351: Is Your Messy House Getting You Down? // Carly Thornock


Carly Thornock does not let her toaster bully her. 

I know this is a silly statement, but there is so much wisdom behind it. 

Carly is an interior designer and family life coach, and I was thrilled to get to interview her recently about realistic home management as a busy mom. Carly definitely knows how to make a home look amazing, but rather than focusing on home perfection, she did her Master’s degree research on how homes help families thrive. She leads the movement for houses infused with brilliant humanity, wonder-filled stories, and deeply rooted relationships. I love Carly’s focus, and I learn so much from her! 

(By the way, Carly Thornock has been on the show before. We had an awesome conversation about stories and our homes—check it out if you haven’t listened to it yet!).

I appreciate Carly’s reminder that homes are meant to be lived in because, I’ll confess, my house is often quite messy. I deeply value order – I feel like I can think better when my house is clean–but with two creative children, a busy husband, a growing business, and an active dog, there is evidence of a lot of living in our home. Sometimes, the mess drives me crazy; other times, I can make peace with it as just a part of family life.

 As I’ve tried to work on my mindset around accepting the mess that is an inevitable part of living, I’ve been drawn to the work of Carly Thornock. A line from an article she wrote recently stopped me in my tracks: Stop letting your house come between you and your important people.”

After reading this, I knew I needed to have a conversation with Carly about it. My people matter to me, so it really struck me as important to step back and evaluate whether or not I’m letting my house take precedence. When I interviewed Carly, she shared three amazing takeaways with me: 


Carly Thornock’s Takeaways on How to Stop Putting Your House Above Your People:

1. Stop Taking Orders from the Inanimate Stuff in Your House.

It’s kind of a nebulous concept to consider that you are being bossed around by your possessions, but think about it… when you see a messy countertop or fridge or bedroom, do you feel as if it is calling to you and saying, “Drop everything you are doing and all plans for the day, and clean me up!”? Or do you ever feel like that messy pantry is a bully, calling out to you, “You can’t deal with your life! You are a disaster, and I am the evidence to prove it!”?

My friends, we don’t have to take orders or bullying from the inanimate stuff in our houses. We are more important than our stuff – and so are our relationships with our children, spouses, family, and friends. 

Carly says this:

“I have a stainless steel toaster, and whenever my kids touch it, I’m like, ‘Don’t touch the toaster! There’s a fingerprint on it! There’s evidence that you use the toaster on the toaster, and that means that I’m a bad mom because then I have all this work to make it clean so that I can feel good again!”

But, who’s more important?  My kids or the toaster? This is the question that we’re asking. And subliminally, we are choosing the toaster so much. And the reason we know that we are is because we’re mad about the toaster. We feel embarrassed about the toaster. We are letting the toaster dictate our state.” 

Raise your hand if you can relate! I know I can. 

 So next time you feel triggered by a mess, take a deep breath and say to it, “I see you. I’m sure we’ll get you taken care of eventually, but right now, I am choosing to do __xyz__, and you will have to wait.” You get to be in charge! 

And this leads to the next takeaway… 


2. Instead of Being a Slave to Your To-Do List, Let Your Choices Count.

As moms, we have endless to-do lists! It’s overwhelming! Remember, you get to choose. You don’t have to be bullied by that toaster! Carly’s wisdom shines through as she reminds us: 

“We hear the crumbs on the rug. We hear the smear of yogurt on the table. The mess is so loud. It screams at us.  But if we make a decision to listen to the screams, that’s all we’re going to hear because I’m gonna tell you this, too. It doesn’t go away.

The dishes never stop coming. The laundry’s never done. And if you’re going to attend and be distracted by this culturally loud noise that your house is making for you, you are never going to have time for your children.”

Carly describes perfectly the cacophony of sounds we hear from the messes in our house, and the siren song that it is to our ego. She goes on to explain that being intentional about what we are doing at any given moment is the key to learning how to drown out the crumbs on the table. We have permission to choose to ignore the mess, sit with our kids, and read a story. And then, we can also intentionally choose the time when we do the dishes. The key is that it’s intentional. 


3. Attend to Your Heart as You Unpack Your Beliefs about Yourself and Your Home.

I love how Carly’s takeaways build on each other and culminate in us attending to our hearts. Carly said it this way:

“Here’s the biggest crux of it all: when we don’t feel worthwhile, we abdicate our agency of choice and connection. If we aren’t feeling connected to ourselves, how are we going to connect to somebody else? These three takeaways build on each other if we’re letting the toaster beat us up.”

We “abdicate our agency of choice and connection.” That’s the crux! That’s why this work is so important because we are important. Our values, our people, our goals, our dreams – they matter. And we don’t have to let our messy house bully us into thinking it gets to decide how we spend our very precious time. 

I think it’s important to note that each of us will do this differently. This isn’t easy or straightforward work. It’s often not as simple as saying, “Stop feeling bad about yourself if there are dishes in the sink!” It takes a lot of intentional digging! But, I encourage you to do the deeper work to figure out why you feel bullied by your home environment: Is it the result of childhood trauma or messaging around worth that you could use help from a therapist to heal? Is it because you truly do value order, and you want to put some systems in place to maintain that more easily? 

As you figure out your values and get better at owning your choices and articulating your priorities at any given moment, you will find that you are able to clean because you want to and stop when you decide to. You will no longer allow your house to get between you and your most important people, and that is the goal that I think all busy moms are working toward. We’ll get there as we continue to attend to our hearts!

My friends, this is big. I feel like I need to marinate in all of Carly’s wisdom for a while, and I have some of my own digging to do. Let’s do this work! We can walk this path together as we become moms who choose. We get to be moms who are intentional, moms who take their power back, and, yes, moms who aren’t bullied by toasters. 


To listen to the episode about this, find 3 in 30 Takeaways for Moms in your favorite podcast app, or simply click the podcast player at the top of this post! 

>>>Are these tips from Carly Thornock helpful? What would you add to the takeaways? Tell us in the comments below!



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