. Thanks for the pic’s to reinforce the message too!
Beth – As always, a beautifully written, on-point post. Thanks for sharing!
I don’t know why this made me sniffle a little, but it did. This is totally spot on, and I really wish you’d teach my mother this. Once, for company, I threw my dirty laundry in the shower to get it out of the way. I have a shower curtain, which I closed. She freaked. Look, if you’re opening the shower in somebody else’s house, you deserve whatever you find. I once lost a library book for a month because she hid it from company after I left it on an end table.
Oh dear, my mother has a twin? I am in complete agreement with you. And I thought I was clever hiding my laundry in the shower, sheesh; who looks in showers? (Besides perfectionistic mothers…) I have to feel sorry for them in a way!
I think everyone needs a space to hide laundry, or other bits and pieces for that matter! And agree, if they go looking for it I hope they find something that scares them!! When my space extends past a room, it needs to be dealt with though 😉
I just wanted to tell you that I’ve never left a reply on any of the many blogs I’ve read, but what I just read above is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read. Thank you for taking pictures of your mess!
Amen! Thank you for making us all feel a little more normal, and for giving us reason to relax and enjoy our families at this wonderful time.
you always make me smile : )
happy holidays & lots of love!
hey cus wish your family and you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I stumbled across your blog and this particular post in the wee hours this morning – I SO needed this. Thanks for saying what we are ALL feeling and thinking and more importantly letting everyone know it’s alright to JUST BE! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
I LOVE this! It almost made me cry. We all need to remember what Christmas is really about, and I struggle with accepting that a junky house (on account of three young kids) is okay. Thank you for posting this!!!
this is so perfect…..
I am all about setting priorities and letting things go when they cause more stress than they are worth, but the act of preparation for special visitors can be a way of showing love. I adore getting my home ready and meals planned for when my adult children come to visit…those times are so precious.
Just make sure you aren’t always fluffing the pillows and vacuuming the minute they leave a room. Enjoy every bit of their presence. My own mom thought she was giving us the gift of a tidy house but what we got instead was a low self esteem and a perfection we (I) can never hope to attain. I never got to know her on a personal level.
will save and remember this; it applies to non-holiday times too. You got is so right
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you for speaking my heart and enlightening us all on how to get from “why do we do this to ourselves” to “hey, we don’t have to do this!”
I don’t know where you live; could you just pm me your address? I need someone like you for a neighbor to undo the damage done by my overbearing, never happy, still finding cobwebs in my corners; mother…..
And thank you for having the guts to stand up and say this ‘outloud’ for all the world to hear!!! I have hidden away all these years and wasted them it sounds like. Ah well, so ’tis…
Oh man this has made me smile!
Perfecty put. Thank you so much for the reminder, ahh, feeling normal and less alone, whew. Get so stressed about people judging my space, but just don’t have the time to keep it clean while raising kids and trying to stay sane with reading and art projects 🙂
Lovely. Simply lovely sentiment. I’ve just stumbled onto your website and am strolling around. You attempts to put aside stress, anger, sadness etc that there is more room for calm, happy noise, a little productive or simply fun chaos is a quest I am on myself. Thanks for sharing yours so openly.
I love you Beth Berry,thank-you for this lovely post.
Julie remember Jenny Moses our guest on chapel hill? had a dinner party and you were asked to ‘do’ your bath room. Ms. Moses said your bathtub was dirty and you put a note
Up saying ‘”you should not look behind my shower curtain”. she returned to the table ad said she was shocked and thought you were rude—– that’s when I knew that you could
Take of your 14 year old self!! I was so proud of you lol.