Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Homemaking

image found here

Homemaking has been on my mind lately as we gear up to tackle our landscaping projects and contemplate short- and long-term plans for our house. Jon and I had a few recent conversations that illuminated some feelings of discontent on both our parts as well as differing points of view on the usefulness of our home. We've been slowly talking through our needs and desires and ideas and it's gotten me really thinking about what I want our home to be and what I can do to achieve that vision with the resources at our disposal.

I'm not just thinking about cosmetic issues, like improving or decorating our living spaces. There are plenty of improvements we could make (new kitchen cabinets, anyone??) and we could certainly do plenty of “styling,” but I'm more concerned with making our home as functional as possible. The fewer square feet you have to work with and the more you subdivide it by people (and pets), the more purposefully you have to approach your living situation. I want to decorate our house to make it pretty, but also to make it work for all of us and also to make the work we do to maintain our home as easy as possible.

And maintaining a home, even a perfect home, is a beast unto itself. Jon has lamented a few times that home ownership is more work than he was anticipating. I’m sure it seems even more daunting now that he works from home AND takes care of a wee one all day. Both factors mean that you’re making more messes at home and more work for yourself, but then it becomes even more important to have a space you enjoy working in and being in all day, and is easy for you to keep in an enjoyable state.

So these are the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for the last few weeks, and I’ve realized that I need to be more thoughtful and purposeful in my homemaking. Now that I've identified that goal, I've started looking for inspiration to help me improve my interior design and my attitude. Maybe it’s just because I’m thinking about it, but I’ve suddenly started finding great resources all over the place, and each new source leads to other new sources.

The Apartment Therapy family of sites are already fixtures of my Google Reader, with their celebration of small spaces; practical, functional AND attractive design; green living; and mélange of real-life, designer and DIY resources and inspiration. Through those blogs and other modern mama-type blogs, I’ve recently come across a few more wonderful sites that are really motivating and empowering me to get my act together at home.

Meagan Francis is The Happiest Mom and I both relate to and aspire to her practical and purposeful homemaking attitude. I’ve only just started following her blog but I’m already inspired and invigorated. On Wednesday, Meagan had an interview with Heather Solos of Home-Ec 101 and a contest to giveaway Heather’s new book of the same name. I loved what Heather had to say about homemaking, especially in regards to parents of young children:

By all means enjoy your children, most especially when they are small, but know that caring for your kids is more holistic than simply playing with them. Maintaining a baseline of cleanliness sets a frame of reference they’ll have the rest of their lives.”

Heather’s interview inspired me to readjust the way I’ve been thinking about housework. She reminded me that a structured, habitual pattern of housework may take some time to establish, like any good habit, but will be easier and more rewarding than feeling constantly overwhelmed by chaos and disorder and irregular marathon cleaning sessions. 

I don't want to waste my life keeping my house clean, but I do want to start establishing some better homemaking habits. I think I can do a better job staying on top of things instead of feeling like I'm always playing catch up. I know I can carve out a few extra minutes in my mornings and evenings to perform small household tasks regularly before they become enormous, overwhelming chores. I am a creature of habit who thrives on structure and routine and the same can be said for children. Our whole family would benefit from my discipline and that's motivation enough for me, right there!

I especially want to create a comfortable environment for our kids. I want our home to be clean and comfortable, stable and predictable, an inviting and enriching space for them. I want to teach them to respect and value our belongings, to be self-reliant and responsible, productive members of our family. I want them to be stimulated, to learn and create and enjoy their childhood and the time we spend together as a family. I want to give them the skills and the structure they need to be successful students in school and life. I think that teaching children about housekeeping from an early age is an important foundation for all kinds of things. I like Heather Solos' point of view here:

"I refer to the “domestic arts” as life skills. With few exceptions we all have to cook our own food, wash our own clothes, and scrub our own toilets. It’s not sexy, but we may as well do these things competently and with confidence. These tools set up a pattern of success that carries over into other aspects of our lives, regardless of their gender."

And as if Heather just knew I could use a hand figuring out how to go about my personal housekeeping revolution, she offered yet more fabulous inspiration yesterday (and a great giveaway!). Tsh Oxenreider's site, Simple Mom, and new book, Organized Simplicity, are more great resources to guide and motivate. Whether or not I win a free copy, I'm definitely going to check out that book for ideas on how to declutter my life and live more intentionally.

In the meantime, I'm collecting all my ideas and inspiration here:

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