I Need to See Your Messy House

It’s the antidote to a social-media-induced inferiority complex.

Nicole C. Kear

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Photo by Jason Abdilla on Unsplash

Here’s something I never thought I’d miss until Covid took it away: getting a tour of people’s houses.

I’m talking about the kind of informal walk-throughs that happen when you drop your kid off at a new friend’s house to play and the host asks, ”Do you want to a tour?” and you say, “Yes, sure,” every time. Perhaps is it just my overly voyeuristic nature or maybe it’s an idiosyncrasy of city living, where you never have enough space and every square foot costs roughly a gazillion dollars, but I never tire of exploring other people’s living spaces. Part of the allure is design-based: noticing how they made the room look so much bigger by putting the couch against the window, or how handy it is to have pots dangling overhead. But my favorite part of a house tour is glimpsing the proof that real people live there — the clutter of toiletries on a bathroom counter, the disorganized pile of papers on a desk, the unmade beds.

The mess.

For a year and a half, while Covid raged, I’ve avoided entering other people’s homes, and social media has served as my only window into others’ domestic lives.

Much has been written about what happens to us collectively when we over-curate our lives to make them picture-perfect. I have nothing new to add to the conversation. Except to say: I am forever peering into the background of photos to see if I can catch a hint of authenticity — an overturned box of Fruity Pebbles on the floor, or a sink full of dirty dishes. The domestic equivalent of showing your slip.

It rarely happens. Mostly what I’ve seen on social media are expertly-filtered photos of homemade bread and slow-roasted meats arranged on a spectacular table, wood gleaming, every candle thoughtfully placed. I’ve seen gorgeous renovations resulting in rooms painted the most charming shade of azure, shelves lined with books arranged by color, so they resemble a literary rainbow. Every pillow has been plumped. There has been zero mess.

I’ve turned my face from my phone screen to my own home and my eyes have been met with a positively post-apocalyptic scene. For a year and a half, my apartment has looked freshly ransacked at all…

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Nicole C. Kear

Author, Essayist, Professor of Writing // Books: Now I See You: a memoir; Foreverland; The Fix-It Friends series // www.nicolekear.com