I was reading a conversation on one of my favorite email lists about how we can create beauty in our homes when we are home all day with a largish family. Creating a beautiful home while being at home with children can be extremely challenging. Even if you are able to buy out the Pottery Barn catalog how nice can you possibly keep things with babies, toddlers, teens and a husband living there?
The fact is most of us can't buy out the Pottery Barn catalog, or even the Big Lots decorative aisle so keeping a home beautiful and orderly can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Especially if you are given to looking at catalogs, magazines or Pinterest.
First, I think you have to let go of the magazine ideal of what a beautiful home should look like. A beautiful home consists of love, warmth, prayer, music, cooking smells, children's laughter, aand light. If you have these things it won't matter if your couch is shabby or if there is duct tape on the recliner (toss a blanket over it).
If you pay attention to small details, which don't require too much effort, you can have an orderly pleasant home that reflects the life within. Details like dust.
I am a big believer is tackling the housework as you see it. See a dusty surface? Wipe it, right then. See a smudge, polish it right there. Make a habit of wearing an apron with a pocket and keeping a dry dust cloth in it. Don't wait to have the perfect microfiber cloth or the fancy almond oil polish. Just do it right then while it's in your face. Any cleaning implement will do, just as long as it is, itself, clean. Auntie Leila has a great post on that very subject.
Another way to keep your home beautiful is to sweep/vaccuum daily. This can be farmed out to a child as young as eight. Just make sure that they know about the corners. A clean floor will make your carpets last longer and your wood floors' finish last longer. I sweep often during the day and mop with vinegar and water after dinner in the evenings.
When you have small children or a large family maintaining order can be overwhelming. Make sure you are training your children to put things away as soon as they are finished using them. It's a long wearisome process but worth it in the end. I am tackling a strewer at the moment. About ten times a day I need to call this child back to her last perch in the house and have her put back what she was using. It's tedious beyond words but I'm hoping the tediousness will bother the child enough to make an impression.
Have only things around your house that you love or that you find useful. That bowl of shells was collected by Dave and I on an anniversary trip to Key West. Everytime I look at them I am reminded of how much I love my husband.
I don't have a very green thumb but there are plants that even I can keep a alive. Some living greenery can be easily obtained, even for free (ask a friend for a cutting) and helps bring warmth to a room as well as keeping the air fresher.
Your home should reflect your life and your loves. People who enter my home are rarely in doubt, even if the children aren't around, that a lot of children live here and education is very important to us. There are books EVERYWHERE. There are maps in most rooms, music playing, computers humming, art supplies and projects going in many of our rooms.
"Interesting people create interesting houses. By being ourselves, we can break through the limitations imposed by place and circumstance. It is the expression of well lived lives that creates beautiful spirit and charm in a house, not the beautiful furnishings." – Alexandra Stoddard, Creating a Beautiful Home
This is good news since I am short on beautiful furnishings. I do think, we have some interesting people living here and I hope I have reflected that in our home. We have artistic people, musical people, funny people, loud people and quiet people. We have people with wide and varied interests and people who have more narrow interests. My goal is to make them all comfortable without forsaking cleanliness and comfort.
Cleanliness and order are important to me. I function best in orderly and quiet environments, so God, being an amusing sort of Diety, gave me eight children and a deep desire to homeschool them. It's the kind of thing I wonder about. I am hoping it provides some santicty for me in the long run. In the short run it often makes me crazy but I plug along because the end result is to make my family happy and comfortable and to honor He who blessed us with it all.
Many of my decorating touches come from the thrift store. That way if something gets broken then I am not as upset as I would be if I spent a fortune on it. That being said I really don't tolerate wanton destruction. Accidents happen, of course, but I don't see any reason why children can't be brought up to be careful around their parent's possessions. To not play ball in the house, run around like maniacs and to be careful when handling things is not an unreasonable thing to expect. When carelessness results in disaster restitution should be expected. In my home it is a hard and fast rule that if you break it you bought it. If it's yours you won't get another one until you can pay for it.
Homekeeping has a spiritual dimension, this is why so many magazines and TV shows use spiritual imagery and lingo to encourage people to declutter and clean. All that "feng shui" and Zen stuff people go on about. The fact is like most spiritual practices, keeping a home is a discipline and, like most disciplines, it's not always fun. It is, however, always worth it. We as homemakers can make our work our prayer and in bringing order to our little corner of the world we can begin to bring peace and order and grace to the world outside our homes. The order within will be reflected in our demeanor and the countenance of our families.
"Keeping house is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of Christ as we encounter Him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests." Margaret Kim Peterson, Keeping House, The Litany of Everday Life
Resources for Homekeeping
Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook
Keeping House, The Litany of Everyday Life
The Decorating Category from "Like Mother, Like Daughter"
The Budget Decorating Category from "Like Merchant Ships" (Meredith is no longer blogging 🙁 but she kindly leaves her blog up for our inspiration)
My favorite broom, no bending.
Melanie Bettinelli says
“This can be farmed out to a child as young as eight.” Yahoo! Next year I’ll finally have an eight year old. Right now things are pretty chaotic here. My seven year old is the strewer, the absent-minded type who I fear will never be trained to put things away. She just doesn’t live in a world where things have places that they go. And I feel like I can make very little progress no matter how much of a nuisance I make of myself because I just don’t think her brain works that way. Fortunately, the next three all show signs of being much more trainable.
I hear you when you say cleanliness and order are important to you. The great irony of my life is that I began to have an interest in housekeeping and putting everything in order at about the time I started having kids. So far my ability to have babies has far outstripped my ability to keep up with the learning curve of how to keep a tidy environment with small people present. Oh well, as you say, I’m sure I’m growing in sanctity.
Alice Gunther says
Beautiful and helpful post, Mary Ellen. Thanks. I don’t think I’ve ever owned an apron, but would love to have one.