-for the moms who don’t win clean home awards-

I’m just going to throw this out there: I’m a slob. I love organization and I deeply appreciate a clean environment, but I also have a high tolerance for clutter.

I understand the principle of putting things away as soon as you’re done with them. And cleaning up every day so the mess doesn’t add up and turn into a massive project. But there are always so many things I want to do. And they’re usually more fun (and feel more profitable) than cleaning, so… I don’t always follow my own rules. (People who know me well are saying, “You mean you don’t follow anyone’s rules.” True.)

So. Once upon a time in 2005 I walked into Judah and Wesley’s room and found this:


I said I can tolerate clutter. Not that amount. That scene is bad enough to send me straight back out of a room in tears – followed by stomping back in and yelling at some little people. That may have happened that day, although since I was sane enough to come back with a camera, I must have been in a pretty relaxed mood.

I acknowledge that a lot of this mess was my fault. I’m a lax mother who doesn’t like rules. I didn’t consistently teach my boys to put things away when they were finished. I preferred to think that stopping to clean up was a serious fun-killer. And what’s the point of being a kid if you’re not having fun? Might as well throw them into adulthood at age 2.

The background to this story is that my children were 1,3,5 and 7. My husband was running a summer camp (still is!) and we were living on the 2nd floor of the main camp building. (Not anymore!) The floor below us was the camp dining hall, the floor above us was housing for summer staff, and we shared the 2nd floor with the camp office. What a weird existence. Incidentally, this is the same year I decided that I’m not cut out for homeschooling and we put our boys in school. Best decision ever.

When I walked into my boys’ room that day, I remember thinking, “This is bad. I need to take a picture of this so someday I can see how far we’ve come.” Very optimistic and forward-thinking of me, huh? In that phase of life there were days that it felt like the only way to deal with the mess was to move out and burn the house behind us.

I just want to say to you if you’re dealing with a house full of toddlers: don’t give up.

  • Don’t stop teaching them to pick up after themselves.
  • Don’t believe that teaching them organizational skills is wasted effort on your part.
  • Keep on teaching them to work. They’ll hate it most days, but their temporary misery is well worth the investment.
  • Keep your expectations high. Kids are so smart. They can learn just about anything – even when they act like they can’t.
  • And… help your kids. This is a fine line to balance. Don’t do their work for them, but give them a hand when the task seems impossible. You’ll raise helpless young adults if you do everything for them. They’ll have to learn housework someday and, believe it or not, you’re the best teacher they could have.

And that’s about all the advice I’m qualified to give. I’m still a slob. Some of my kids are too. But we’re all working on it, and we’re all getting better.

Let’s fast forward to now. On the day I started writing this post, I asked my boys, “Can I take pictures of your bedrooms to put on my blog?” They were both like, “Sure, whatever.” (short pause as they realize they forgot to make their beds that morning.) “Oh! Wait just a minute!” (and I laughed  as they both ran off.)

Here’s Wesley’s room:



Do you see that closet? His clothes are in rainbow order. This is my scatterbrained 14-year-old boy; that closet is almost as miraculous as Noah’s rainbow! Seriously, teach your kids everything you know about organization. Some of it will sink in at some point.

And here’s Judah’s little man-cave in the basement. Don’t mock him for the girly comforter. (Not that he would care.) He’s a smart one, that boy. He knows it’s the warmest and highest quality blanket in this house.


IMG_2275I did nothing in these rooms to make them more photo-worthy. I was tempted, but we need truth here.

Their bedrooms aren’t perfect. I’m not trying to impress anyone with how awesome my sons are or how well I’ve trained them. I’m just hoping to offer a little encouragement to all of you moms who feel like the messy part of childhood will never end. You won’t be picking up train tracks and Hot Wheels and stuffed animals and Barbie clothes for the rest of your life.

Legos, maybe. But that’s a different story.

ps – You may have been waiting for a picture or two of my girls’ bedroom. Don’t hold your breath. There are some things that are too scary even for the internet.


About ruthie.voth

Wife of one, mother of four, friend of many. Lover of details, color, good conversations, finding balance, and being honest. Passionate lover of a well-crafted sentence - even more so if it's witty. Weird blend of cynical optimist. I'm the worst kind of woman. I'm high maintenance, but I think I'm low maintenance. Somehow, people still love me. Must be grace.
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9 Responses to -for the moms who don’t win clean home awards-

  1. Love the last line, Ruthie. Love all of this. Even the man cave with the girly comforter. I have 5 year old grand boys who fight not to sit on the car booster seat that shows some pink.


  2. Ginny says:

    This does give me hope. Sim is a magpie and stashes his hoard behind the living room sofa. If something is missing, it is likely back there.


  3. Tricia says:

    I have 4 boys, ages 6, 4, 2, and 9 mo. My entire house looks more like the first picture some of the time. (They DO help clean it up.) I think I needed the hope this post gave me. So thank you!


  4. mennodave says:

    Ruthie, I once read a comment to this effect: “Healthy children are raised in organized chaos.” I think you blog speaks to this exactly.


  5. Jeannie Smith says:

    Very well stated. I tend to be organized in some areas and in other areas – clutter, clutter, clutter. I heard Dr. Dobson say once, “no child ever died of a dirty room – just shut the door”. That’s what I tend to do in with my office but I really have good intentions of getting it totally organized and picture worthy some day. I tend to have “stacks” but I generally know where to go to find things. Maybe I need to be brave enough to post the “before” pic and work on the “after”. Hmmmm. 🙂 Today I am working on cleaning the clutter in the corner desk of the kitchen. Getting guests tonight but it’s family and I know they will love me either way. 🙂


  6. mplum3 says:

    I refuse to have children until you write a book…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ruthie, I admire your ability and courage to be real. You share your life, warts and all and that gives hope to others who struggle with the same things you do. I love your style.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. hear hear! (or is it here here?)

    thank you for this. we tolerate clutter, but sometimes i feel like it is never ending. it’s nice to know that it may eventually end (ish).


  9. Jamie Cody says:

    Love it! Helps us keep life in perspective. Would be easy to become consumed by cleanliness (or would it?)…but we would certainly miss out on a lot of life…and some things just aren’t worth missing out on.


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