Category Archives: homemaking

It’s been a long week

My largest-ever copyediting project was due on Wednesday. So I spent the first part of the week in a daze, sitting at the computer too long and sleeping too little. No matter how well I plan ahead or how prepared I feel to finish a project on time, those last two days or so are always a booger.

I’ve had a little extra time with my kids in the latter half of this week. My dad, who watches the kids on Wednesdays and then Friday afternoons, has been sick. Poor guy — he almost never gets sick (well, he used to never get sick, until his grandkids moved to town), so he’s miserable when it actually happens. Well after the crazy, distracted-with-work start to my week, I was okay with having some extra time with the wee ones. By yesterday we were in a pretty good groove, and the kids played together like the best of friends for long stretches of time while I dusted and swept and cleaned the bathroom and even set out a few wintry decorations. I felt more productive in terms of housework than I’ve felt in a very long time.

And then today happened.

Jeff had to work most of the day, which was a tough realization for me. By late afternoon, the house was cluttered with toys and papers and crayons, and I was so weary of picking up after my children. Charlie wanted my constant attention, but I desperately wanted to be left alone. And every time I entered the living room, I felt a heavy weight of fatigue at the mere thought of cleaning up the mess.

They say this season — these years of having preschool children at home — flies by. They say we should treasure it and embrace the chaos and let them make messes because that’s how they learn and they’re only little once! But this afternoon (and on more other days than I care to admit), this season of this particular breed of chaos felt like an eternity. I just wanted my living space to stay tidy for more than ten minutes. Even ten seconds. And the fact that my kids didn’t have the same aspirations — that their very mess-producing presence was in direct opposition to my aspirations — weighed. me. down.

Once the kids were in bed, I collapsed on the couch. Jeff was there reading his Bible, and I thought, “I need to pray.” But as I looked around me at the mess that had dampened my attitude for much of the afternoon and evening, all I could utter was, “Lord, I’m so weary.” And so prideful, too, as it turns out. I wanted to whine in my prayer, “It’s my home, and I want it to be free of all this crap that’s all over the floor, all the time!”

While I don’t think these are invalid complaints, I was reminded in the back little corner of my heart that this home, our home, is a gift from God. And it’s a gift to be lived in, a place to raise my children and teach them to love Jesus, a place where they have the freedom to be themselves and to learn and grow and explore and be kids!

And if they learned anything today — anything at all about loving one another, or about how the world works, or about seeking God — well then, I suppose the mess was worth it.

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Book review: Keeping House

If you’ve spent any time with me recently, you’ve probably heard me mention this incredible book that I can’t stop thinking about, Keeping House by Margaret Kim Peterson. I read the last page last Saturday and have since gone back through it to reread all of my underlines. It’s good stuff. The entire book was fabulous. I don’t expect that everyone will have the same opinion. But the author spoke so specifically to my existing desires for my home, and she put such eloquent words to ideals I couldn’t have expressed on my own.

For a long while now, I’ve entertained thoughts here and there of the value of housework. I don’t love cleaning my house, and my house is certainly not the most tidy one around. But I was beginning to wonder if the purpose of doing housework might go deeper than the obvious result of having a tidy home. Isn’t there value in washing and folding my husband’s white shirts so that his drawer is never empty? Isn’t there something worthwhile about wiping down the dining room table so that it’s clean when someone sets down a stack of papers or attempts to set the dishes out for the next meal? If our family is a community of sorts, and our home is to be a place of welcome and safety and rest and sending forth, then aren’t the monotonous housekeeping tasks we perform day in and day out all a part of growing us as individuals and uniting us as a family?

Peterson speaks to these exact questions. I had hoped to write a pretty thorough book review, because I’m a nerd like that, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. So I’ll just post a few favorite quotes. If you’re interested in the subject and curious about the book but have no desire to read every single quote, at least skip down to the last two. They’re the meatiest passages.

“Housework is akin to these natural and human rhythms of the day, the week, the year. We fix lunch because it is lunchtime. We wash the clothes or the windows because it is Monday or because it is sunny….As we engage with the litany of everyday life, we engage with life itself, with our fellow human beings, with the world in which God has set us all, and thus with God himself” (p. 20).

“Every morning, people need something to put on. Having clothes ready to wear in the drawer or in the closet is part of creating an expectation that in this home we care for one another. Our needs are not a perpetual emergency but are anticipated and provided for ahead of time as a matter of course” (p. 100).

“Meals need not be individually memorable to be nourishing. Many of a congregation’s individual celebrations of the Lord’s Supper may be largely indistinguishable from one another, and yet the sustained practice of sharing together at the Lord’s table is one of the ways the household of God is nourished and built up together over time. So too a Christian household’s shared meals may include many occasions that are rather routine, and that is the point. It is routines like these from which the fabric of our common life is woven…” (pp. 140-41).

“Efficiency can be the enemy of hospitable housekeeping, especially in the face of small or large emergencies. All too often, efficiency is just another name for being spread too thin” (p. 155).

This one sums it all up for me:

“Things do not go as planned; they always take more time than it seems they should; they have to be done twice when it seems that once should be enough. And the more complex or difficult the circumstances, the greater becomes the need for the kind of basic nurturance that housekeeping seeks to provide. People need dinner even on good days, and on bad days they need it even more.
A truly human life is one that is lived not only in life’s strengths but in its weaknesses as well. A well-kept house is thus a house in which it is safe to be weak, because the members of the household take care of one another. And in a more everyday way, it is a house in which it is safe to be hungry (there is food in the cupboard), safe to be tired (there are places to sit and places to sleep), safe to need clean socks (there are some in the drawer, and if they all happen to be in the hamper, someone will put in a load of wash soon)” (p. 155).

So the repetition of housework does have a purpose: to provide a home of safety in which all members of the household can experience the “truly human life” of both strengths and weaknesses. And this passage I just quoted makes me tear up a little bit, because I desperately desire my home to serve that need for my family and for our guests.

Peterson doesn’t stop there, though. There is a greater purpose!

“A well-kept house thus possesses a kind of sacramental quality. It is no substitute for either the kingdom of God or the church. But it is a kind of foretaste of the kingdom. A nurturing and hospitable home can be a reminder that God has always been in the business of making a home for people, that God desires that people should have the food and clothing and shelter associated with home, that one day our tattered and partial provision of these things for one another will be gloriously supplanted by God’s perfect provision of shining robes and a sumptuous  feast in God’s own house.
This sacramental quality of home means that a well-kept house is a means to an end, not an end in itself” (pp. 163-64).

In discussing seemingly mundane aspects of sheltering, clothing, and feeding a household, Peterson has offered a challenge to view these tasks not as futile, but as exercises in faithfulness (p. 39); to establish routines that provide for the needs of the house and the people in it (p. 85). She’s quick to say that this does not require a large house or a hefty income or a subscription to the trendiest magazines for interior design. In fact, she speaks against these things, or at least our culture’s obsession with them.

And I like that. With our humble home and our limited resources, I can keep house in a way that provides for our needs, encourages us to care for one another and for others outside of our home, and directs our attention to God’s greater, gracious, undeserved provision.

Cleaning schedule

Dana, this one’s for you!

I still need to tweak this a bit, but here’s my weekly schedule of household chores, as mentioned here:

MONDAY:
laundry
sort any piles of papers (usually on our kitchen counter or on the hutch in the dining room)
file papers

TUESDAY:
laundry
sweep hard floors (kitchen, dining room, living room, hallway)
steam mop if needed

WEDNESDAY:
dust (not necessarily every Wednesday…ahem.)
vacuum bedrooms and living room rug

THURSDAY:
laundry (sheets and towels)
clean bathroom

FRIDAY:
vacuum basement (not required every week)
sort any piles of papers

Now of course, many things have to happen on a daily basis and therefore aren’t even on the list (dishes, picking up toys and clothes, emptying the kitchen garbage, cooking meals). And some things on the list may actually have to happen more than once a week (sweeping the kitchen and dining room floors [often more than once a day, even], cleaning the bathroom, and sorting mail and other collected papers). But these things still need a dedicated place in my week, I think, so that if the past seven days have been a whirl and I haven’t once swept up the discarded dinner crumbs and stray cat food from my dining room floor (please don’t judge), I know that, if it’s Tuesday, that’s one thing I have to accomplish.

I’m still iffy about the laundry schedule. I’ve toyed with the idea of having one dedicated laundry day, but it just never seems to pan out. Our laundry is in the basement, and while this is a far better arrangement than multiple other homes we’ve inhabited, I still have such a hard time keeping up with load after load. I think I do better to spread it out through the week.

Another thing. I didn’t include grocery shopping on my weekly list, though it may be added someday. I still can’t seem to find a perfect time in my week for tackling this. So we typically pop by Dillons for shorter shops of more immediate grocery needs, then I’ll go one evening every few weeks for a bigger shop.

Do you have any tips on weekly grocery shopping trips? Or care to share your own cleaning schedule?

Back to work

Ugh. I have dreaded the end of my time off! And now it has come, unwelcome but prompt.

My 2 1/2 weeks with no editing work were very full: full of family time, full of lazy yet productive evenings, full of house projects and aspirations of order. And I would say, all in all, it was successful, at least in terms of my to-do list. I cleaned, painted, and organized the garage; I accomplished little bits of decluttering and organizing; I started a sewing project; I organized our storage room. I also did something that wasn’t on my list but is maybe the most important and effective house-related thing I’ve tackled: I wrote out and implemented a cleaning schedule! Instead of feeling like every single household chore is always at the top of my priority list, I can just check my schedule — “Oh! Today is Tuesday, so I’ll do some laundry and sweep the hard floors.” It’s quite freeing, really.

During my time off, I wasn’t able to get our photo albums all up to date, though I did start one Shutterfly album. I didn’t have a garage sale or de-rock a flower bed or work out (not even once! gasp!). But that’s okay. These things will stay on my master to-do list with no deadline and no pressure. I’m happy with the tasks I did start — even happier with the ones I finished! — and I’m especially grateful for the extra time I had to focus on my family and my home. I love both of these things, and I felt blessed to be rested and undistracted enough to put my energies toward these things.

And now I am rested and (hopefully) reenergized to dive back into my other identity. =)

To-do list: checking in

My little vacation from editing work has been so refreshing thus far. I’m keeping plenty busy, but I feel a bit more connected to my home and my family. Here are a few things I’ve tackled from my previously posted to-do list:

-Clean, paint, and organize the garage [I have attacked the cobwebs with a broom and used some serious muscle power to remove a shelf bracket thing from the wall. No painting or organizing to speak of.]

-Room by room, declutter and organize and clean [Today I sorted the toys with gusto. I’ve dusted and swept and mopped. I’ve decluttered a few nooks and crannies.]

-Learn how to use my sewing machine [My mom came over last night, and we worked on a cute little outfit for Lillian. The trick now is to use the sewing machine regularly. If I don’t use it within the next two months, I’ll need yet another lesson!]

-Put up shelves in our storage room and get it all in order [Done! This was a full-day project last Wednesday. We still have a whole pile of boxes and bins that need to be gone through (like letters from friends in high school, and old VHS movies), but at least those boxes are all together in one end of the room.]

-Finish reading my current book and blog about it [I haven’t finished. But I’ve continued reading, and continued to love it. If you want to read along with me, it’s called Keeping House by Margaret Kim Peterson. It’s a life changer!]

-Send some thank-you cards, call some friends, buy some gifts [Yes, I have done these things and hope to continue doing them. I have some pretty phenomenal friends. And a family I don’t deserve.]

And I have felt more freed up to play with my kids and relax a little. And I hope I’ve told my husband how much I appreciate him. (Father’s Day provided rather convenient timing for that.)

I am beginning to consider adding an item to my list: potty training Lillian. I didn’t want to rush into it. I’m really not interested right now. But I’m pretty sure Lillian is. (Warning: bodily functions discussed ahead.) Since last Saturday, three times she has sat on her little frog potty and immediately peed. Today at my grandma’s house, I was changing Lillian’s diaper. But as soon as I took the old one off, she insisted that she needed to sit on the big potty. So I held her up on the toilet, and she did go a little bit. Then tonight! Incredible! After her bath, Lillian was with Daddy and Charlie, ready to get her jammies on, while I cleaned up all the bath water from the bathroom floor. She ran in and said, “Me sit on me froggy potty Mommy?” So I helped her sit down, she immediately started pushing, and lo and behold, she pooped in the potty! I’m so proud. And quite shocked, actually. This hadn’t even entered my mind as something fun to do while not working… but I may not have a choice! Now I’m fantasizing about what it will be like to not have a kid in diapers.

It’s been a long while

I’ve been in a sort-of blog funk. Not knowing what to write about, not knowing why to write, not knowing what purpose I want this little cyber-home to serve . . . and, the bottom line, not having a single spare minute in which to write a single thing.

But today is the glorious beginning of 2 1/2 weeks of self-instituted time off from editing, which seems the perfect time to blog. Along with evaluating life and priorities, cleaning my house like crazy, organizing my world, and tackling some home-improvement projects. Nothing major.

As I head into this stint of free evenings and weekends, I think a list would serve me well. So here are a few things I hope to accomplish, in no particular order, and by no means exhaustive:

-Get photo albums up to date
-Clean, paint, and organize the garage
-Work out
-Room by room, declutter and organize and clean
-Possibly have a garage sale
-Paint along the baseboards in our hallway (the previous owners only painted one coat above the baseboards, and I can totally tell and it annoys me)
-Get a couch for our basement and a slipcover
-Play with my children
-Tell my husband how much I appreciate him
-De-rock another flower bed and tidy it up
-Learn how to use my sewing machine
-Put up shelves in our storage room and get it all in order
-Finish reading my current book and blog about it
-Send some thank-you cards, call some friends, buy some gifts
-Become fluent in Spanish (I wish)

Small potatoes, right? The fabulous part of this whole thing is, not a single item on this list has a deadline. So much of my energy is directed toward deadlines; I’m genuinely excited about every one of these more open-ended tasks. Let the vacation begin!

A weekend away

I’m gone this weekend for some serious girly craftiness. I’m spending the weekend with ten other girls, tackling various craft projects, swapping ideas, and eating and sleeping whenever we feel like it.

I have made a mobile for Lillian’s room (combining ideas from here and here) . . .

. . . and a wreath for our first Christmas in our first house (tutorial here). Isn’t it fitting for a family of editors?

I’ll post some photos of these things once I’ve established a spot for them at home.

Other accomplishments this weekend include (finally) sewing some patches onto Charlie’s AWANA vest and addressing envelopes for our (yet-to-be-written) Christmas letter. Not exciting enough for pictures.

The one main thing I’ve been planning to tackle this weekend is the organization of photos on the laptop. I despise this task. But if I don’t do it this weekend, when?! So that’s my plan for after supper and tomorrow morning. Ugh.

I’m having a fabulous time. Thank you, dear hubby, for the weekend away! I miss you three!