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The Upside of Mess

Put down that Swiffer! A little clutter isn't just easier to maintain than a supertidy household  -- it may even make you a better mother, says David H. Freedman, coauthor of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. Here, three benefits of less-than-perfect housekeeping:

1. Tolerating a little chaos gives you more time for yourself  -- and your child. "If you insist on having a very tidy home you're going to spend a lot of hours cleaning it," says Freedman. That's time you could be singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"  -- or painting your nails.

2. Clutter can provide stimulation for developing minds. "As new parents, you don't know what your kid will respond to," Freedman says. "They mix and match things in creative ways. Having lots of things to look at and manipulate can be good for small brains."

3. Being a clean freak may contribute to health problems down the road. Many experts believe that exposure to environmental allergens, such as dust and pet dander, helps kick a child's immune system into action. All the more reason to put off vacuuming until tomorrow.

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