Why I No Longer Apologize For My Messy House – And When I Do

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If you’re ever tempted to apologize for the state of your home, remember: your visitors don’t care about your mess!

Of course, some visitors may notice and comment on whether your home is sparkling clean. There are people who appreciate a well-kept house, just as I appreciate a good cappuccino froth or a rap song that rhymes “heavy” with “spaghetti”.

“What beautiful color-coded minimalism! your guests might sigh, or ‘Just look at the shine of your floors!’

And that’s all very rewarding, but admiration for your floors doesn’t translate into affection for you or enjoyment of your company. Your visitors don’t care about your pristine baseboards any more than they care about the plates in your sink or the laundry in your lobby.

So what are your guests interested in? Well, I’ve walked into many messy homes, and I certainly don’t care if the credenza is clean. I care about the welcome I receive at home and the enthusiasm with which I am greeted at the door. I care if I’m invited to stay for a chat and if I’m offered a good cup of tea. I care if the person has interesting gossip and if they have chocolate chip cookies in the pantry.

None of us need to greet visitors with the words “Please excuse the mess”. And I speak from experience: I used to apologize for my mess to anyone who rang the doorbell. I apologized for the mess when my house was relatively tidy, and I apologized for the mess to friends who didn’t care. I apologized for the mess to a tradesman who was there to check the fire alarm and to a rather puzzled delivery guy who was bringing my groceries into the kitchen.

Not anymore!

Reasons not to apologize for your mess

  1. There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about clutter. It’s a completely natural and normal part of life, like gravity, or cravings for hot fries, or drunk texting, or nasal hairs.
  2. The mess does not bother your guests at all and does not affect them at all. You’re not asking your guests to wash your piles of dirty laundry or drink tea from that unwashed mug in the sink. Your mess has nothing to do with your visitors unless you’ve invited them to clean it up, in which case stop talking and get them a broom.
  3. Your mess won’t cause your guests emotional distress; in fact, they’ll probably feel like it’s rewarding to know they’re not the only ones with a messy kitchen or a pile of shopping bags by the front door.
  4. ‘Please excuse the mess!’ is not even an excuse. When you say, “Excuse the mess,” you’re not really asking for forgiveness; you are sending a message about yourself. You say, “I recognize that the present condition of my house is not properly cared for.” This mess reflects a simple temporary aberration on my part and not my misunderstanding of the domestic ideal. If you come back another time, my house will be perfect. I am generally a very orderly person!’ Now, that may or may not be true, and your guests may or may not believe you. But either way, they won’t care, so save your energy to fetch them a cookie.
  5. Apologizing for your home serves to draw your guests’ attention to your mess. It is much better, on the contrary, to distract your visitors from their environment. Tell a joke. Take a ride. Take a rabbit out of your ear! Light a fire in the kitchen! Wave a packet of chocolate chip cookies in their face! With the right diversion, your guests won’t even notice the mess.

You never need to apologize for being a real human person living in a real inhabited house. That said, sometimes an apology is warranted, and I’ve outlined the circumstances below.

Reasons why you Should Apologize to your guest

  1. You don’t have coffee at home.
  2. You don’t have chocolate cookies at home.
  3. You don’t have toilet paper in your bathroom. (I once visited a male friend’s house and discovered the lack of toilet paper a split second too late. This created a difficult situation, and I urge you to ensure that your bathroom bath is always well stocked.)
  4. Your house smells of lamb casserole and it’s ten in the morning and your guest is vegan.
  5. Your mad dog attacks your friend’s purse. (It happened to me when I was at a friend’s house for dinner. I’m not saying I don’t love the dog anymore, but my affection for him has definitely cooled.)
  6. Your perfectly nice dog eats your guest’s purse. (It happened to me when I was at a friend’s house for dinner. I’m not saying I don’t love the dog anymore, but my affection for him has definitely cooled.)
  7. A painting falls from your wall and stuns your visitor.
  8. You welcome a guest into your home and (surprise!) his despised ex is in the living room drinking tea.
  9. You accidentally open your front door to a visitor with one of your breasts hanging out (I did this once when I was breastfeeding my first child and the postman looked quite upset.)
  10. You accidentally serve your guests a slightly undercooked chicken and unwittingly put them at risk of salmonella poisoning. (What can I say? I’m an ambitious home management influencer, not a chef.)
  11. You invite an attractive friend to your house for a romantic evening and he turns out to be violently and terribly allergic to your cat. (It may or may not have happened to me, and it certainly wasn’t romantic.)

But never apologize for your mess. Try this instead: “Hello! It’s so good to see you! Come and sit down. How many chocolate chip cookies would you like?”

Kerri Sackville is an author, columnist and mother of three. This excerpt is from his latest book is ‘The life-changing magic of a little mess‘ is available online and in all good bookstores.

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Raymond I. Langston