I’m not sure when this thought, that I needed to have a vision for my home, first started to blossom in my mind. Perhaps in a way I always knew it. But several months ago I was feeling crushed under the weight of it all. Never very industrious, I found myself working from dawn until dusk and collapsing into bed exhausted each night. Yet nothing was changing. Not only that, the state of things in and around my home seemed to be steadily deteriorating in spite of my best efforts. I needed a vision.
It has taken a bit of time to find my sense of direction. After all, I was trying to change the way I thought. It wasn’t enough to build new habits, I had to build a new attitude and I wasn’t sure where to start. Some women told me to remember that loving my children was more important than cleaning. Yet I had to admit that our home was getting in the way of loving my children, not the other way around. If I wanted to care for them adequately I had to do better, not let things slide. Reading organizational blogs did no good. Any time I tried to organize the house would be in chaos for weeks before I got us back on track. I am terrified of having visitors, yet reluctant to leave the house because I have so much that needs done. I hated my home and yet I could not leave it.
My study of Charlotte Mason and her educational philosophy was the first place I began to realize I could keep house without crushing my soul. Caring for my home should not define me, but it needed done before I would be free to pursue other interests.
I began to realize I had been going about it all wrong. Charlotte Mason tells us “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” I was trying so frantically to create a home life that was worth living that I was ignoring the atmosphere and the discipline. I needed to back down and start over.
Atmosphere. This would be my starting point.
So I struggled on, trying to cope with pregnancy and summer and homeschooling. But now I had hope. I quit fooling myself that things would change in a few weeks, and I came to grips with the idea of achieving goals in a few years. Because the only thing that happens quickly around small children is chaos, not order.
I began to consciously think about what I really, really wished was different and what didn’t bother me, and I made a few surprising discoveries.
Andrea Dekker reminded me that everyone’s priorities were going to be different, and I needed to discover what mattered to my family. I have envied her home from time to time, but reading through her list made me realize that all the things that mattered to me did not matter to her. Therefore, my home would never, ever be like hers. I realized I was completely okay with that.
I discovered I wanted books and words everywhere. I wanted time, space and inspiration so I could take a bit of my soul and mix it with the work of my hands and produce something both beautiful and practical. I wanted animals, both pets and livestock. I wanted to tend to them well, to reap the fruit of my labors in milk and eggs and companionship. I wanted to garden, to have flowers around the yard and herbs in pots and giant tomato plants in the vegetable garden. I wanted to serve real food at organized meal times, to harvest the herbs from my woods and use them to treat my family. These things MATTER to me. Time to explore the woods, to watch the birds, to pick wildflowers and harvest berries and gather acorns. Time to read, to soak, to think. Clean surfaces: tables, floors, countertops, beds. No piles of laundry.
In the evenings I would look at the pile of laundry on the couch, the children playing rowdily on the kitchen floor and occasionally jumping off their beds, and My Man on the computer as I cooked a late dinner. The children would be herded and scolded through their showers as I cleaned up from dinner, and those children who weren’t showering would be aimlessly wondering about the house pestering each other. Far too late, with tempers frayed and everyone worked up, the children would be laid down and I would either try to finish cleaning up from dinner or I would collapse hopelessly on the pile of toys and blankets and dirt that was my living room floor and watch TV and pretend I didn’t care. I hated every minute of our evening routine: why should I assume it was any better for anyone else? I wanted dinner ready when My Man came home, I wanted places to sit in the evenings, I wanted everyone to pitch in and clean up from dinner, and then I wanted to read aloud, to talk, to sing and build and sew quietly, all together as a family. We needed a time of peace before bed, and I had no idea how to achieve it.
What doesn’t matter? A well-decorated home. Lots of clothing choices. Eating out. Landscaping. (Big difference in gardening and landscaping.) Keeping up with my favorite TV shows. Coordinated furniture. Crayon-free walls. Sheets that match.
The ceiling in our LR that is nothing more than drywall 3 years after it was put in? Nope, doesn’t bother me at all. The crayon marks all over the wall of the kid’s room? Not worth painting over. What did bother me was books out of place, projects on my sewing table that I never sat down and sewed on, or the clutter that spread from so many surfaces in our tiny home, constantly shifted from place to place.
One day I ran across Auntie Leila’s great question: Do you know what’s for dinner? Is your laundry under control?
Finally, I had my place to start.
I have a long ways to go before I achieve my goal of clean surfaces. But it feels good to realize what it is I’m attempting to accomplish, and to have a definite plan of attack. Story time is happening daily. The majority of evenings are peaceful. The big yard sale we’re having next week should help with the surface clutter. Time marches on.