Friday, August 15, 2008

The Practice of Tidiness

As mothers and fathers, we are called upon throughout the day to practice a lot of things--patience, perseverance, discipline, godliness, holiness... and I would argue among these is TIDINESS. Yes, I'm placing the orderliness of one's home right alongside the most Godly traits above. Why?

Because I believe everyone (yes everyone) has the ability to practice tidiness; to harness the habit of an orderly lifestyle so that life runs a little smoother. And I would argue that with more tidiness comes an easier time seeking patience, perseverance, godliness, and holiness. It is so easy to see when the practice of tidiness falls by the wayside; when we stop devoting the few additional minutes it takes to put a little elbow grease into the kitchen, the pile of junk by the stairwell, the load of dishes in the sink. As the FlyLady would attest, even 10 minutes spent tackling a house "hotspot" will go a long way toward bringing sanity to a home.

And don't get me wrong, I am challenging myself more on this one than anyone else. I am, by nature, rather messy. You should have seen my room growing up--my parents will vouch! "Please just clear a path to your bed so you don't trip," was my mother's regular mantra! After "cleaning up my act" in college and then marrying a rather tidy fella, I've become convinced that tidiness is a learned, practiced behavior and one that can be achieved with the smallest bit of effort and discipline each day.

These thoughts came about recently as our family is readying to recommit to order in our home. The arrival of a new baby always sends things spiraling and yes, there are seasons when a little disorder is to be expected (even required). But how much I long for the tidiness of our regular routine!! I'm often reflecting on this passage from Proverbs 31:10-29 and its description of a Godly woman/wife/mother (one who probably does an excellent job at keeping a tidy home!) I find it to be incredibly inspiring...

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark, she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

May this inspire all of us today to seek the practice, discipline, and habit of tidiness!
God speed!! I'm off to straighten the family room... :)


Right Said Red said...



First let me say that it is a gross exaggeration to say you are not a tidy person by nature! I shared a room with you for 3 years and I was always impressed by the order of your belongings. I am a real slob!

Let me just add to this that for us, things get really messy when we are too busy. The disorder of my home is a sure sign to me that we need to cut-back on outside activities and get things under control.

I think I am off to tidy up some things while my children nap...

B-Mama said...

Red, thankfully I was a "changed woman" by the time we roomed together! You would have been driven crazy by the high school, messier version of me!! Glad to inspire on this Friday afternoon... Doesn't the weekend just *feel* better when things are in order? Then we're actually able to enjoy being around one another, rather than cringing at our messy place!

Drea (Monkey Monkey Underpants) said...

I have always been a very messy person, even after I married my very tidy husband.

However, we put our house on the market this week and have had to keep it constantly clean and ready to show at a moments notice.

Let me tell you, even though it has just been a few days, I feel so much better and less stressed and I'm pretty sure it comes from having a clean house!

Juris Mater said...


I also used to be a slob, but family life had made me close to obsessed with order and tidiness--there's no other way.

I've always loved the motto, "A place for everything and everything in its place." Boy does this go a long way. If I can't immediately find a place for something, we need to either rearrange or purge to make a place.

A spin-off of this is that nothing "belongs" on tabletops. Anything that lands on a tabletop has another place where it needs to be put before the day is over. Not seeing knickknacks or clutter on tabletops (and not having to dust around it!) makes our house feel so much more orderly.

I'm interested in joining forces with the Flylady as soon as I get around to reading over the website. Everything I hear sounds phenomenal!

Sophie said...

thank you so much for this post. I so often read things that seem to be women saying "oh, well our house is messy, because we have kids." Drives me nuts. Tidiness is so important and we should strive towards it, as it helps everyone in their vocation, kids, moms, and dads alike!

And thank you for the reminder of the proverbs passage. Me thinks I need to post that somewhere to read it each day.

Jessica said...

Great post, B-Mama. I am such a fan of tidiness. My friends sometimes give me a hard time about my need to have everything in it's place. Even if my house isn't super clean, if things are put away and there is order, I am a happy camper.

I also think there is value in teaching kids to clean up their toys and put things back where they came from. We require CS to do this and she's learning the value of tidiness.

By the way, I'm super impressed with your ability to find the time to write such a lovely post, while raising three young boys! Good job, Mama!!

Elena said...

I don't know if Catherine Doherty (foundress of Madonna House) is a familiar name. But, she said something along the lines of: "The state of your room/home is a reflection of your soul." Food for thought.

Jeanne Stark said...

You have got to be kidding!

Ok, messiness is a virtue. Listen to Jadon Lavik's song, "What If?"

There is nothing in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that says women have to "keep a perfect house". Enough said.

Maybe we just have to not have so much STUFF.

Jeanne Stark said...


4ddintx said...

Flylady was divorced long before she was the flylady--back when she was still living in CHAOS, by her own description.

B-Mama said...

jeanne: I was merely challenging the women out there, like myself, toward more discipline on a day to day basis. There's no judgment; no quoting from the Catechism; just a challenge. We all need a little kick in the pants occasionally!! And I really do think a little tidiness is key to my overall sanity. Try it, you'll like it.

Sophie said...

While there's nothing in the catechism about keeping a "perfect" house, I think there are many things in Catholic teaching that apply...
--sloth is a sin!
--doing the jobs required of our vocation
--offering all we do as a sacrifice and gift to Christ.
--respect and care for the gifts that God blesses us with (our home, and the stuff in it)

I think there is plenty to say that striving towards tidiness is necessary to our vocation as parents. Of course realism and proper expectations and proper ordering of tasks is also part of it. I think the point of this post is that we shouldn't settle for sloppiness "just because I'm sloppy" type of attitude.

stephmomof6 said...

Thank you, B-Mama. I have just spent two days cleaning my 8 yr-old daughter's room, purging things in her absence. I was realizing that she is just like I was when I was 8. I was also realizing how hard I try to maintain some kind of order and how often I fail--and how much this clutter stresses me!

I thank you for your post because a little prayer and reflection are required here. Since I desire order and try continually for it, the problem does not rest there. However, the ability to view my daughter from the outside has given me some clues about my own difficulties keeping things from getting out of hand. I will pray today and look at my own habits to find the root of my difficulty and then ask our Blessed Mother to help me.

Thanks also for the Proverbs reflection. A little wisdom is in order for me. God bless you.


Right Said Red said...

Well said Sophie. Thank you again B-mama for this post.

Rachel said...


You are so right about the importance of tidiness! Thank you for inspiring me to take the extra time to put a few things away here and there this weekend. My house usually looks like a disaster by Sunday evening, but this weekend, the mess was much more manageable, and Monday morning was much sweeter as I awoke to a tidy house!

You are so wise, B-Mama!

Erin said...

I long for a more tidy house... but I was not blessed with a natural eye for tidiness! Plus, with both of us working right now (or soon), it is a struggle to muster the energy to tidy up at the end of the day.

Our biggest problem area is paper-- mail, bills, cards, owners manuals, newspapers, interesting magazine articles, letters, shopping lists, coupons, receipts we think we might need but really never will... all this paper seems to take over our kitchen and family room and drive me crazy. Any tips for controlling the paper frenzy?

thanks for the inspiration and reminder, b. We do all need a little kick in the pants sometimes!

texas mommy said...

I might be the other end of the spectrum by nature...I crave order. I definitely get stressed out by untidiness. I usually have to remind myself to relax about it a few times a day, because little boys make messes! Dumping out every kind of block that we have into a huge pile is not really a bad can foster creativity, etc. Sometimes I need to remember that we can pick up later and just see what happens when the boys conspire to dump out the toy box. Since I know everything has a place at the end of the day, I can deal with the day time messes a little better.

One thing that helps me in my constant effort to purge and declutter is to always keep a large "give away" bag in the corner of my closet. Once a month I collect the pile of random accumulated stuff from around the house (clothes, kitchen utensils, etc) and we go to good will. I usually have Dash pick out one of his toys to give away as well to someone who needs it more than he does. He really gets this!

Jeanne Stark said...
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