Why I No Longer Apologise for My Messy House — and When I Do

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If you are ever tempted to apologise for the state of your home, please remember: your visitors do not care about your mess!

Of course, some visitors may notice and comment if your home is dazzlingly clean. There are people who appreciate a beautifully maintained house, just as I appreciate great cappuccino froth or a rap song that rhymes ‘heavy’ with ‘spaghetti’.

‘What magnificent colour-coded minimalism!’ your guests might sigh, or ‘Just look at the shine on your floors!’

And this is all very validating, 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 skirting boards any more than they care about the plates in your sink or the laundry in your hall.

So, what do your guests care about? Well, I have walked into many a messy house, and I certainly don’t care whether the splashback is clean. I care about how welcome I am made to feel in the home, and how enthusiastically I am greeted at the door. I care about whether I am invited to stay for a chat, and whether I am offered a nice cup of tea. I care about whether the person has any interesting gossip, and whether they have any chocolate biscuits in the pantry.

None of us needs to greet visitors with the words, ‘Please excuse the mess’. And I speak from experience:  I used to apologise for my mess to anyone who rang the doorbell. I apologised for the mess when my place was relatively tidy, and I apologised for the mess to friends who couldn’t care less. I apologised for the mess to a tradie who was there to check the fire alarm, and to a rather bemused delivery man who was bringing my groceries into the kitchen.

No longer!

Reasons Not to Apologise for Your Mess

  1. There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about mess. It is a completely natural and normal part of life, like gravity, or cravings for hot chips, or drunk texting, or nasal hair.
  2. Mess doesn’t inconvenience your guests at all or impact them in any conceivable You are not asking your guests to wash your piles of dirty laundry or to drink tea from that unwashed cup in the sink. Your mess has nothing whatsoever to do with your visitors unless you have invited them over to clean it up, in which case please stop talking and fetch them a broom.
  3. Your mess will not cause your guests emotional distress; in fact, they will probably feel It is empowering for them to know that they’re not the only ones with an untidy kitchen or a pile of shopping bags by the front door.
  4. ‘Please excuse the mess!’ isn’t even an apology. When you say, ‘Please excuse the mess’, you’re not actually asking for forgiveness; you’re conveying a message about yourself. You’re saying, ‘I recognise that the current state of my home isn’t appropriately neat. This mess reflects a mere temporary aberration on my part and not my lack of understanding of the domestic ideal. If you come back another time, my house will be perfect. I am usually a very tidy person!’ Now, this 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 for fetching them a biscuit.
  5. Apologising for your home serves to draw your guests’ attention to your mess. It is far better, instead, to distract your visitors from their surroundings. Tell a joke. Do a twirl. Pull a rabbit out of your ear! Light a fire in the kitchen! Wave a packet of chocolate biscuits in their face! With the right diversion, your guests will never even notice the mess.

You need never apologise for being an actual human person who lives in an actual lived-in home. Having said that, an apology is occasionally warranted, and I have outlined the circumstances below.

Reasons Why You Should Apologise to Your Guest

  1. You have no coffee in your house.
  2. You have no chocolate biscuits in your house.
  3. You have no toilet paper in your bathroom. (I once visited the home of a male friend and discovered the absence of toilet paper a fraction too late. It created quite the predicament, and I would urge you to ensure that your bathroom is always fully stocked.)
  4. Your home smells like lamb casserole and it’s ten in the morning and your guest is vegan.
  5. Your rabid dog attacks your friend’s handbag. (This happened to me when I was at a friend’s home for dinner. I’m not saying that I now dislike the dog, but my affection for it has definitely cooled.)
  6. Your perfectly nice dog eats your guest’s handbag. (This happened to me when I was at a friend’s home for dinner. I’m not saying that I now dislike the dog, but my affection for it has definitely cooled.)
  7. A painting falls off your wall and knocks your visitor unconscious.
  8. You welcome a guest into your home and (surprise!) their 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 (I did this once when I was breastfeeding my first child and the postman looked quite unsettled.)
  10. You accidentally serve your dinner guests a slightly undercooked chicken and unwittingly put them at risk of salmonella poisoning. (What can I say? I am an aspirational home-management influencer, not a chef.)
  11. You invite an attractive friend over for a romantic evening and he turns out to be violently and terrifyingly allergic to your cat. (This may or may not have happened to me, and it was definitely not romantic.)

But never, ever apologise for your mess. Try this instead: ‘Hello! It’s so great to see you! Come in and sit down. How many chocolate biscuits would you like?’

Kerri Sackville is an author, columnist and mother of three. This extract is from her latest book is ’The Life-Changing Magic of a Little Bit Of Mess’ is available online and in all good bookstores.

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