Your Mess Is Mine

A new sign hangs in my kitchen, featuring a line by singer/songwriter Vance Joy. It reads, “Your mess is mine.” I crafted this little sign as my new motto for housekeeping at Casa de Nord. My previous maxim—“He who slops, mops”—is correct in principle but impractical.

I have discovered that children take fiendish delight in arguing over whose mess it is. Empty applesauce container? “Not mine.” Cheese stick wrapper? “That’s his!” Carpet of legos, half-inch thick? “I didn’t do it.”

When you don’t witness the mess being made, it’s hard to bring down the hammer on the kid who should pick it up. Arguing ensues, typically paired with tears and a heavy dose of “you blame me for everything!” I’ve had enough of it.

From now on, we have a family mess. A collective heap. A tribal trash bin. I do not care who made the mess. Let’s pick it up.

My mess is yours, and your mess is mine.

The more I think about this philosophy, the more I realize that it’s about much more than cleaning house. Isn’t this the very nature of family and friendship?

Life is messy, and we band together with those who will wade through the mess with us. Those who will wipe the dirt from our faces and help search for our missing shoe in the mud. We climb into the muck and mire with those we love, while carrying all our own baggage. Together, we start digging out and cleaning up.

Christian and I went to a funeral yesterday. A good friend lost his dad, and we went to the service to support him. We were ill equipped to provide much comfort, having both lost a parent in the last year and still grappling with our own grief and confusion and anger. But we went anyway to be present with our friend and share in his suffering for a little while, just as he and his wife had done for us.

As we went through the receiving line at the end of the service, that Vance Joy song ran through my head. “This mess was yours. Now your mess is mine.”

— Sarah