A few weeks ago, my friend Christina and I were sitting on the floor in her living room, watching our boys attempt to share blocks and toy cars. As usual, we were simultaneously chatting about everything and nothing.
I made a comment about my house being a mess, to which Christina gave me The Look.
“I don’t believe you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Your house is never messy! You have one of the most uncluttered houses I’ve ever seen,” she said.
I laughed. Clearly she had never popped by my house spontaneously.
“It IS a mess,” I protested, “My kitchen is a disaster. There are Christmas presents that still need to be put away. Dishes everywhere, Target bags everywhere, laundry everywhere. I swear! IT IS A LEGIT MESS!”
She still didn’t believe me.
“I’ll tell you what,” I said, “I am going to text you a picture of my kitchen when I get home.”
So I did. I went home, threw the diaper bag on the floor just like I always do, and snapped a picture of my messy kitchen.
She replied: “Disaster area!! Kiiiiidding. It does make me feel better though since mine looks similar most days of the week.” (Mind you, I have NEVER seen Christina’s house messy. Not even a little bit.)
The next morning, in an attempt to even the score, Christina texted me a picture of one of her messy closets. I immediately one-upped her and sent a picture of our office, which was littered with boxes, shopping bags, paperwork to shred, and other miscellaneous items.
It was kind of a joke, but a refreshing one.
For reference, Christina and I see each other 2-3 times a week, sometimes more. We live walking distance apart, and our boys are good friends. We go to barre class together and get pedicures together and meet up at the park with our toddlers in matching outfits together. We talk about motherhood, marriage, and friendship; we share babysitters and crockpot recipes and date night recommendations. We are very, very good friends. If friendship bracelets were still a thing, I would have already made one for her.
But what does it mean when your very, very good friend has never seen your house a total mess?
Let me clarify: Christina has seen my house less than perfect many times. I don’t scrub the floors when I know she’s coming over, but I usually do the dishes and attempt to put 15 of the 25 toys scattered around the living room back into the wicker baskets where they belong.
The funny thing is—I like a little mess when I come to your house. If I see a stack of mail on the counter or a small pile of laundry in the corner, I breathe a sigh of relief. Oh, you’re human too? You leave mail unopened for three days on the kitchen counter too? Thank goodness.
The truth is: I love seeing your mess but I hate showing you mine.
Sometimes I think of friendship as a process in peeling back layers. When we first meet a new friend, it’s almost like there are 100 layers between us—imagine 100 sheets hanging between two people. With time and conversation, shared secrets and confessions, the sheets slowly start dropping.
Eventually, there are only 50 layers.
Secret, confession, secret, confession.
Secret, confession, secret, confession.
When you purposefully allow your friend to see your house in a state of total mess, you are intentionally dropping a layer.
There’s practically a scale for this in my house. If you’re an A-list friend, a friend who has seen me without makeup, I’m much more relaxed about the house being a little messy. If you’re a friend who only comes over twice a year, I’m probably vaccuming every room before you walk through the door. My scale is simple: the messier the house, the better the friendship.
But what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do we let our good friends see our mess after a solid friendship is established? Or do we let the people who see our mess become our good friends? Does friendship lead to the mess, or does the mess lead to the friendship?
I don’t know the answers, I’m just thinking out loud.
What I do know is that in the day to day grind, I’m making a new resolution to leave some cheerios on the floor for anyone who comes into my house. Just two or three, to make everyone else feel more at ease. When you come into my house, I want you to see the stack of mail on the kitchen counter, the coffee mug on the nightstand, the toy cars on the bathroom floor.
This is where I live. This is my home. This is me.
And sometimes I’m a straight up mess.
Challenge of the day: text your best friend a picture of your messy kitchen. And then e-mail it to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m going to do something fun with it.