I stopped picking up my family’s messes for 3 days—And it didn’t go well

A few weeks ago I read an article about a mom who took the weekend “off.” No, she didn’t go on a two-day bender with her buddies (although that does sound nice), she simply just stopped doing all the things. She sat her butt right down on the couch and watched “Fixer Upper” while her family made messes all around her.

She didn’t nag, she didn’t clean, she just couldn’t be bothered. For two whole days this marvelous woman didn’t give two hoots about a single thing, save her children’s safety and nutrition. And, bless her, she survived.

I started thinking, “Wow — this woman is my hero.” I could really use a break from cleaning, straightening and constant nagging (and let’s face it, so could my family). Maybe, just maybe, I could give this a whirl and start summer as a whole new carefree, throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of mama.


So I set my goal to go three whole days without worrying about the state of my house. Let’s just say it was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

I’d barely gotten out of the gate before starting to question my new “embrace the chaos” attitude. Even the thought of simply beginning to not do was a paralyzing one for me. Should I clean first so I have a clean slate to start from? Does this negate the entire point? Hmmm. Already I’m overthinking this experiment. So, I eventually decided to just begin right there in the exact condition my house was in: a total disaster.

Kate Desmond

“Oh, how bad could it be, Kate? Your house is always so picked up.” My friends are all collectively asking and rolling their eyes at my definition of a total disaster.

But listen ladies, I’m really good at hiding my crazy. On a day-to-day basis (before I have a chance to restore order each evening) my house is a jungle of laundry and puzzles and teeny tiny toys and barbie shoes and dog hair and crumbs and tools and ponytail holders and costumes and puppets and, and, and …

You get the point.

Kate Desmond

As I walked from room to room to assess the state of affairs, panic really started to overtake me. It slowly dawned on me that the mess was only going to get worse from this point. And then I stopped dead in my tracks as I entered the family room. Horror struck as I came to realize there would be no couch surfing for me like there was for the woman who inspired my pursuit.

Why, you ask? Simply put, I couldn’t find the couch.

Kate Desmond

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I had done laundry the day before, which meant the couch was moonlighting — as it so often does — as a holding ground for said laundry. Meticulously sorted piles of clothes, towels and sheets typically lie there until my husband and minions are kindly reminded, within an inch of their lives, to put them away.  Or, alternatively, I put it all away myself. No nagging and no doing meant no laundry-put-away-ing.

My children would rather sit on the laundry. The dog would rather sleep on it. My husband, too tired after a day’s work to care, would rather just dress right from the piles. Who needs drawers when you have a couch? I digress.

So without a couch to lie on and let the mess happen around me. I stood — and I began to stew.

I pushed down the simmering anxiety as I looked at the massive spread of tools littering my counter. (Those tools, ironically, used by my hubs to hang hooks — at his insistence — to keep the back porch clutter-free.) Notice the drill and hooks and bits lie atop Sunday’s newspaper (it was Wednesday when I took this photo), and next to a hairbrush and sight word list, naturally.

Kate Desmond

I walked right over the puzzles that became area rugs.

Kate Desmond

I tripped over shoes.

I cried when I unsuccessfully tried to navigate the Lego minefield in my kids’ bedroom.

I tried really hard to ignore those snack wrappers in the two-day-old blanket fort.

Kate Desmond

I pretended not to see the dirty underwear and socks strewn about my kitchen floor.

Kate Desmond

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And I left that folded laundry on my couch. I left it there for three days. Three whole days. And no one noticed. And no one cared but me. I cared, and then I caved because I can’t Netflix binge lying atop a mountain of laundry. I can’t. It’s not in my DNA.

Three days off might as well have been three days of torture. I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t not care. I need a couch free of laundry and a floor free of Shopkins before I can rest. For me, relaxation comes when order is restored. Messes swirling and piling around me makes me straight up anxious.

So cheers to the mamas that can live with a mess. My hat is off to you. As for me, I’ll take those days off for real in a hotel with maid service.