Brianna James’ videos of her messy house have been viewed by millions. The mess is fueled by four children, two dogs, and health issues. This is her story, told to Kelly Burch. Loading Something is loading.
This essay as stated is based on a conversation with Brianna James. It has been edited for length and clarity.
In the fall, my whole family came down with the flu. For days, we did not collect anything. When we started to feel better, I shared the devastation in my house: stacked dishes, scattered clothes, and general chaos. It was motivation: I thought if I showed everyone how bad it was, I’d have to show them how good it would look when it was clean. I never imagined that more than 18 million people would see the video.
Since then, my messy house videos have gone viral multiple times. I even changed my TikTok handle to @themessymama4.
I am a mother of four children, ages 7, 4, 2 and 1. My husband is on active duty in the military. We have two cats and two dogs, including a puppy. I’m the first to say that I’m lazy.
So I’ve embraced my clutter. At the same time, sharing on TikTok has motivated me to be better. It has helped me cope with my recent bipolar diagnosis and my daughter’s autism diagnosis.
My messy house is cleaner than ever
Since sharing on TikTok, my house has never been clearer. And let me be clear: it’s still very, very messy. I know I could pick things up the minute I notice them, but most of the time, I’m exhausted from kids yelling at me since 5am, so I’m going to skip over it and deal with it later.
Courtesy of Brianna James
But now I have a community that relates to me. I share time lapse posts of me cleaning our house and live videos of me doing the dishes. People text me saying they’re doing the dishes while I’m doing mine. Together, we can tackle these home projects that might otherwise feel overwhelming.
Now my family is not just sitting on our mess. We are actively trying to improve. Every day, I challenge myself to be better than the last.
Bipolar disorder and autism complicate things
I have always struggled with depression and anxiety. Some days, I’m in survival mode just to keep four kids under the age of 8 alive. My mental health affects my functioning, so sometimes I can only do the bare minimum. If I feel good, I do a little more on top of that.
The moment the first video went viral, I realized I was sick. He needed help. A few months later, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Around the same time, my 7-year-old son was diagnosed with autism, along with a few other medical issues.
Now I have a platform where I can normalize mental health care and raise a child with disabilities. I say exactly what I have in mind. It’s exhausting to think about how something might sound or to plan your comments in advance.
While some people have been negative, I have the support of my community. My autistic daughter loves to participate in cleaning videos and she is rewarded for her good behavior. It has been helpful for all of us to have a platform where we feel seen, heard and loved.
My community is more important than a clean house
On days when I don’t feel like cleaning up the mess, TikTok gives me positive pressure. It feels similar to knowing that a company is coming: you want to show them the best of you.
Still, I’ll never have a Pinterest-worthy house. That is not an attainable goal for me, especially at this stage of life. But I have found something more important: a way to hold myself accountable and share the truth behind the mess.