Acceptable Mess And Unacceptable Mess
I have to confess I always find those photos in the glossy magazines about housekeeping to be horribly out of touch with reality, especially the reality of having children and pets. One particular case in point was one article where various designers had to comment on a house that was decorated in pure white for everything - sofa, carpet, walls, cushions, the lot. Did the designers say that it looked horribly sterile and lifeless, and that it was totally impractical and would be completely ruined the first time someone spilt the tiniest drop of coffee or red wine? Get real!
The other thing about these glossy-mag homes is that they always look like museum exhibits. Everything is "just so", even children's bedrooms (I suspect that the children in question were sent to Grandma's for the week while the photo shoot was done). If anything dares to sit on a flat surface, it's a bowl of fruit (which never has brown bits) or a pile of magazines and books that are always titles about decoration and art, if you look closely at the spines.
Peg Bracken, in her delightful I Hate To Housekeep book also sneered at "designer mess" 'the feather boa across the back of the chair, the opera gloves draping a first edition Shakespeare in an attempt to make a house look lived in.
But a house does need to look lived in. To be friendly and welcoming, a home needs a certain level of untidiness - but not too much. It needs acceptable mess, but not unacceptable mess.
Examples of acceptable mess include laundry hanging on a drying rack in a corner, a book (or three) with a bookmark in on the sofa or coffee table, or a couple of plates and cups sitting by the kitchen sink ready for the next washing load. Unacceptable mess, however, are things like dirty socks lying around the floor (hear that, other members of my family???), the sofa and/or coffee table so piled with books, magazines and old newspapers that you can't sit down without considerable space-clearing and a teetering mountain of dishes.
Here are another handful of examples:
Acceptable: spider webs with live spiders in them in a discreet corner. Unacceptable: dusty old spiderwebs filled with fluffy bits of old insect long abandoned by a now-dead spider.
Acceptable: wooden blocks or Lego on the floor in an elaborate castle, city or other layout. Unacceptable: Lego, wooden blocks, three dolls and a teaspoon scattered chaotically all over the living room where you have to watch your step or risk impaling your foot on shattered plastic.
Acceptable: the pullover or jersey you took off earlier today (and are going to put on once the sun goes down) on a chair in the bedroom. Unacceptable: that jersey, plus three pairs of dirty socks and a dubious pair of underpants on the chair (and the owner of the socks going "where are all my clean socks?").
Acceptable: work in progress on an office desk, involving a pen, a diary, a calculator and a couple of manila folders. Unacceptable: office desk completely covered in old letters, bits of paper, printouts, newspapers, pens (dead and alive), CD-ROMs without boxes and nameless items (this is not an exaggeration - I've seen desks like this, but not mine.)
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