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Dirty Laundry

This post has absolutely nothing to do with photography, but I felt compelled to write this after finding these pictures on my phone tonight. I took them last fall as I was getting ready for a party I was hosting a couple of days later.

This is my living room, and below that is my kitchen.

They were both exceptionally clean the day I took these pictures, but if you were to drop by my house unannounced on any given day, this is essentially what it would look like. Sure, you might find it a little messier than it is in these pictures (especially now that we have a new puppy), but most days, these rooms stay relatively clean. My husband, the extravert, loves to entertain and often invites co-workers to “drop by” on their way home from work. Our house sits directly in between where people are leaving and where people are going, so it often becomes a stopping point along the way. That is okay with me. Because I’ve grown to anticipate an occasional “drop by” (or sometimes even a “stay in”), it is important to me that the “face” of our house stay relatively clean. Since these are the first two rooms you see when you walk in the door, most of what little cleaning energy that I possess is concentrated here.

Just a few steps away from the kitchen, behind a closed door, sits my laundry room. It looks like this 99% of the time. The other 1% looks even worse. There are piles of unfolded laundry that continue to grow taller by the day. There are stacks of folded laundry that will never make it to their owner’s room (I do fold 25% of my laundry!). Instead, the naked owner will wander into the laundry room when they no longer have clothes in their own room to collect their wrinkled clothing and mis-matched socks (I don’t think anyone other than my husband has worn a pair of matching socks in years). On the way into the laundry room, they may trip over a suitcase that has not been unpacked since our vacation eight months ago.

Further down the hallway (also behind a closed door), sits an “office” with a computer that has not been turned on for six years and piles and piles of mail that is not important enough to be responded to but is too important to be thrown away…..and then a whole host of other stuff. Since there is no chair in the “office”, no one has actually sat down at the desk since we built our house.

And then there’s the “pantry”…..sigh.

If I was feeling a little more confident about myself, I might be compelled to show you my closet….or even worse, my garage, but I know you are already judging me. I will let you just use your imaginations on those.

I’m not sure what compelled me to take these pictures last fall except that I must found it ironic that one part of my house was so clean….even beautiful….while the other rooms were such a disaster. Even further, why in the world did I feel compelled to share these horrific images with you…images that might land me on the next episode of “Hoarders”?

To be honest, I think I am sharing them not because I am desperately crying out for an intervention (although I may need one), but perhaps I’m putting them out there because I think there’s a little of these pictures in all of us. Maybe you don’t agree. Perhaps every corner of your home is so clean and organized that even Marie Kondo would envy you. Or perhaps, it’s the opposite. Maybe the three children under the age of three keep your floors cluttered in Cheerios and Legos, and there’s spaghetti sauce on your ceiling (I promise, young mamas, it DOES get easier). You are in the thick of things, and there is not.one.single.thing in your house that is clean.

But hear me out….maybe other parts of your life resemble my “perfect” living room with a disastrous laundry room/office/closet/garage behind closed doors just steps away. With so much of our lives on constant display on Facebook and Instagram, we tend to present the “living room” part of our lives without any indication that we possess our own “Monica’s Closet” (or several of them) on the other side of the computer screen.

I’m guilty of this. I’m guilty of spending way too much time on my hair and makeup and not enough on my soul. I’m guilty of only uploading the “perfect” pictures of myself. I’m guilty of presenting my “perfect” life online, complete with the “perfect” vacations and the “perfect” children and the “perfect” marriage. I don’t tell you that I had to take 52 pictures of myself to find one that I liked. I don’t tell you that my “perfect” spouse and I got into one of the biggest fights of our lives while trying to drive the streets of Florence with only an Italian-speaking GPS. I don’t tell you that my “perfect” child gave me attitude right before I took a picture of her with her first place ribbon. I don’t tell you that the first place ribbon was also accompanied by several losses and a multitude of tears. I don’t tell you that underneath that “perfect” outfit I’m wearing are a pair of mismatched socks with holes in the toes. I want you to see the “living room” part of me. I want you to think that I am perfect, and that everything in my life is perfect. Can you relate?

I’m not sure if things are more difficult now than ever before, or if so much of our lives are on display than they used to be, but I want you to know that behind those perfectly posed images that we see as we scroll through Instagram and Facebook sits a messy laundry room…..a burnt dinner….a couple arguing….a sassy toddler….a defiant teenager. Behind those happy, #blessed posts sits a lonely friend, a widow, someone struggling with addiction, someone struggling with a loss, a girlfriend struggling with depression, someone struggling with something. We all have something about us that we prefer to keep in our laundry rooms.

It’s difficult when we are on the receiving side of those “perfect” posts to remember that the one doing the posting only wants you to see the living room. And here’s the truth….I’m okay with only seeing your living room if that’s all you want me to see. In my opinion, it’s perfectly fine to present the best of ourselves, especially in a public forum, as long as we acknowledge and understand that that’s what we are doing. But the trap that most of us fall into is that we forget that truth. We fail to recognize that on the other side of that living room sits a dirty laundry room (unless, you are my friend Susan, who has a perfect laundry room). I cannot even imagine what it must feel like to be a teenager (especially a teenage girl) who has to see “perfect” on full display every single day on social media. As a 44 year woman, I find it hard enough myself.

So today I air my dirty (and clean, but unfolded) laundry for all the world to see (or all 25 of you who read the blog) simply as a reminder to myself, and hopefully to others, that we all have it. Don’t be fooled by those who only want to show you the living room. Somewhere, whether physically or emotionally (or maybe both), is a mess. Some of us may have more mess than others, but we all have it. We are all beautiful messes, and the more we acknowledge that, the better off we will all be.

I am not going to ask that you go out and reveal your dirty laundry to everyone (although, strangely, I feel somewhat relieved in doing so). Rather, I’m going to ask that you be kind to yourself and to others and recognize that it exists. The next time you find yourself envying someone’s beautiful, perfect life, remind yourself that you only see what they want you to see. Only the truest of friends will invite you into the rooms beyond the living room and won’t apologize for the the mess they find behind closed doors. Seek out those people. And when you find those people, ask them to help you fold your clothes!

4 comments
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  • JenniferLove this so much. Thank you for sharing. Ps I won’t go into half of our rental house without shoes on my feet!!!

  • Jennifer HarbourHeather, this is so fabulously written. You have a gift!  I love your honesty!!!  Can absolutely relate….  and to be navigating this social media “perfect” world as an adult is quite hard…. can’t imagine what it’s like for our girls!  I look forward to more blog posts!!!

  • Frances KingVery good. So proud of you. I will help you fold your clothes any time, just because…I am your mom.

  • AshleygoodingSo well-written Heather! 

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Welcome to my blog! Here, I'll share some recent sessions, exciting news at Heather Swanner Photography, sources of inspiration, and mostly just random thoughts! Please be sure to bookmark me and leave a comment to let me know who you are!

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