Does a Messy House Mean The Kids Are Happy?

“The house is a mess, but the kids love it!”

“The kids love how unorganized our lives are. They feel they have more freedom to explore and be creative.”

“Toys on the floor, peanut butter on the curtains, cracker crumbs all over the house and smiling dirty faces is what happiness is about at my house!”

clean house happy kids

Have you ever heard a mother say these things? I have. Too many times. It actually saddens me that some moms tell themselves this over and over and soon believe their kids’ happiness stems from living in an untidy home.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My house is not always spic and span. I want it to be, but sometimes I get sick, the kids get sick, or we lose track of time. But, if my kids are smiling and giggling, I don’t attribute their happiness to the mess that is sitting in our home.

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When days are going as planned and we are staying on our routine, I can see that my family enjoys a clean home. The kids love that there are lots of clean floors to play on and plenty of dishes and cups to drink and eat from. They also love the freedom that they can invite a friend over last minute without me getting jumpy about the house.

Seriously, if you think that your kids are happy because of a messy home, why not ask them? Why not sit down and ask your kids when they are laughing and playing, “Is this messy house what makes you happy?”

Chances are, you won’t ask that question. Why? Because if we moms truly take time to ponder the root of our child’s happiness, we will know the answer is not a messy home.

One day as my friend’s mom was taking me home from a play practice, my friend leaned over and whispered, ‘I want to see what your house looks like. Invite me in.’ Immediately I had to come up with some lame excuse so I would not be embarrassed about how unkempt our family’s home was.” Accounts one mom of a childhood memory.

An unclean home has many negative effects on children, such as: sickness from unhygienic conditions, stress from others seeing the mess, no freedom in inviting someone over last minute, unable to locate important items and learned untidiness from their parents. A messy home can also wreak havoc on your finances. In a messy home you unable to find things, so you go and buy more. Items also get torn up or having missing pieces that need to be replaced. There are so many benefits from having a clean and tidy home that no one should desire to have a messy one!

When I spend extra time making my house shine, do you know who notices first? It’s not my husband — it’s my kids. I am often greeted with a, “Wow, Mom! The house looks great!” after a longer clean-up evening routine. The smile and happiness in their eyes speaks a million words of thanks and appreciation. Don’t tell me kids love messy homes! I have yet to meet one kid who says the reason they love their home is because it is always a mess.

I am afraid some moms have just accepted the untruth that having kids means your house will always be a disaster. Piles of laundry, toys, trash and dishes will just have to be a part of life until your kids are grown and out of the house. That is simply not true. Yes, it takes extra time and effort, but you can keep your house tidy. Don’t worry, your kids won’t cry because the house is clean!

On the other hand, an over-tidy mom can add stress to the home if all she cares about is a clean floor and folded laundry. She may be so consumed with the appearance of her home that she spends little time investing in playtime with her kids or date nights with her hubby. You have to achieve balance in this area. Leave the dishes in the sink while you tuck your kids in bed and read them a story. Just, don’t leave them there all night and the next day. Go back and wash them after the kids are asleep.

With the holidays near, this is is the perfect time to change the tidiness level of your home. Simple steps can get your home back on track. Keeping a tidy home will cut down on stress in your child’s life. Everyone needs a clean, peaceful place to relax and breathe — including your munchkins!
If this post has inspired you to clean up your act, then start with these small steps today!

  • Turn off the t.v., internet and cell phone.
  • Grab a trash bag and start throwing trash and broken things away.
  • Wash all dishes, dry and put away.
  • Start a load of laundry and continue until all clothes are washed, folded and put away. Remember, laundry is not done until it is put away! This is a quick clean-up , so no ironing is neccessary.
  • Make all beds.
  • Put all toys away.
  • Sweep and mop all hard floors. Vacuum all carpeted areas.
  • Clean kitchen counters and sink.
  • Give all bathrooms a good wipe down and toilets a good scrub.

Now, that you did a basic clean-up of your house, wait for the reaction of your family. Happiness is guaranteed and no one will be groaning for the return of a messy house! Just a little bit here and a little bit there will keep your home tidy. It may not look like your home belongs in a magazine, but it’s definitely a cheerier place to be!

Enjoy having a happy, CLEAN home and happy kids!

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32 thoughts on “Does a Messy House Mean The Kids Are Happy?”

  1. I am a neat-freak to an OCD degree so while I agree with you about the ill effects of a truly messy and dangerous home I disagree with your statement: “Hmmm…perhaps this whole messy home = happy kids is just a front so moms won’t feel so guilty about the conditions their kids are living in?”

    I think the sentiment is a nice one, it’s one of the ONLY mothering sentiments which don’t induce an immediate shame of the mother (i.e. think of how many formula feeding mothers cringe at “breast is best.”). As a stay-at-home mom my mother mastered the art of a lovely home and happy children, but as a work-out -of-the-home mother I admit I have a little bit more clutter than is comfortable. But truly with the limited time I have I could make it neat and perfect and have no time with my daughter at all, or I could live with the clutter until bedtime and weekends and spend a lot of time singing, dancing and playing. I will have a spotless house when she moves away, and I bet it will be lonely.

    Thanks for getting me thinking!

    1. Hi Shannon,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post. The statement about the front is from personal experiences with many moms whose homes were less than tidy. They would mention that the kids were happy living in the mess, and my main point is that the house itself does not create happy children. The children may be happy, but their happiness is not a result of the messy house. The majority of human beings enjoy having clean surroundings, that is why we enjoy staying in a nice clean, hotel when we take a vacation!
      I am not advocating becoming a neat freak and spending the majority of your time cleaning and not with your kids. On the contrary, I am promoting keeping a clean home AND spending time with your kids. Check out a post in the parenting category titled, “Never Too Busy For Love.”
      Thanks again for taking time to express your view on the post!

      1. Still annoyed after all these years

        My parents were those “justifying the mess” types. It was so embarrassing. They tried to convince us kids that anyone with a neat house (which was everyone except us) had crazy, OCD parents who cared more about cleanliness than their kids. We always bought new tape, scissors, etc., bc nothing was ever where it should be. Parents constantly offered up the “our kids are more creative” bit: also a lie. They were just slobs.

  2. I agree! There is nothing wrong with temporarily letting kids make a mess with their toys, or do a messy project, but they thrive off of their environment just like adults! Plus, we need to teach them good habits, right? Thanks so much for sharing at Wednesday’s Adorned From Above Blog Hop.
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above
    Bethany @ Whistle and Ivy

    1. Bethany,
      We have lots of fun making temporary messes, but then we do a quick clean-up and move on:0)
      Yes, kids need to learn good habits, and many of their habits are learned from us, their parents!
      Thanks for the Blog Hop!

  3. When my kids traveled to school each day my home was pretty clean. Now that they are at home for school it is more of a mess, but if I am consistent with my scheduling I find that they are pretty helpful in actually wanting to get things cleaned up a bit. We spend 15 minutes before dad gets home for lunch to pick up and that really is about all it takes. They are old enough now to help with their own laundry too which is awesome! I don’t think a spotless home is realistic for many families, but I’m okay with peanut butter free curtains. Blessings on your day!

    1. Yes, it is harder if your kids stay at home. All my six kiddos stay with me and it stays busy. We have lots of pick-up times, routines, and a reward system. It is a lot of work, but my whole family enjoys our house when it is the cleanest! If I keep it clean for company, why not for my family? :0)

      Thanks for visiting!

  4. Heather @ The Unsophisticated Kitchen

    I enjoyed this post. My friend and I have discussed this a time or two. I have always been bothered by those sayings about messy homes, happy kids. As a stay at home mom, I do my best to keep our house tidy and I always felt guilty hearing those things, thinking, does that mean I am not allowing my children to be happy?! But for me, it is opposite. I am happier if things are clean and tidy, therefore making my kids happier as well. I am not saying my house is spic and span all the time, but I like things to be orderly and clean and I hated thinking that meant I wasn’t allowing my children to experience joy, or make memories, or that I wasn’t doing those things along side them because I was too busy cleaning or enforcing order. I think that you can have both…happy kids that are making memories AND a clean home!

  5. Hi Alison,

    I’m new to blogging and have really enjoyed reading yours. This post especially (along with your other debunked myths) have really spoke to me and I want to thank you for that. I’ve just started a blog myself and would like to include this post on it, or at least a link to it. Might that be possible? Like I said I’m pretty new to the whole thing so don’t know the ‘rules’ as it were!

    Thanks again, really enjoying your blog.

    Rachel (Scotland)

    1. Dear Rachel,

      Thanks so much for commenting! I need to get my “contact” information set-up so people can contact me:)
      Yes, that would be fine. I would be so glad if you shared those posts with others. You can publish the article in its entirety, just please put a link back to my blog as well as my name as the author.

      I see your blog name is “Unlikely housewife” I was that too! But, am loving my job now! This was not my plan, but it was God’s, and I am so glad I followed it. Now, I have many pint-sized treasures:)

      Glad to have you in the blogging world! I hope we run into each other again.

      P.S.- I really want to visit Scotland, Ireland and England. It is my dream trip after the kids are grown:)

      Loving Motherhood,


  6. The saying isn’t because people think that kids are happy in a messy home – it is saying that the kids are happy because of the time you spend playing with them instead of making sure the house is perfect all the time. I know as a single, working mother that I have limited time with my son and to plop him down in front of the tv or with a video game while I make sure the house is spic and span seems unjustified. We keep it as cleaned up as possible but I’d rather spend our free time playing together and simply spending time together than cleaning the entire time. If there is a spouse or other children in the home, it can be easier to keep the house clean but when you are your child’s entire world, the saying makes more sense.

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  9. I pasted this from an article about “top regrets of the dying.” I 100% disagree with ur article… it isn’t the messy house that makes kids happy, it’s the parent who is not busy cleaning all the time. Period.

    When I was about 30 my aunt was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she said to me, “I wish I had spent more time rocking my baby and less time cleaning. I wish I had spent more time livng and less time working.”
    I spent more time rockng that baby and less time cleaning.

    1. Hi Heather!

      Just because you have a clean home, does not mean you never spend time with your kids. In fact, in a clean home there is less chaos, less time looking for things and less stress. Yes, we should spend time rocking our babies, but don’t think that a messy home means you are spending a lot of time with your kids. I have seen homes where the mom was actually on the phone a lot, watching TV or shopping. Spend some time cleaning and a lot of time cuddling! But don’t excuse a messy house by saying the kids are happy BECAUSE of the messy house.

  10. The chaos from everything being scattered is hard for my oldest child to handle, and it isn’t comfortable for me either. My oldest has always been a kid who likes order and plans laid out. I understand things do get cluttered and things pile up, but it is good to hear someone else say that messy isn’t good. I think a little mess is great and it is wonderful to let kids go be messy and creative, but in my house, we have to clean up. I wonder how many other kids need order to function better?

  11. I was a child who lived in a messy home. My dad always started projects (without consulting mom) and never finished them. We lived in a house without a front porch (open structural foundation covered with a tarp) for NINE YEARS. They eventually had marital problems/divorced, which led to our house being a disaster all the time. I never had friends over because of shame. At 29, I still have anxiety anytime anyone comes over and my house isn’t perfect. Growing up in a major mess is not happiness.

  12. Couldn’t agree more! If I myself feel stressed and not comfortable in a mess why would my daughter feel happy in it? We have no problem having fun and with toys all over the floor but my daughter knows that when she is done playing, she is expected to clean it up.

  13. I think it’s all a matter of balance. No, kids don’t want to live in a pig sty, but they don’t want a mom who spends every waking hour cleaning instead of spending time with them either. As with everything, some kind of balance must be struck. But I have noticed how excited my daughter was when we finally cleared up all the clutter in the den (which tells you how bad it was!). She even went out of her way to keep it clean (but that part didn’t last long, lol!)

  14. I am so relieved that I’m not the only one bothered by the “messy house = happy kids statement”, especially because my house is not messy, my child is not neglected, and he is very happy- most days ;) It’s a slap in the face to all mother who have well kept homes, impling they don’t spend time with their kids. Really all it take is a few chores a day to keep up a tidy house. I truley feel mothers use this statement to help them feel better about lacking in the tidy house department.

  15. This article, while most likely well intentioned, comes across as very condescending and offensive. Just as happiness is not a result of a messy home, nor is it the result of a clean one.

    1. Hi Nicole,
      For sure happiness is not a direct result from a clean home, but a clean home sure does help the atmosphere to be happier! Less stress and chaos are direct effects of a clean home, and do indeed contribute to a happy one. But a family can have an unhappy, clean home as well. But, definitely a messy house does not mean happy kids. Kids do much better in a clean home. It doesn’t have to be perfect or a showroom home, but just tidy and picked up. Everyone benefits from it — even mom and dad!

  16. Alison I love this! I’m just thinking about writing a post similar to this on my site and came across (another great) post by you. Thanks so much for sharing.

  17. What ever happened to teaching our KIDS to clean? Having a clean home is NOT just the responsibility of the mother, the husband and the children also need to carry their weight! Even very young kids can pick up toys, sweep a floor, wipe a table. In my observations it seems as though parents are missing out on a very important opportunity to teach their kids how to work, how to take pride in a job well done, and how to clean up after themselves. It’s not just Mom’s job to keep the house clean!

    1. We teach our kids to clean, and there are posts on this site that encourage you to do so as well. It is a great teaching opportunity and our kids stay busy!

    2. I agree. We clean together as a family. Even the littlest ones can have a “chore”. We make it fun by playing music and singing along as we clean. You can even make a game out of some of it. When hubby, kids and I clean the house we feel great, as the end result shows us what team effort can do!

  18. Hi Alison – just found your blog while searching for articles on this topic. I would like to include a quote and link back to this post in a series I am writing on perfectionism. You have captured the essence of a problem that so many moms struggle with and offered a balanced approach. I would also like to invite you to submit an article for the autumn issue of our online Christian women’s magazine, Ruby for Women if you are interested. Please visit us at or email me.

  19. What about having a baby who cannot stay alone while he wake up, all the cleaning activities will get delayed. to me, creating an activity room is the best.

    1. I have to say messy or clean has nothing to do with how happy the kids are. Nonsense. The balance thing is tricky; honesty of priorities. Advice from my Aunt who has a neat house, spend more time with babies and less time at the kitchen sink. I took that advice and absorbed my kids due to the short time we have with them. I think this article is silly saying messy means unorganized not necessarily. Households are all different…. organization is important; whats “messy” anyway. Dislike

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  21. If kiddos are older than toddler age they can help in at least a small way with every chore on that list. Kids do enjoy a tidy home with space to play. And they appreciate it much more when they participate in it which makes it much easier to keep it tidy!

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