There is a children's television programme that my two enjoy called 'The Large Family'. It follows the fortunes of a family of elephants called, funnily enough, the Large family. There are four kids and two adults in this family, and the programme reflects the average chaotic nature of family life. I tend not to share my kids' taste in television, but occasionally I quite like to join them for this one as it offers a kind of therapy by proving that tidiness and organisation can quite happily go to pot in a home without any loss of love, kindness and warmth.
At the Large family home there is never a meal-time when no-one spills anything, never a two-way conversation in which everyone waits for the others to finish speaking before taking their turn, and things are forgotten and misplaced with the kind of regularity that I can truly identify with. ("Water bottle? Oh sorry I've forgotten it again honey... ask the teacher for a cup of water if you are thirsty.")
Next-door to the Large family live the Smart family. Life in their household is very different. The cupboards are never bare, the boy-child is always obedient, and you get the feeling they would lose their own heads before forgetting to take their water-bottles to school.
There was one episode in which a boy from the Smart family came for a sleepover at the Large house. I don't remember the full course of the programme but I do remember his shock at breakfast time when Mrs Large told him to put juice on his cereal because she'd forgotten to buy milk. Ha ha, the poor lad was distraught. I don't mean to sound cruel when I say that, but surely the children growing up amongst chaos, learning to make do and adapt are going to be better equipped for life in the real world than the poor boy who thinks you should always be able to see the pattern on a carpet and that crumb-free surfaces are the key to happiness?
Life is too short for colour-coding socks. Our children are young enough to find the world a wonderful place for such a short time and I don't believe anyone ever looked back at their childhood and thanked their lucky stars that their childhood home was clean and tidy. Keep on top of the essentials of course, but make time for enjoying the chaos too.