The 5 'normal' types of mess to stop worrying about, according to the experts

Pro organizers share the areas where they feel we can be giving ourselves some slack

kitchen with wooden table and cutting boards
(Image credit: Future PLC)

The level of tidiness in our homes varies drastically week on week, and many of us only really kick into gear with cleaning when we have guests coming over. Instilling some good organizing ideas, like labeled bins and drawer dividers, makes tidying easier as everything has a home, but it's natural for standards to slip sometimes.

Organization experts and designers have offered their thoughts on the 'normal' types of mess that we shouldn't feel guilty about. 

Here are five areas where we can give ourselves permission to be a little messy.

The 5 'normal' messes to stop worrying about

'We as a society are basing our standards of tidiness on a time when looking after a home was usually a full-time job. If people did work full-time outside of the home, they generally had a partner who took care of all of the cleaning, tidying, childcare and home management,' says Ema Hidlebaugh, the founder of Minimize My Mess.

'We can do anything, but we can't do everything.'

Ema Hidlebaugh
Ema Hidlebaugh

Ema Hidlebaugh is a minimalism and capsule wardrobe expert, and founder of Her minimalism advice has been featured in a range of publications.

1. Dishes in the sink

'It's normal to have dishes piled up in the sink waiting to be washed. However, it's important to ensure that dirty dishes are not left for too long, as this can attract pests and cause unpleasant odors,' comments professional organizer Barbara Oldham at Inspired Home By B.

She believes that it's important to strike a balance between maintaining a clean and organized home and not putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves, especially during busy or stressful periods.

'It's okay to prioritize tasks and focus on the most important areas while letting some mess slide temporarily,' she shares.

2. Go-to items

mud room with storage and bench

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Designer Chantelle Hartman Malarkey agrees that homes should feel lived in and that we should give ourselves some grace. One common mess that she has observed in many clients' homes is a 'go-to' area.

'This can be that junk drawer that somehow fits everything to a bowl on your countertop that holds house keys, car keys, garage openers, and sunglasses,' says Chantelle. 'It’s normal to have all your go-to items easy to access or all located in the same place.'

While it can look messy, these catchalls are home to important everyday items that support our daily routines. And although we aim to keep kitchen counters clear, it's far more important that everyone knows where their keys, wallet, and phone are when heading out the door.

Chantelle Hartman Malarkey
Chantelle Malarkey

Chantelle Malarkey is an interior designer and photographer who inspires others to follow their dreams and transform every space into its most beautiful version. 

3. Toys and children's items

Even Marie Kondo appreciates that some mess is inevitable with young children around, and that it's better to do a big sweep at bedtime than attempt to keep things immaculate all the time. 

'When you have kids, it's natural to have toys and children's items strewn around the house,' says Barbara Oldham. 'It's important to ensure that these items are not a safety hazard and are put away in their designated areas regularly.' Some good toy storage ideas make a world of difference.

Chantelle Hartman Malarkey agrees that anyone with children deserves some slack and says that kids' toys tend to take over. 'It feels like having paper, markers, and other like items out can look messy but really this is just part of life with kids and totally normal to have out,' she says.

4. Nightstand drawers

bedroom with wooden bedside unit and blue wood panelling

(Image credit: Future PLC / Anna Stathaki)

'Its completely normal for your nightstand drawer to become a bit of a mess,' says Louise Oliphant, Homes & Gardens' Ecommerce Editor and bedding expert. 'The place where you pop your daily essentials like your reading glasses, medications, the book you're reading and things you need to "keep in a safe place" like receipts, cards, and the jewelry you've taken off from the night before – it can quickly turn into a mismatch of items.

'And that's okay. It helps to declutter your nightstand periodically, but for things that don't have a home, your bedside drawer is the best place to keep odd bits close to hand.'

Louise Oliphant author headshot image
Louise Oliphant

Louise Oliphant is eCommerce Editor and sleep specialist at Homes & Gardens, here to help you wind down well. Previously covering sleep and wellness content (as well as the occasional organizational buy) at Real Homes, Louise has tried, tested, and reviewed some of the top buys for your bedroom.

With an MA in International Journalism and PR experience working for a luxury homeware brand, Louise brings bags of bedding expertise and enjoys nothing more than helping readers find solutions and sleep products that best suit their needs. 

5. Laundry piles

'With the busy schedules and lifestyles, it's common to have piles of laundry waiting to be washed, folded, or put away,' says Barbara Oldham. 'As long as the clothes are not dirty, this is a normal type of mess.'

Purchasing an inexpensive laundry folding board, at Amazon, makes folding and putting away laundry into more of a game, so it's a good way to get clothes sorted.


Is it normal to have a messy house when you have kids?

'It's normal to have a messy house when you have kids, as children are playful and may not understand the importance of keeping their surroundings tidy,' says Barbara Oldham. 'However, it's important to establish a routine and involve the children in cleaning up their messes.'

Is it normal to have a messy house?

Minimalism expert Ema Hidlebaugh says that it's no wonder many of us find it hard to keep on top of mess, with many of us taking on the impossible task of combining two full-time jobs, not living up to 'societal standards' and then feeling like failures because of it.

'Pair that with the highlight reels and Pinterest perfection of social media where everyone's home appears to be pristine and styled 24/7 and we're thrown into a shame cycle,' she says.

To keep on top of mess better, Ema suggests decluttering, and then storing everything in logical, labelled homes.

We all have different levels of mess that we can tolerate, often varying between household members, but it goes to show that there are lots of types of mess everyone has, and they don't require immediate attention.

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.