Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's Okay to be Messy! Really. It Is!

I recently received my free copy of Cookie magazine. It's a magazine for moms. To be honest, I don't really like this magazine -- too shallow and focused on materialism than I prefer. But, it was free, and I didn't know that it would be so shallow when I requested it!

However, occasionally I see an article that catches my eye. This time it was "What Not to Worry About" That in itself caught my eye, because of course, like every other mother I know I worry about nearly every decision I make regarding my children. So, I'm skimming along thinking there's nothing new here, when I came across this subtitle: My messy house is bad for my children -- as in I don't need to worry about my messy house being bad for my kids. Really? This doesn't sound right. Hmmm. Maybe I'd better read more.

So, here's the section (quoted directly) that caught my eye:

A person is never the same once she has a child -- and neither is a home. Scattered toys, sticky spills, petrified Silly Putty ground into the pile rug. God knows how many different kinds of germs -- the detritus of child-rearing can overpower even the most conscientious housekeeper. But instead of worrying about the clutter, chaos, and -- if you live in my house -- dirt, sand, rocks, and sticks, put your feet up on the table (if there's room) and revel in this fact: Mess can actually be good for kids. "An important reason to have a messier home is just plain physical health," says David H. Freedman, coauthor of A Perfect Mess (Back Bay Books). "It's counterintuitive, but the more we know about asthma, germs, and the immune system, the more we understand that part of being safe is being exposed to germs and building up a tolerance to them at a young age."

Then there are the potential cognitive benefits of a disorderly house. When you work or play in a messy space, you get to "see a lot of things in one place, which can bring about random stimulation," says Freedman. "That's a big part of creativity." For example, let's say you have a rule that your child must put away a toy before he can pull out another. If he is playing with blocks and makes a tower, he has to put the blocks away before he drags out the dolls. A kid who is allowed to be messy, on the other hand, will be able to make a building and then pretend the dolls work there. "Children and adults have more ideas when they have a lot of things in front of them," says Freedman. "They are less restricted."

Wow! Who knew? All those times I was too lazy to make the kids clean up one toy before they got out another - I wasn't being lazy; I was letting them be creative! Ha! I think I like this guy. Seriously, he's probably talking about a healthy balance here. I know there's a point at which the messiness gets to be detrimental to both physical health and cognitive development. After all, if you're constantly messy, how do the kids ever learn organization skills. And those are really important skills to have in order to be successful as an adult. Not every organization system works for every person, but there's some kind of organizational system out there for everyone. You just have to find it.

So, now I'm curious. On the spectrum of messiness to orderliness I'm somewhere in the middle. Most of the time I lean to the messy side; more than I really think I should. I seem to constantly be in a state of trying to find an organization system or routine to help me with this perpetual problem. Where do all you other moms out there stand on the spectrum of messines to orderliness?

So, a little messiness works for me. What works for you?

(And just in case you were wondering.... Yes, that's my living room floor in the picture at the top).


Anonymous said...

This makes me feel A LOT better! Thanks!

Hadley said...

I am quite sure this is the very reason I have such healthy kids!

Susan said...

how refreshing! I'm so willing to let my girl be messy and get covered with mud and paint, but spend too much time and energy worrying about the house being messy. (Embedded in there is the worry that if when she's older and I want her to clean her room that I won't have a let to stand on with that request!) Perhaps I'll relax the worry and find a better balance...and come to think of it, she is pretty healthy...

Samvach said...

Thank you for this post. It helped to put a new perspective on the perpetual mess of my artsy son's Sculpey clay table. I always want to clean up his area but USUALLY do not, unless I know he will not have time to work on his artwork for a few days. I think he needs the mess of many colors of clay, clay tools, and idea books to stimulate his creativity. Thanks again for the interesting post.

Mom2fur said...

There's certainly sucha thing as 'too clean.' When he was growing up, my husband lived next door to a family with 3 little girls. The mother had them sparkling clean all the time. Every toy was sanitized. The kids were never, ever sick.

Until they went to school. And because they had no resistance, suddenly they were sick all the time!

So, yeah, a little dirt never hurt anyone!


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