The Adverse Effects of a Messy House

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Does a messy house have any adverse effects on children? I always thought a messy house produced happy children.

It’s not unusual to have a house that gets messed up if you have children. In fact, it’s probably unhealthy to try to make your house a museum if you have children. However, there is a difference between a house that gets messy from children playing throughout the day and a house that is cluttered, unkempt, and dirty. I believe a consistently messy house can impact the health of your children and how your children behave.

A consistently messy house usually speaks of lack of discipline and procrastination. Children, on the other hand, thrive on discipline, structure, and routine. They like to know when they can expect the next meal, what to expect when they come home from school, and parents’ expectations of them.

A messy cluttered house can interfere with the opportunity to sit down to a table with the family. For example, a table stacked with dirty dishes will make it difficult to gather around the table, or may result in grazing, rather than eating together. Laundry that is never done on time, will result in clothes necessary for certain occasion that are not available, or are un-ironed and wrinkled.

Most people find it easier to concentrate in a clean organized setting. There are always a few who can tolerate excessive chaos and clutter, but most people do better in a well-organized environment.

If your child is trying to do her homework at the kitchen table but is surrounded with dirty dishes, stacks of papers and toys, he or she will likely find it more difficult to focus on schoolwork. Even if the clutter is not animated and simply sits there in the middle of the table, it is unnecessary stimulation that can and, in most cases will distract. And if the table is dirty and sticky it is just not a very attractive place to study.

Also, there are health factors. More often than not, clutter and mess are associated with uncleanliness. Allowing dirty dishes to accumulate in the sink or not cleaning up spills, messes, and food that drops to the floor can lead to the growth of bacteria that can make your child sick.

This is especially true if you have children crawling around on the floor. So, I believe the answer to your question, is “Yes, a messy dirty house can have adverse effects on your children.”

Setting things in order is a matter of discipline and some concentration. Get as many in your household who are old enough on board and assign them tasks. Begin by doing dishes right after every meal, and do not go to bed with dishes undone, and if you have a dishwasher, at least put them in the dishwasher.

Notice when something spills, or food is dropped on the floor and clean it up immediately. Develop a schedule for mealtimes. This is more important than you probably realize. Chaos leads to crime, and schedules bring order to chaos.

Start by making your bed and requiring your children to make their bed. Don’t sleep in; have a time for everyone to be up and have breakfast around the table together. There’s a great youtube video that I encourage you to watch. The web address is, or you can simply google “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

Instead of putting off housecleaning to one day a week, or sometime in the future, break the cleaning into smaller chunks. Consider assigning a day to clean each room in the house. For example, the living room could be cleaned on Monday, the dining room on Tuesday, bedrooms on Wednesday, etc.

Several years ago, I challenged our church to bring order to their homes. Each week I presented a new task. They were tangible tasks that could be done daily. Take a look at them and see what you can do with them. Start tonight.


#1: Wash your dishes before going to bed.

#2: Clean up spills immediately.

#3: Make your bed upon rising.

#4: Put toys away after playing.

#5: Go to Bed at a reasonable hour.

#6: Keep your bathroom clean (Deuteronomy 23:13-14).

#7: Never leave piles of dirt on the floor—finish the job—put it in the garbage.

#8: Always arrive at church on time.

#9: “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Dress holy; dress clean.

As much as possible, keep your person clean.

#10: Maintain Personal Devotions.

#11: Eat at least one meal together each day (except when fasting).

#12: Pray with your children before they go to bed each night.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].

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