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Keeping it (Mostly) Clean

Observations of a Messy Mom


“Mommy! Can I do Play Dough?” my four-year-old yelled yesterday, right after I finished cleaning all of the floors in my home. What I wanted to yell back was, “Heck no! I just spent two hours scrubbing the floors, you will sit in the corner and look at my clean floors for the rest of the day, you’re welcome.”

Living in rural North Dakota in the winter with two young kids, we spend most of our time at home, our friends come to our home, and this small space needs to be functional for us. It’s an integral part of our lives, but, at the same time, a messy house makes me crazy.

Whether you are in an RV or a big home, to survive the winter your kids need things to do, things to play, things to read, crafts to create, etc. All of these things bring with them a mess. I often ask, how in the world am I supposed to keep this place clean without feeling like an overworked, underpaid maid?

I seem to go through periods of being really clean and periods of throwing my hands up and going on strike. Both are not that pretty. If I dedicate my whole life to cleaning, my house is clean, but I also hate my children, hate my life, and want to throw things if someone eats a muffin while walking around the house. If I give up and go on strike, the kids can’t find things to keep them busy or space to do anything and soon there is naughtiness, fighting, and yelling.

Here is the story though – I have limitations. I have priorities. I have things that make me feel happy to be alive that I need to be sure to nourish for my own mental health. I also need to have a livable home. Finding the balance between each of these things is the trick.

During the last few months I’ve been embarking on a “keep my house clean-ish while still staying sane” movement and I’ve made some observations.

  1. My bathrooms need a monthly deep clean that I cannot do. I hired my wonderful friend to do it for me. Between her visits I can muster some really good wipe-downs and the bathrooms seem to stay presentable. It’s been life changing.
  2. If I don’t go to bed Sunday night with the weekend mess handled, there is a good chance I will wake up Monday morning, freak out, and hide out at a friend’s house all week.
  3. This North Dakota spring mud is likely to kill any person trying to keep their home clean. So, every pair of our shoes have been moved to racks in the garage. No shoes come into my house at all. It’s been magic.
  4. As long as I’ve tackled the smelliest things in my house, such as four-day-old used pull-ups on the carpet, cat poop, or last week’s food soaking and stinking in the sink, I’m doing ok.
  5. My friends will come over and love me even if my house is messy. And, if it’s bad enough, they’ll let me hide out at their places.
  6. When my home is orderly, the whole family is happier.

Sometimes, as parents, we have to give ourselves a break without giving ourselves a free pass. Being OCD or going on strike benefits no one. That does not mean that we take on the whole load and do it all ourselves. It is up to us to weigh our time and resources against our energy, and make a plan that works. Minimize, outsource, do whatever it takes to find that balance of cleanliness and sanity.

If my son playing Play Dough means I need to run the vacuum again to keep multicolored bits out of the carpet, I am going to be okay. But, if I’m not up for it and I send him out the back door to dig in the snow and then demand that he strips down before entering back into the house, that is okay too.

Everyday I am trying to find the work vs. fun balance. I am surely not always successful but that’s the fun of it, right?!

Written by Betsy Ryan


Betsy Ryan resides in Watford City and is a recent transplant to Western North Dakota. She is learning to navigate her new landscape along with her husband and their two boys. Betsy writes for the McKenzie County Farmer and also shares her experiences in North Dakota on her blog,

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