Did your home's level of homemaking while you were growing up matter?
August 23, 2018 2:33 PM   Subscribe

My mom was an excellent homemaker. The house was clean and uncluttered, and we almost always had home cooked food. I am much lazier. We just had our first baby, and I'm thinking about the kind of home I want for her. I loved having a tidy home with ample food, but it's a ton of effort for me, and I worry that it might come at the price of my being a more chill and happy mom. Question: how well kept was your home growing up, and how much of a difference did it make? If you grew up in a loving but cluttered home where there wasn't always homecooked food, was it still a happy home?

Since this may come up, I'm adding it here, but this is less a question about what I should do than about your own experiences growing up, to gather some data about how happy kids are in messy but happy environments. I know that I liked having a nice home, but I don't know how the alternative would have been for me. Would I have felt chaos, or not really cared given a loving home? Not sure.

Anyway, if relevant:
1. we have money for a house cleaner once a week. The house isn't dirty, but it is messy and unorganized.
2. My husband's great but is a huge mess himself. I suspect I've grown messier over the years that we've been together. There would probably be some nagging involved in getting him on board even if I put in the initial effort of organizing myself. We have a young baby, he's started a new job recently, and I don't feel that it's fair to force him to undergo a potentially big effort to declutter initially given how tired he already is on the job and baby front. However, this means that I will likely need to accept that he's less interested in a tidy house if I do put in the effort. I consider this the price of admission, in Dan Savage's words. If I really, really cared about a tidy house, we probably wouldn't have ended up together.
posted by namesarehard to Grab Bag (68 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I am absolutely certain I would have been just as unhappy growing up even without the piles of stuff everywhere. Sure, the response to the doorbell ringing might have been something other than "turn off the TV, be very quiet, and hide until they go away!" but really that was only one small part of our dysfunctional family.

My grandma's house has always been tidy but it's never stopped her from being an asshole.

Do you love your kid? Are you gonna love your kid unconditionally? Then your kid will be fine.
posted by phunniemee at 2:41 PM on August 23, 2018 [29 favorites]

I grew up in a spotless home. My mother was always running around cleaning everything, and working too, and cooking excellent if hippie meals.

I would much rather have had her spend time with me than cleaning every single speck of invisible stuff on places that no one ever saw.
posted by Melismata at 2:43 PM on August 23, 2018 [29 favorites]

I don't know that I'd describe my house growing up as 'messy' but I do know that other people had houses that were tidier. My house was just what was normal to me. My childhood was fine/great. As an adult, I haven't really properly learned to be clean and tidy, but I'm lazy - my parents didn't do a great job of teaching me those skills, but I've been an adult for a while, I could learn them if I wanted to.

We did have a lot of home cooked food though. And I value home cooked food ahead of neat and tidy in the 'makes a place a good home' category. My partner maybe doesn't have the opposite view exactly but I think he values neat and tidy more than I do, and home cooked food somewhat less. I suspect that reflects the way he was brought up.
posted by plonkee at 2:43 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, oh oh oh oh oh. But I probably SHOULD say that your husband absolutely has to be on board with pulling an equal or more share of the housework, whatever level it is, because growing up seeing only mom do the cleaning while dad sits on his duff will have an effect on how your kid sees herself in the world.
posted by phunniemee at 2:44 PM on August 23, 2018 [109 favorites]

A tidy home makes my head feel unclutter and it’s a place of calm for me. I’m the youngest of 4 and it definitely was not like that growing up. In fact I was pretty messy until I started paying my own rent. Consider if there are areas of the house that you want to remain uncluttered/tidy and if a compromise can be struck there
posted by raccoon409 at 2:44 PM on August 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

The only person I knew growing up noticeably affected by this sort of thing? Her mother was a hoarder- she couldn't have people over because it was... not good.

My mother cooks and cleans a lot- both now, and when I was growing up- but our house was rarely entirely tidy and takeout pizza or whatever was totally normal. The most stressful things were conflicts between my dad's cleaning schemes (dump everything out into the yard! Then hopefully reorganize and put it back!!") and my mother's more patient style. That could be stressful. Also "where's the thing? oh, your dad ended up with it. It's somewhere... in his 'office'... in a box in a box under a pile of clothes" got stressful, too.

But most of the time, not having a perfectly tidy house was not a problem. It was bickering around "stuff" that was a problem- whos stuff is it? where does it belong? why did you throw out my stuff? why won't you throw out your crap?

My mother is a very good cook but "fuckit, we're getting takeout" was also totally normal and part of the rhythm of things, and it certainly didn't seem to do us any harm.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:45 PM on August 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

My husband absolutely does his share around this house, don't worry. Probably more than me.
posted by namesarehard at 2:47 PM on August 23, 2018

Things that made a messy home stressful:

1. It being at least partly the result of untreated anxiety.

2. The clutter made basic cleaning feel overwhelming. You couldn’t just wipe down the counter, all of the clutter had to be moved somewhere else first.

3. Stress related to getting the house presentable to guests/friends.

4. Having too much of my own stuff and not really being taught to manage it. My room was never clean and I don’t think it could have been without less stuff. So there was no place to be away from it.

So really much more about clutter than dirt. I still get really stressed out in my parent’s home. I’m am much less bothered by friends clutter/mess.
posted by Shanda at 2:50 PM on August 23, 2018 [14 favorites]

I give you permission to be a loving, caring, fun mother who is a mess.

Thinking back on my childhood, my general memories are of a sitdown home cooked meal most days with my mom and brothers. The house was clean, although my mother let me keep my room as I saw fit as long as there was no food or other stuff that might attract bugs and vermin. For many of my teenage years, finding space on the floor of my room that was not covered in either books, papers or dirty or clean clothes would have been a challenge. My brothers kept their rooms pretty clean.

I grew up to be a pretty tidy type of person. As a divorced father, I kept my house clean, dishes washed every night, rooms put back together, etc. One of my children is like me. His room is a freaking mess. One son is in the military. He makes his bed every day and cleans up like his life depends on it. My daughter is somewhere in between.

My point is that what I think is important is that you have a loving, caring, fun, creative environment whether that is clean and tidy with a meatloaf on the table or disorganized with McDonalds on the table, your child(ren) will grow up to be good citizens. (All three of mine are and have been significant volunteer contributors to our community, on their own, no prodding from me, from and early age.)
posted by AugustWest at 2:55 PM on August 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

I grew up in a very tidy home that wasn't a tradeoff (mom did all her housekeeping in the extra 10 hours a day she got that nobody else had, I presume) or punitive in any way, it just was a very organized place with a real lack of chaos and insecurity that I now (as a messy adult) experience to some degree. I could have friends over any time, and some of those friends were avoiding chaos at home and felt safe and calm at my house where they were also definitely going to get at least a snack, and if things were really dire they could talk to my parents.

I know my mom actually worked her ass off to keep things nice (but she would have been uncomfortable and unhappy in anything less, it's just her way), and most of the bitching she did at me was because I created my own chaos losing or damaging things in my clutter, and I am really grateful for the security her overall tidiness gave me.

As someone who is becoming a more organized person in middle age, I kind of do regret all the time spent on being messy (because it is time-consuming in its own way, and energy-sucking) when roughly the same amount of effort could have kept things relatively clean. I'm not sure I understand (as a childless person) how you have enough room for the mess of small kids if you have mess of your own to start with, if you get what I mean? Like a pristine house looks like a bomb's gone off when there's toddlers on the premises, how bad would it be for there to be your shit in the mix too? And how do you keep very small children safe in that environment? We had to become better housekeepers because of our dogs, originally, after realizing all the ways they could either ruin our stuff or kill themselves.

But I will say, I grew up in a tidy house run by a person who had it down to a science and didn't want or need to be slowed down in her processes, and I was not terribly involved (it was a very "your job is school, not housekeeping" philosophy). By the time she started trying to instill some sort of reasonable adult-living skills in me I was a snotty teenager without enough imagination to realize I was about to have to do all that shit myself. So I would rather, for my own benefit, have grown up in a house at 85% or so because of my learning curve than her 98%, having always grown up doing it and having the habit of it, but I cannot imagine that growing up in a house at 50% or 20% would have somehow been even better for me.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:05 PM on August 23, 2018 [11 favorites]

Our cluttered home is (I think) more of a loving place than either my wife's or my own when we grew up. Both sets of parents were pretty good on balance, but not especially demonstrative, emotionally. They grew up in the post-war scarcity, so were frugal and tidy. Cooking was plain and boring, on the whole (this was before spicy/interesting food was a thing in our country).

The home my wife and I have made for our kids is clean but pretty messy on the whole, and it does cause a bit of friction at times, but our kids are happy and we're all very close. So I don't really make any connection between domestic order and a good environment for growing up. We do cook and eat together most of the time, or go out to eat together. I'm conscious that our kids aren't as 'free range' as we were, but we do try to encourage independence where we can. In our parents' day, that independence came about through a kind of 'benign neglect' that had good and bad about it in retrospect.

More than anything, I think spending time with your kids, and taking the time to listen to what they have to say, and having things you do regularly together, is the important part. It's easy to get distracted by a thousand and one other things and not give your family time. Time is the best gift you can give them.
posted by pipeski at 3:08 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

My parents both worked (at least) full-time, and we had someone come in once or twice a month to do the heavy cleaning - otherwise things were moderately messy. This didn't trouble me at all, although I did realize, once I moved out, that I really had no idea how to go about cleaning things efficiently. Fortunately, by then there was the internet.

One thing that made it fine was that my bedroom was *mine* and I could tell even the cleaners to stay out of it if I wanted. I sometimes did, because I am actually pretty organized and hate having my stuff moved. And there was never any problem getting extra cheapo bookshelves or milk crates or whatever to help me be organized, if I wanted. I am stressed out by clutter and my parents' home is now kind of a disorganized mess that makes my alphabetizing fingers itch, but it never spilled over into my space and I don't have to deal with it now for more than a few days at a time.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:09 PM on August 23, 2018

I think it's more important to eat as a family than it is to cook a family dinner.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:12 PM on August 23, 2018 [32 favorites]

I think a home needs to be clean. Not spotlessly so but, yeah, the people in it need to keep things somewhat in order. I was able to get a cleaner in twice a month for the last few years and it really helped my husband and I keep the house tidier together and keep things very clean regular enough. It was like total entropy for two weeks and then, bam, a team effort to pull it all together. We stopped having a cleaner over the last year and that is somewhat due to the fact that our daughter is now old enough to do some chores alongside us. We are saving some money, pitching in together and teaching by example and by rote. We had cleaners off and on growing up but there was a long stretch where we kids had weekly chores and I'm better for it as an adult. If you go that route try to find a worker-owned or self-employed businessperson who is running her (or his) own show. It's better compensation for the work.

My opinion is that there's a vast stretch in the middle where cleanliness and tidiness of a house certainly doesn't matter as much as a loving and calm environment. Living in a museum of spotlessness is stressful. Living in filth is stressful. Everything in moderation, if you can.
posted by amanda at 3:15 PM on August 23, 2018 [8 favorites]

Loving but cluttered here. My parent's anxiety around it (e.g., the rush of shame at potentially someone coming over and seeing it in that state) had more of an impact on me than the clutter itself. As an adult, I was going through something and needed emotional support from a friend but could barely let her come over because of my own acquired housekeeping shame.

My recommendation would be to model a set of habits in which the house is always clean enough that you don't mind an unexpected visitor (but mostly because that's how clean you like it) rather than letting it get super sloppy and then cleaning it in a panic.
posted by salvia at 3:16 PM on August 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

I grew up in a clean and beautiful house with home cooked meals. None of my friends wanted to come over because it was so scary with the background abuse. My own house is clean (I had a recent ask about cleaning standards too!) but messy, books and toys and things everywhere. My kids bring people over all the time because they feel welcomed. Maybe what you want is sort of hygge cosy, a hobbitish home?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:25 PM on August 23, 2018 [16 favorites]

I like super clean bathrooms and kitchens though. Everything else can sort of moulder if they are scrubbed down and packed away tidy. They're the rooms that have to function the most with moving parts and multiple items.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:27 PM on August 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

I moved around a lot as a kid with different family dynamics and levels of cleanliness. Extremes like living in unhygienic filth or a place so clean that you cannot relax were not pleasant. But I loved living with my very particular grandmother who taught me how to cook and clean and made me part of that process. I also loved living in a messy, cluttered house with my friend and her single working mother because they were more laid back and didn't care if the pizza delivery person saw the way we lived. Healthy interpersonal relationships were the most important thing affecting my happiness growing up.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 3:27 PM on August 23, 2018 [8 favorites]

My home growing up was a mess. Like, really bad. Piles of newspapers everywhere. If you wanted to sit on the sofa you needed to clear a spot. It was a source of extreme embarrassment for me and I rarely invited friends over. I think my childhood would have been much improved by a clean, comfortable home.

Now as an adult with children, my home isn’t perfect but it’s clean and I’m never humiliated if someone stops by unexpectedly. If I have a half hour’s notice, the place can be pretty spotless. I love it.
posted by amro at 3:30 PM on August 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

Grew up in a very cluttered, chaotic and dirty house (with well-meaning but frankly incompetent parents, ie I guess it was "happy" in the sense of not mean but absolutely neglectful) and the mess was a significant stressor for me and very harmful socially as well.

It of course depends what you're defining as "dirty" (we were significantly outside the norm) but I think at a certain point it does get very harmful. I also think insisting your house is always spotless would be harmful. Gotta find the happy medium...
posted by randomnity at 3:31 PM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I grew up in a fairly tidy (and definitely clean) house (by mom) with home cooked meals (by dad).

The thing that impacted my leaning-minimalist philosophy the most is that my sister (with whom I shared a room) had TONS OF STUFF. She still does. She can't throw anything away. This is in sharp contrast to my grandma, who had NO problem "pitching it."

I am not sure, however, if that answers your underlying question. Growing up was normal, easy, middle class. I like to think I am now a productive global citizen.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:33 PM on August 23, 2018

Trusting anecdote is dangerous. But, for what it's worth, I grew up in impoverished chaos that slid into crazy-hoarder impoverished chaos during my childhood. By junior high, half the plumbing didn't work, there were no usable surfaces (outside of my bedroom) in the house, and wildlife and daylight peeked through holes in the walls. I can remember only a couple of meals that didn't come from a packaged mix or a bag that was on sale at a fast food joint. My mom's living conditions are a lot better today, but it's still an uncomfortable place to visit. (I do, 'cause it's worth it to spend time with her.)

But, my childhood was fantastic, and I wouldn't trade it with anyone I've met. My mother wasn't good at keeping house, but she was great at being a mother. I felt loved and encouraged, and I had great opportunities, despite living in a home that probably ought to have been formally condemned. Today my home is beautiful, neatly organized, and always clean enough that I happily invite colleagues over without warning. My cooking is both tastier and healthier than that of most of my professional-class friends. My life is generally great.

A loving home and a clean home are very different things. My highly biased advice is to let the dishes pile up and take your kids to the museum instead, if that's what you feel like doing. (But, paying for a house cleaner isn't a bad idea if you can afford it, especially if doing so saves your either time or stress.)
posted by eotvos at 3:34 PM on August 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

Lots of good advice above. What I have to add is let your kids be messy with you, sometimes! I remember helping make cut out Christmas cookies when I was little, and then making them with my own kids...flour everywhere, goofy, mutant cookies and lots of fun and laughing! Same with playing in the rain, raking leaves to jump in and omg, mud pies. These are the things your kids will remember long after the pristine house has faded.
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:40 PM on August 23, 2018

I think if you have the resources to pay for a cleaner, it is a worthwhile investment. That is, it is a benefit to all to live in a tidier home. It's calmer and it's easier to manage. (I myself am quite messy, but I can recognize this whenever I do briefly attain tidiness.)

That's very different from saying that a messy home is likely to be a bad one. Lots of things are worthwhile investments while not being sine qua nons of happiness.

Of course, you have to make sure somehow that your kid learns (a) how to clean and (b) that it's the responsibility of every family member along the way.
posted by praemunire at 3:42 PM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

My parents' house is neat and clean without clutter but somehow my mom would still audibly stress about having guests over and how much of "a pit" it was while cleaning up for them which caused me more anxiety than what the house actually looked like. I may have lower standards than them though but to this day I wonder if there's some mess or dirt I'm somehow not seeing and that bothers me.
posted by azalea_chant at 3:48 PM on August 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you grew up in a loving but cluttered home where there wasn't always homecooked food, was it still a happy home?

I don't think where one falls on the bell curve of clean or cluttered is the sole correlation as to whether one's home is happy or not, but I agree that it certainly is a factor. The question is, how much? My mother was a wonderful homemaker and there were always home-cooked meals - but she hated having to cook like that every day. She came from a generation and culture, though, where it was expected of her, and for cost-saving and health reasons, she would never have considered just ordering takeout. The key takeaway, I suppose, is that she didn't want to be a homemaker at all, but she felt she had no other option than to be one. So all the drive that she really wanted to apply to a career went into cleaning and cooking and maintaining a perfect front and backyard, not to mention keeping my brother and myself neat and tidy at all times. (Not fun. Kids, after all... you know, make messes.) Her unhappiness and resentment at her perceived lack of options was what made her obsessive about maintaining order. It was a lovely home to look at (complete with a parlor nobody was allowed to sit in, including the cat) yet it was dysfunctional at the emotional level. I grew into an introverted adult with my own penchant for order and an inability to be comfortable in cluttered and/or loud environments.

On the other hand, my best friend in high school grew up in a house with two siblings that was literally never cleaned and had clutter everywhere. Chaos reigned. Both parents worked. Everyone was always running late. The dog did trapeze jumping on the furniture whenever anybody came over. Hair covered everything. The carpet had spots on it. Was my friend happier than I was? On the surface, yes, she was more relaxed about stuff. However, in part due to issues with her parents being chaotic (her own admission) she developed bipolar disorder and had to be hospitalized. The difference between us was that she was okay with going to sleep on a couch cushion and a sheet on the floor with the TV blasting, while I find it very difficult to function if things are not neat and relatively calm. Her illness may or may not be related to the amount of clutter in her home, but she is more able to not mind a mess and that, I think, is a beneficial trait to model to kids.

A happy median and focus on emotional health, is what I would gently suggest, rather than whether or not you used genuine walnut oil to get rid of the spots on the antique side table.
posted by Crystal Fox at 3:56 PM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

The level of cleanliness in my home growing up was similar to that of eotvos, though it started at tidy and then slid through the whole spectrum into near-condemned barely functional hoard house. However, instead of feeling loved and having a great childhood in spite of it, I felt neglected. Myself and my brother had allergies, so the mold, mildew, exposed insulation and huge piles of dust made me feel at the time like I was just as worthless as all the junk my mom held onto. I constantly had headaches. I was ashamed to have friends over, and indeed my mom would be petrified anytime I wanted to do so because she, too, was embarrassed. I've grown into someone whose heart lives in a tightly locked room. Visitors are agony for me because of my social anxiety. If someone comes by unannounced, I am horrified even though my own home is clean and welcoming.

I would say it's not the cleanliness itself that matters, but how considerate you are of the physical and emotional well-being and growth of your child. Look at your house. Do you have friends over while it's in the state it's in? Would you be okay with your child's friends and their parents seeing it? Is it actually affecting your health or the health of your loved ones? No? If it passes those low bars, I think everything is fine. But be honest, and listen. "Messy and unorganized" means different things to different people.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 3:57 PM on August 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

I grew up in a clean house. I know because I was the one who cleaned it. The thinking was, my parents had their jobs and my job, besides school, was taking care of the house.

When I got my own place, a rebelled a bit against that, but little by little I fell back into my old habits and I keep my own house pretty clean.
posted by SPrintF at 3:59 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

My Mom hated cooking (still does!) but she thought it was important to make home cooked meals so she did, miserably. This had a huge affect on me, I taught myself how to cook and cook well for the family. It’s one of my favorite hobbies today, and my Mom comments that she can’t understand how I could enjoy such a horrible chore.

On the other hand Mom is a fiend for cleanliness and takes a huge amount of pride in her clean and beautifully decorated home. I found growing up in a house you couldn’t make a mess in stressful. When Mom says “It’s just so nice to sit down in a clean room!” I have no idea what she’s talking about.

It is absolutely possible to grow up with home cooked meals and a clean home and have it be not the best conditions for kids, being there and engaged is going to be more important.
posted by lepus at 4:12 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I grew up in an extremely messy house, and it had a very negative effect on me. I think the worst thing about it though was that the messiness of the house was THE issue of my childhood. My mother was miserable about it and was constantly coming up with ways that she was going to finally get the house clean. I think it would have been better if she weren’t so utterly miserable about it. There were also intense feelings of shame and a very strong sense that no one could find out about it. (It was the 60s, so it never occurred to anyone that my dad could have done something.) Also, it was bad enough that a psychiatrist I saw as an adult said he would have had to call social services if a child were telling him what I told him.

One thing I read when my kids were little that helped me was to think about how you’d feel if you went to a childcare center and the staff was cleaning all the time instead of doing stuff with the kids. You wouldn’t leave your child there.
posted by FencingGal at 4:16 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Chores were used as punishment so I grew up as someone very competent at housework but gives zero fucks nowso my house is a disaster. Also once every few months my dad would decide to 'help' which always involved a lot of yelling.

My take? Just make cleaning or not cleaning no big deal. Don't overreact if the dishes sit out overnight. Make it seems as a normal unobtrusive thing that makes living a little better but isn't a massive stress bomb. Don't ever make it punishment.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 4:29 PM on August 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

I have specific and stressful memories of times when my childhood home was messy and chaotic, and also a very deep-seated anxiety about being late (I was frequently late to school through no fault of my own, to the point of detention). More than once, as a child, I undertook a giant decluttering/cleaning project of the area where our toys were because no one else did it. I am a little resentful of those times, and my happiest living arrangement ever was when I lived alone and did a weekly deep clean of my apartment. I'm sure it's in reaction to all that.

As a parent, I've had to relax my standards well below where I'd like them to be, in order to have time connecting with my kids and not be nagging them to pick up all the time. I also hate cooking, and when it's my night with the kids when my husband has another commitment, we totally go out for fast food and I don't even feel bad about it. I think there is some expectation out there that's out of line with reality. The early childhood years are just really busy and tough, and something's going to fall by the wayside. Better for it to be the dusting then the bonding. As my kids have gotten older, they've been able to help more, and all of the memories I have of struggling with the messiness are when I was an older child, when my natural tendency of being tidier than my family started to become apparent. And I'm trying not to blame my parents now for the things that impacted me then, because I have no idea how hard it was to be a single parent or try to blend two families together. Hopefully I will never have to do that. In the meantime now, I try to focus more on decluttering so there is less to clean, and we have looked at getting a house cleaner just to settle the debates between my husband and I over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom now. I figure my kids will be in therapy for something that I do, but I won't know what it is until they're grown so I tried just to be middle of the road and not worry about it.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:34 PM on August 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Another datapoint, I liked going to my friend's houses that kept things on the messier,cluttered side of the spectrum. It felt LIVED IN and comfortable and way less stress and no one was going to pick $random_housework_thing to freak out about unexpectedly.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 4:36 PM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

A lot of my memories of my mom involve her being in the kitchen and cleaning. One time, she got on the floor and colored in my coloring book with me and I remember every detail about it. What she talked about and choosing the crayons, everything. So, yeah, I would have preferred a little more mess and a lot more time with my mom.
posted by poppunkcat at 4:43 PM on August 23, 2018 [8 favorites]

My mother and father kept a very tidy home. I wish more of their tidiness rubbed off on me, but alas.

Some thoughts:

It is so nice to know where everything is. Everything had a place, and you could count on them being there. It's weird for me when people don't know where their scissors are.

It was clean and tidy, but not like A Fancy Parlor. It was lived in and worn and sometimes makeshift. The tidiness and cleanliness made our low income/make-do lifestyle much more comfortable. All our shit was secondhand, worn, old, repaired, etc, but it was clean and well taken care of.

Cleaning was never a punishment, but a regular chore that they ingrained in us from a very young age so it never seemed weird to vacuum and dust our room every month.

When I became a messy teenager and my mom got frustrated trying to figure out what clothes on my floor were dirty or clean, she told me I could either keep my room clean or start doing my own laundry. I started doing my own laundry, and she stayed sane. My brothers, on the other hand, just kept their rooms clean.

We were allowed to be messy, but we were expected to clean it up. Baking, arts and crafts, etc all were able to be disastrously fun, I never felt my fun hampered by my parent's cleanliness.

There were designated filth-entry points into the home -- you washed your muddy bare feet or greasy mechanic hands off in the utility sink in the basement.

Occasionally my friends expressed reluctance to come over because my home was tidier than theirs and my mom had rules and shit, but they never felt restrictive, they felt like normal. I think that's because the expectations were set before I can remember. I think setting the "normal" now is wildly more effective than, half way through your child's life deciding "I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS" and trying to change everyone's habits.

A thought on home cooked food:
My mom put a homemade meal on the table every night. We did a lot of bonding cooking together because I loved to help. It 100% made my life way better -- I'm a cook and have a very loving relationship with food and the kitchen and preparing food for people I love. YMMV.
posted by Grandysaur at 4:52 PM on August 23, 2018 [8 favorites]

So, my house was in a small way its own control-group experiment on this front, because my Dad worked swing shift. Two weeks he worked a daytime shift, we ate meat-potatoes-veg-dessert for dinner every night, we did the dishes immediately after dinner, we tried to generally make the house pleasant for my Dad. Which isn't to say crazy neat, but we were definitely more attentive to things on those weeks. The next two weeks, he worked nights, which meant he was only home and awake during the day when everyone else was out. We ate things like left overs and hot dogs and tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, did the many fewer dishes in a half-hearted way when we got around to it, etc.

As kids, we were generally happier in the more slack house -- partly because it meant we had less chores to do, partly because we got to watch what we wanted on TV. We liked our Dad, but our Mom was way more chill to be around most of the time, and we appreciated chill.

All of that said, both of us are irredeemable slobs as grown-ups. We both *can* clean -- my mother certainly made sure we knew how -- but we largely choose not to. I live alone, but it drives my brother's spouse nuts even though they have a cleaning service once a week.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:53 PM on August 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

I grew up in a cluttered home with a lot of pets. I didn't feel it was unclean, but there's a certain level of uncleanliness that becomes inevitable with the number of dogs and cats we had. My family ate out pretty frequently, but when we ate at home, we always cleaned up immediately (having two big dogs may have had something to do with that, in hindsight). Once we were old enough to handle it, my sisters and I were assigned that detail and other cleaning tasks as a matter of course. I had a pretty happy childhood, allowing for the usual teenage angst.

FWIW, I grew up into someone with a pretty low tolerance for clutter. I wouldn't say I'm a neat freak or a cleanliness freak, but my place is a lot tidier than my parents' is.
posted by adamrice at 4:57 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I grew up in a house that so cluttered my mom was ashamed to have people over and yes it did have negative repercussions of all kinds. (Not surprisingly I grew up into someone with ZERO tolerance for clutter and mess. I'm not exactly a clean-freak, but I will not tolerate an accumulation of stuff that negatively impacts my ability to function comfortably.)

Home cooked food is very nice, but it's not realistic for homes with two working parents. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but they require a level of organizational skill that most people don't have (and often there's some sort of support behind the scenes, like a housekeeper who's cleaning up last night's dishes before someone comes home to cook.) Prepared foods are fine and often necessary.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:02 PM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

My mom hates to cook. Hates hates hates it. And you can't convince her that it can be a social sort of thing to do, and fun if everyone pitches in.

There was a phase where my mom refused to cook and we ate out every night. Every night. My dad was teaching and working late during this phase, so I don't think he really knew we ate out every night. It was okay.

There was another phase where she was very performative about cooking - she cooked and didn't let us help her and made a huge deal about it. Salads took a half hour to make, we couldn't eat without the salad, and more than once we ate at 11pm.

I liked it best when we were finally allowed to make our own meals. She didn't want to eat what we kids were making so we each just made our own food. It wasn't a very loving atmosphere, but it was way less stressful than the "I am cooking look how I'm sacrificing for you" phase.
posted by queensissy at 6:06 PM on August 23, 2018

Our house was cleaned every day, and Mom cooked almost everything from scratch. But they did the same as Lyn Never's parents, and didn't really teach me how to follow their example.

And then there were the neighbor kids. If the sun was out and it wasn't raining or snowing, they weren't allowed indoors because they might get something on their stepmother's clean floors. They used to come to our house to use the bathroom during the summer because it was easier than trying to convince her that they really needed to come in. Their lives weren't a ton of fun.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:07 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't think children need to live in a showhome but I do think they benefit from a well-ordered life. Some of my friends and one of my sister in laws has kind of made a fetish of being disorganized and overwhelmed, like it's a trendy thing. Everything is a hassle and chaotic and cooking is a big fucking production. I do not like spending time in their houses and their kids seem stressed too about meals and school clothes and uniforms. Things are always lost and meals are always late and everything seems to be decided on a whim by one parent, which makes every other family member unhappy. Growing up, our place wasn't pristine but I knew if I put my soccer uniform in the hamper it would be clean and on my bed at some point before next week's game at which point it was up to me to pack it in my bag. These kids have to ask for every little thing they need, usually over and over and often last minute because they're kids, and that's not a good system. It's stressful.
posted by fshgrl at 6:18 PM on August 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

My mother prepares a beautiful, clean house. My dad and I have some form of undiagnosed ADHD or at least executive function issues, so the fact that she is organized and knows where everything is is a freaking lifesaver for us, and we know where things are, but sometimes we forget too and so we need to ask her where things are. I am so not well-organized in my own apartment and I find it really difficult, and it's not because my mother hasn't taught me, she literally has taught me my entire life and still teaches me everytime I go home. I'm literally just extremely weak in that area and it requires a significant amount of practice and assistance for me to get orderly. I have to call her before I clean because it is really overwhelming to me.

My mother is also a very efficient woman who is extremely good at daily maintenance, so she can clean and spend a great deal of time with me and my family. She taught me how to respect the work that goes into maintaining a home, and to not cause messes in other people's houses, and how to respect labor, while also not judging other people for messy houses. She likes cleaning because she likes the feeling of things being clean and orderly, and it is refreshing for us to have a clean home. I am very grateful for the beautiful house, and I think it made it a lot easier for me to cognitively handle the other challenges of my neuroatypical life.
posted by yueliang at 6:25 PM on August 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

My dad was a clutterbug who piled stuff everywhere. Not quite hoarding, but close. Mom would have liked things neater, but gave up, especially when depression got the best of her. We did have home cooked meals, but mostly because we were broke and lived in a rural area. Despite all this, I remember my childhood as pretty happy. We were well loved even if we needed a large amount of notice to have people over.

I have a tendency to pile things everywhere, but I try and keep it in check because clutter stresses my partner. We have a young child also, and sometimes just moving her toys to a pile so they are not being tripped over is good enough.
posted by weathergal at 6:27 PM on August 23, 2018

This question made me think a lot because I’m kind of in the opposite situation. I have a new baby too and I’m a very clean and tidy person, in a borderline obsessive way. I can’t sit for long periods of time and I certainly can’t sit if the counters “need” wiping, the floors “need” to be swept or there is a pile of junk somewhere. I think that this is not a great environment to raise a kid in, with his mom always tending to something else. It sounds like you guys have a very healthy home.

My mom kept a tidy and clean home, but I know she hated to clean. I have vivid memories of her screaming at us over the vacuum cleaner if dared to enter a room while she was cleaning it.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:27 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

My opinion is that there's a vast stretch in the middle where cleanliness and tidiness of a house certainly doesn't matter as much as a loving and calm environment. Living in a museum of spotlessness is stressful. Living in filth is stressful. Everything in moderation, if you can.

I have very strong opinions about this. I grew up in a pleasantly cluttered house where my parents were jerks about the level of cleanliness of everything. My dad was always yelling at us to pick our stuff up and my mom was always yelling at us about our "piggy messes" which, in hindsight, were basically normal kid messes. Then an interesting thing happened. My parents split up and my dad went to live in a condo that was basically a clean room and my mom was revealed to have hoarding-approaching clutter levels. And the thing that was tough was... my dad was happy with his clean room living and it was an HONEST house. He wanted it that way, he worked to keep it that way, you understood the expectations and that was that. My mom was forever swimming upstream against her own clutter and disorganization, blaming us, being a weirdo about it and just not living an honest life w/r/t her clutter.

That said, she was also sort of checked out for a few years after my parents split (the last years I would live in the house) and my bedroom was such a shambly mess I have friends today, 35 years later, who still mention it. Not so much because of the mess, but because of what it said about my mom and her parenting. At the time I really liked being left alone. Now, I can look back and basically see neglect (we were otherwise mostly taken care of but this was a weird blip) That and making our own food. Again, i thought I was LUCKY getting to choose all my own food at the supermarket, food I would cook myself, at age 12-13. I felt bad for friends who had to eat whatever their parents made. I was living free! As an older person, I look back at my mom and the mess that was her life for those few years (she recovered, and got to a place where she was a lot more comfortable) and just feel bad for her.

I learned to keep things clean from my dad, how to clean up after projects, how to take care of things. But he was an icy distant parent a lot of the time. He barely lived in his house so it was easy to keep it clean. My mom was a warm and loving person a lot of the time and the house was comfortable but she treated us like little adults as if we had entirely our own lives. My place at home now (I live alone) is quite tidy but it's not really taken care of (I never mop, maybe I should?) because I didn't really learn those Home Ec level "How to take care of a home" that wasn't one extreme or another. When I do see something that isn't really cleaned up I hear my mom yelling about the "piggy mess" I need to deal with. I grew up to have genuine empathy for my parents and the way they were stuck in their places. My SO is a bit more of a slob than me and it's a lot of work for me to not turn into some judgey crab about it.
posted by jessamyn at 6:40 PM on August 23, 2018 [12 favorites]

Filth and dirt are not good. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with the daily detritus of a life lived and enjoyed.

Kids and and a pristine house don't go together. (Pets don't either. Shesh, I wish my doggo would pick up her toys instead of leaving them all over the house! If I ask her to get her rabbit and put it in the basket, she happily does, but then takes it right out again.)

Part of my definition of a "good" mom is someone who teaches their kids how to be clean, how to keep their environment clean, how to take care of and value their possessions, to realize that there are chores and responsibilities that everyone in a family has to embrace, and to have a work ethic. Part of my definition is also that a good mom knows that people get dirty and their home don't have to be perfect clean, that sometimes chores don't get done and stuff doesn't always gets put away, that people are always more important than things, and that having a work ethic doesn't mean you can't occasionally skiv off on a weekend and sit around in your pajamas reading books or decide one weekday to have a pizza and watch a movie instead of make a meal and do dishes afterwards.

A mom can teach her kids how to wash their hands using the Happy Birthday song and brush her teeth while they brush theirs can both be teaching and having fun.

I remember standing up to the kitchen sink on a chair "washing" the dishes and mom pointing out a missed spot, and helping me scrub it. We were expected to pick up toys, take dishes to the sink, clean up after our art projects, and wipe up spilled milk. Mom was the one that ran the hose into the low spot on the lawn, and we were allowed to make mud pies, but mom helped hose us off, and we were expected to scrape the mud off our shoes with a stick.

I think it's the hardest thing in the world to expect your kids to do the best that they can do while accepting that what they do won't be perfect. But they do get better! You are their models, and that's what you do: the best you can, even if it's not perfect. Even though it seems like more work in the short run to teach a kid and then to supervise, it really pays off. It's always just easier to do it yourself. And then you are always doing it. I see parents get pissed when they expect their teens to take responsibility, but when was it ever taught? It doesn't come out of nowhere.

Little 'uns love to help, and if you can stand it, eventually they actually become pretty self-sufficient. A toddler that helps and learns while baking cookies with mom can turn into the 10 year old that can make a simple dinner once a week. The kiddo that knows to put dirty clothes in the hamper and helps you sort then put the detergent in the washer is the one that can do their own laundry (and maybe even put in a load of yours) as a teen. Our society has this thing where fun is fun (and irresponsible or just for kids) and work is work (and boring and hard and adults do it.) Actually, work can be kind of fun, and if not fun, at least satisfying.

It's incredibly important to read to your kids, and to let them read to you! But it's just as important to show how important books are by modeling how to put them away on the shelf when you're done reading. Doing art work is fun together, and afterwards there should be a clean up and paints/crayons/craft supplies put away in a dedicated space. Part of building a Legos project is to put them in the box when you're done. Have boxes or drawers or shelves for kiddo to learn organization.

Do NOT have one big toy box, and don't buy tons of plastic crap and disposable toys. Better to have one good well built Tonka truck than five plastic pieces of garbage that the wheels fall off and get thrown out in two months. The fun comes in when you help kiddo make and color a box garage, and then they learn to park their truck out of the way in the box under the bed when they're done.

I think it's sad when parents (usually moms) get frustrated and gritch at kids to pick up all their crap that's strewn all over the house. What I usually see is a kid with a shit-ton of plastic toys that they throw into a toy box along with books, broken crayons, clothes, old papers, trash, stuffed animals, candy/food, and occasionally, your possessions.

Books go on the shelf, crayons are put in a tin box, clothes get hung up on a kid-sized bar or put in the dresser or hamper, 'valuable' art work and old papers have a box or folder, trash goes in the waste basket, stuffed animals have a hammock, box, or the bed to live in, candy/food belongs in the kitchen/dining area, and your stuff should be respected as being yours (and you put it where it belongs, too ;) It sounds harder to do than to just have your kid toss things in a big toy box, but it's so much nicer to have a place for everything, and (try) to get things back into place (most of the time.)

Mess and clutter for me comes when there is too much stuff and that stuff isn't truly valued. Once I get rid of stuff that I don't really need and don't really value, and then establish a place for what's left, there's less clutter. With kids, there is never enough hours in the day, but when there's some sense of organization, I think there's more time to do the things you want to do.

Hey, if you can pick up even in a general way and have somebody clean once a week, you will have a great place!
posted by BlueHorse at 6:44 PM on August 23, 2018 [20 favorites]

My mom became a single parent when I was a teenager, which obviously impacts the amount of cooking and cleaning you can get done. Honestly, it was a really tumultuous time but some of my favorite random memories were when she'd come home with surprise tacos or burgers because she just couldn't cook, or piling into the car to go get $1 ice cream cones at McDonald's (we were also stretched for money.) I think in those moments it was more important to feel like it was okay to have treats, or it was okay to give yourself a day off from the endless grind.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:56 PM on August 23, 2018

My mother's goal was to be able to have people over spontaneously without being embarrassed. We didn't always achieve that level in her eyes, but the house was generally clean and mostly tidy. There was some clutter, mostly relegated to one room and the garage. I am glad that the house was not too much of a mess, because that would have just made my already somewhat difficult childhood (due to my father's mental illness) more unbearable.

I don't think you have to over-extend or stress yourself out trying to make your house spotless, pristine, sanitised. But I do think there's a certain level of tidiness and cleanliness which can make life so much less stressful. It's good to be able to find what you're looking for and to be able to invite people over without wondering whether they think you are really messy. You're also going to have a small human crawling and then walking and running around. I don't see how that would go well if your place is really messy.

I really do think that decluttering now, before your baby becomes a mobile toddler, will make your life much easier in the long run. Once you have done your big clean out and organise, you'll all just have to dedicate a bit of time each day to trying to maintain it.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 7:40 PM on August 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Our house was small and modest and not perfectly clean - sort of an underlying clean with toys and pillows everywhere because we'd been playing, a pile of clean laundry on the bed to be folded, dishes on the counter (perpetually, as they were either clean or dirty), etc. Pretty sure dad probably had stacks of sci-fi paperbacks all over their bedroom floor.

My mom cooked a lot, but not always, and it wasn't always fancy. I have plenty of fond memories of eating Kraft Mac n Cheese and spaghettios, along with homemade pot roast. She liked to bake, and I think most of the sweets we got were homemade and pretty frequent, while things like pop-tart showed up in my Christmas stocking. It was a good balance. My parents were attentive and loving, and it was totally fine! We felt comfortable as kids, making messes (and cleaning them up), experimenting, playing, having friends over etc... nothing was too precious to be cleaned or replaced*.

My parents divorced when I was 18 (and my siblings were 14 and 12) and my mom quit cooking and cleaning entirely (literally - she clearly has a hoarding problem and she still, twenty years later, couldn't cook in her kitchen even if she wanted to). This has had negative effects, sure - along with her anger issues, lack of active parenting, etc...but this is extreme. (On preview, my experience was shockingly like Jessamyn's *waves from across the room*.)

*This can also be a thing. I'm 36 and won't touch anything in my in-law's kitchen (even my husband asks first), and I'm always terrified my kid's going to touch something or knock something over... ugh.
posted by jrobin276 at 7:44 PM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Like lots of others here, I grew up in a clean-but-messy house. No actual dirt, yes piles of clutter on every surface. I get stressed out by the clutter now, but I didn’t as a kid. My friends loved coming to my house because my mom was super unfinicky and nice and gave us snacks. (I’m in my 30s now and my friends *still* come to my mom’s house when we’re all home for the holidays.) We didn’t eat anything fancy but we had home-cooked food most nights — chili, casserole, whatever. As an adult I absolutely feed people to show that I love them, because words are terrible and food is good. We the kids were always warm and fed and cared for, whatever other things were weird about our childhoods; the mess didn’t impact that stuff at all.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:50 PM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I grew up in a messy, boisterous house. It was a very welcoming environment- even when my siblings and I grew up and moved out, there were some neighborhood kids who would occasionally hang out at the house with my parents and the dog. It's a happy home filled with warmth and kindness, with a dash of chaos. I think that's far more important than tidiness, except for people who get stressed out by clutter.
posted by emd3737 at 8:12 PM on August 23, 2018

My mom once told me that her goal as a homemaker was to create a home where we were never ashamed to bring our friends. I think despite four children, a dog, and 1-2 cats, she MORE than did that (she is a bit of a clean freak by nature), but the central point was fascinating to me and one that I've taken as my housecleaning goal: a home where my kids are never ashamed to bring their friends, and, more than that, where their friends always feel welcome. My mom was free with snacks, sympathy, tolerance, and privacy when we had friends over, and even though she was BY FAR the strictest mom among my friends (my curfew was crazy early, no R movies at my house, she reprimanded my friends if they swore), my high school friends shocked me when they got into a big reminesence on Facebook about how my house was their favorite place to hang out because my mom was "so cool." She was not cool! But she was incredibly generous and kind, and she loved and was tolerant of children and their rowdiness, and she made a home where children would feel welcome and cared for. (Also she is super Catholic and all my friends asked her their sex questions
anyway because she was just very approachable about stuff like that, causing me to live in a constant state of wanting to fall through the floor.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:54 PM on August 23, 2018 [18 favorites]

Loving but cluttered here. My parent's anxiety around it (e.g., the rush of shame at potentially someone coming over and seeing it in that state) had more of an impact on me than the clutter itself. As an adult, I was going through something and needed emotional support from a friend but could barely let her come over because of my own acquired housekeeping shame.

This is my experience, exactly. I have a messy house today and a lot of housekeeping anxiety to go along with it. It causes a lot of stress between me and my husband because he can't just invite people (especially my extremely clean in-laws) over without giving me enough time straighten up.

I'd love to be a confidently messy person, I don't think it matters to any of my friends what my house looks like.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:24 AM on August 24, 2018

My mother may have been superwoman. Her hair was always "done", she was fashionably dressed, her house was always clean, and the home-cooked meals were on time. She did have help when the five of us children were young - mostly because daddy's career necessitated a busy social life and she simply could not be home all the time.
I think I was very lucky to have an unstressed childhood, but mother's excellence did not rub off on me.
posted by Cranberry at 12:25 AM on August 24, 2018

our house was fairly messy, and i also remember really loving visiting relatives or parents friends houses that were also messy, it felt like it gave them an air of mystery and possibility, as though there might be a secret miniature door somewhere leading off to a magical kingdom
posted by mosswinter at 4:05 AM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

My mom really likes things clean & I do too. We took a lot for granted that was really nice. My mom was also stressed a lot and because she had too much to do, I think, could have a really quick temper with us. In watching me become a mother she has said, I wish I could have let more of the small stuff go.

You’ve just had a baby. This is a stage where there is a lot of clutter and mess. You’re extra tired and it’s just easier to create piles of what you need all over the place and to leave dishes and trash, etc for another time. Be kind to yourself. Life is long and full of phases and stages. Your baby’s personality will emerge more and more each day and you will see things that bring him or her comfort in the environment. Many babies/people need a safe harbor and a place for adventure. A single home could have both within it.

Bottom line: be kind to yourself.
posted by CMcG at 4:17 AM on August 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

My uncle married a fun, vivacious woman with two daughters from a previous marriage. I spent a lot of time with them, including living with them after my mom died. Aunt would lead us in singalongs on road trips, go camping, do crafts, etc. Their house was clean, but not always tidy. Especially after the two little ones were born! Things stayed basically hygenic, though, and chores were communal: sitting around watching TV with everyone folding laundry, the big Saturday bathroom scrub, etc. The house was strict regarding behavior, homework, etc., but definitely lived in. (There was a wall by the upstairs phone designated for writing and drawing! Unheard of!) Their home was the welcoming spot for my cousins’ friends. Never a lot of money on hand, but plenty of love. (Most of the food was home cooked, due to both the era —-late 70’s early 80’s—- region, and finance; my uncle did a lot of the cooking and everyone helped with prep and cleanup.) She was fun but mature. You just knew you could go to her with a problem

My aunt had a sign in her bedroom which summed up her philosophy pretty well, which went, “Scrubbing and Cleaning can wait for tomorrow/ For children grow up, as we’ve learned to our sorrow./ So settle down cobwebs, and dust go to sleep/ I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.”

My aunt died of a completely unexpected brain aneurism while the littlest girls were still in preschool.

I promise you, not one of the many children she impacted ever wished she’d spent more time cleaning. I will always feel so thankful for the energy she put into caring, and that she made time for me. I always remembered her little sign, and tried to apply that principle to my own parenting.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 5:16 AM on August 24, 2018 [22 favorites]

I think there's a baseline for clean/uncluttered, below which is stressful and/or indicative of anxiety/depression/hoarding. We are for sure not a spotless home but the dining table is always clear enough to eat on, the kitchen counters are always clear enough to do meal prep, and the floors are clear enough to walk on easily. My mother has some mental illness which impacted the level of clutter in our home growing up and while I don't remember ever being judged for it or anything, having too much clutter or dirt can definitely make me feel depressed or stressed out and I'm sure it's because I associate lots of clutter with depression because that's how things seemed to be correlated when I was a kid.

My personal feeling is that clutter can be a barrier to doing fun things! If you need to spend half an hour clearing off the dining table so you can play a board game, or if you need to take all the stuff off the kitchen counter to bake cookies with your kids it's less likely to happen, you know? So that's where the baseline is, for me. If your house is a barrier to doing fun things then it probably needs to be kept to a higher standard. (I can't speak to the other end of the spectrum of parents who cleaned so much they didn't spend time with their kids because that is not something that I have ever experienced.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:13 AM on August 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

We had a clean home, but only because Mom had a housekeeper/babysitter in to watch us during the week. She worked and there were four of us; no way she could have kept up.

After we grew old enough to stay on our own, she still insisted we clean up after ourselves, but not to the level of every speck of dust. The rules were:

-Wash/change your sheets once a week
-Bring your laundry down or wash it yourself once a week
-After dinner bring dishes from the table to the sink (and dishwashing was an assigned chore--dishwashing included wiping down kitchen counters and vinyl tablecloth, putting kitchen to rights in general)
-No dishes or other clutter left for long in shared spaces
-Personal rooms (bedrooms) she mostly left to us except that we needed to vacuum once a week so we had to be able to move stuff off the floor to do that. Dishes, etc. also were not to be left there because then you get ants.

These seemed/seem like very common sense rules to me. My mom did not nag, she just expected us (Dad included) to treat our home as a place that needed care taken of it. We still had clutter, but eventually everything was put where it belonged. Our home was warm and welcoming. It was not a cold, sterile showplace.

My ex was not of the same mind/raised the same way and it caused stress between us and frankly, made me depressed. Now I live on my own, and when my kid is with me, he and I follow those expectations.
posted by emjaybee at 8:13 AM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

my childhood homes were fucking pristine and it was suuuuuper annoying. i would have liked not NOT have had to put all toys away in the cupboard, hang my coat up in the hall closet, keep all shoes on the boot tray, never leave out a cup, vacuum every day, etc. it was a lot of stress/pressure that was not really necessary and as a kid i didn't get it and honestly i still don't. RELAX and love your kids. cluttered is okay, messy is occasionally fine, DIRTY isn't really fine except for more than a day.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Regarding joint efforts at decluttering: I KonMari'd all my stuff shortly after our first was born, which inspired my husband to do the same. There was no nagging, we have never regretted it, and it literally changed our lives for the better.

Growing up, my house was never the house where everyone hung out. Too much fragile stuff, too many antiques, plus I was forever being told the house was a mess and we couldn't have anyone over. It was the combo of "Don't touch that!" with "Our house is a place of shame." A lot of this had to do with some then-unusual gender dynamics in my parents' marriage. The house wasn't necessarily dirty, but often messy, and I never learned how to clean my room. I tried and failed repeatedly.

And it REALLY affected me growing up. I still feel a twinge of panic when I have people in my house now, even though it is tidy, because I assume if someone is coming over I should be embarrassed.

So if you're concerned about the level of messiness, your kid will sense that too, and it will probably affect them.
posted by luckdragon at 10:39 AM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Grew up in a cluttered house – not dirty, but walls covered in artwork & photos, knick-knacks, piles of books & magazines, tools and random stuff piled on all the surfaces. My room was usually the only one that zingy clean and tidy, verging on obsessively clean. My bros didn't seem affected by clutter, their rooms were kind of like a bomb zone. It was mom and me who were the ones cleaning (my bros and dad would do stuff mostly outside the house), but she also worked full-time so shit tended to pile up on all the surfaces and upkeep of the house was a huge energy suck 'cause you could never just clean, you had to find places for all the junk first. I hated having surprise guests show up, since you had to fly around trying to make it look like a hurricane hadn't just gone through, and felt soo awkward having my friends over, even though they thought our house was cozy and interesting (Finnish houses are usually without fail really clean and uncluttered).

My parents are the type to hang on to stuff just-in-case (and they're also generous to a fault), but for me, i felt like when you got a ton of stuff its pretty much like you don't have anything cuz you never know where the fuck the thing is you need in the first place. So then you go out and buy shit that you have but can't find. After 2 decades of accumulating stuff (including the attic and garage) emptying the house out for sale fell pretty much all on my shoulders and i felt like i somehow dissociated through the entire thing. I barely remember doing it, only that it took weeks. It still makes me tense to have to deal with my parents smaller-but-equally crammed apartment.

Be that as it may, we had a fun childhood, traveled oodles, were happy to spend time together. Dad would cook almost every night, some days we did takeout and we always ate dinner together.

I'd just keep an eye out, if your kiddo is sensitive and/or shows a tendency to want to keep things straight, might be a sign that they might need more space to breathe. The book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross talks about how full of stuff our lives have become and really hit home for me. My dad made a joke once remarking that my worst fear that they'd both kick it, leaving all their stuff to me to sort out. He didn't know that its sort of true (i've different worries now though), but i've decided that i'll never put my kids in a similar situation clutter-wise. I'm down for kids doing chores since theyre little, but its the parents responsibility to control the amount of crap in the house and see that it doesn't become a burden.
posted by speakeasy at 10:53 AM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Again, i thought I was LUCKY getting to choose all my own food at the supermarket, food I would cook myself, at age 12-13. I felt bad for friends who had to eat whatever their parents made.

As I age I have noticed that people who were hyper responsible kids and teens tend to have their lives fall apart a bit in their 30s and early 40s. I don't know why that is but I suspect it's not having good happy adult role models to transition into. If your identify is "precocious kid", it's hard to age gracefully.

I grew up in the 70s-90s, as a member of quite possibly the least supervised generation in history due to the confluence of historically more relaxed approaches to parenting meeting a modern access to travel and ways to earn $$. So many of us had jobs, cars and finances entirely separate from our parents by 15 or 16 years old. I had friends in middle and high school who moved out to their own apartments or other friends houses and I had friends and one sibling who just up and moved abroad before graduation and no-one really blinked an eye. It seems like everyone I knew had their own hustle. At the time we felt like we were getting a head start on life but now I don't know.
posted by fshgrl at 12:31 PM on August 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

So, I grew up in a home with Homemaking Level 9000. Everything was homemade with love: not just meals, but also things like Halloween costumes. The house was spotless and constantly being reorganized.

This has absolutely had an effect on me, in that my mom was constantly stressed and ground down by the pressures of homemaking. I would have happily exchanged a lower homemaking level for a female role model who focused more on her career, which I think was more of a source of fulfillment than homemaking was for her. She's now ~10 years into her encore career and she is so much more relaxed and cheerful.

My two concluding thoughts: 1) be true to yourself and don't force a role that isn't a good fit. 2) there is a pernicious social myth that being a mom is so magical and life-changing that you must be a bad mom if you need external fulfillment outside of the mom/homemaker role. I think every woman has that myth as a voice in their head and it can really screw with you.
posted by capricorn at 2:02 PM on August 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

but also things like Halloween costumes.

Yeah, the attitude my parents cultivated in our house was all, "Store bought Halloween costumes, holiday decorations, birthday cakes, and special-occasion clothing?!? That kind of trash is for the plodding, uncreative masses who don't know any better!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:23 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

My mom was very proud of how much she cleaned her house. To the point where having friends over was frowned upon, and having a pet that could leave a mess would be unimaginable.

When I moved back after college, I spent as little time there as possible, and moved out at the first opportunity.

My own house is a mess but it doesn't stress me out.
posted by meowzilla at 5:41 PM on August 24, 2018

As long as you don't stray towards the extremes, I doubt this matters very much. I lived in a house that was medium-tidy. Not very organized and you wouldn't want to inspect the bottoms of cupboards for spotlessness or anything, but common spaces were pretty and clean and welcoming for guests. My mom never let the house get anywhere near dangerously dirty, but she was no clean freak. She WAS stressed about cleaning at times because she was trying to be the perfect 90s mom who did effortless-looking, frugal, skilled home-making just like her own mother (who didn't go back to work until after her children were all out of grade school), while also managing a career like a modern woman. Turns out that being a housewife and a working woman at the same exact time is totally impossible and I wish she'd been freed of her guilt. She didn't want her kids to have to do much cleaning because she felt like she ought to do it and let us study/be kids, but also got stressed when it looked like we weren't turning out responsible w/r/t cleaning. She isn't very organized by nature and never had cleaning systems or schedules set up that worked for others. We got a bunch of mixed message and didn't help her very much, which I really regret. She regrets being so tortured and unclear about it.

Anyway, much more importantly, she was warm and loving and generous, everybody loved her (including us) and all of this is just a silly aside compared to the overwhelming goodness she showed everybody. I turn out to naturally prefer much more organization and much less clutter than my mother did (although my attitude on mopping floors and scrubbing tubs is kinda "if it's bothering you, you might want to get around to it" rather than "every week without fail"). My house is easy to clean because it's not cluttered and that matters to me for personal reasons. But seriously, the goodness and happiness of my childhood/upbringing was only barely related to the state of the house. I suspect that unless you prohibit kids from living like normal kids because you can't stand to have a speck of dirt on anything, or you live in conditions that embarrass their friends or are seriously gross and unhealthy, the exact condition of your house will matter orders of magnitude less than your emotional availability, warmth, and
posted by Cygnet at 12:46 PM on August 27, 2018

Oh, and cooking is a slightly different story. Having family meals at home is, I think, pretty important. I grew up with home cooking every day and my husband and I now cook for our family almost every day. However, home cooking is not the only way to arrive at family meals. I think you can probably have just as much warmth and togetherness with pre-made dinners or take-out or whatever. It's sitting down together, talking as a family, and expecting that every day that matters.
posted by Cygnet at 12:48 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

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