Saturday, December 04, 2004

Homemaking - Getting Started

The first thing a lot of experienced homemakers do in the morning, is get up at least 15 minutes or more before everyone else does, in order to make preparation for the day. They usually get their shower and get dressed, fix their hair, and take care of their appearance, to put them in the mood to conduct the home in an orderly way. There is nothing worse than trying to get control of the many facets of homemaking, while still in pyjamas and slippers, unbathed, and hair uncombed. The next thing they do is eat properly so that they will have the fuel and sense of well-being to think straight and get things done. After this, they may do a little something that didn't get done the day before when people were underfoot, such as folding that last load of laundry, or putting away the dishes. The homemaker might also mix up a batch of bread or scones for breakfast.
It helps a lot if you've been brought up watching your mother. I deplore the modern efficiency kitchens, which have no place to sit or eat, where a youngster cannot observe what is going on. The idea of the efficiency kitchen was to save steps, so the homemaker could reach for the fridge door and cook and wash while standing in the same place--very little movement. However we really lost a sense of home and family when we got those tiny little kitchens where families could not work together due to crowdedness. I quite like the open, "keeping room" type of kitchen, where the dining table, as well as the living room, sort of work together. Children can sit at the table and see what their mother is doing, and observe how she cooks. The beauty of this kind of kitchen, particularly, is that she could serve hot rolls straight from the oven to the table without getting them cold. In the efficiency kitchen, you have to walk around to the dining room, which is usually blocked off in some way by cabinets, to serve everything.
The next thing the experienced homemaker might do is sit down and maker her list of the essential activities of the day. I find it nice to make a list and then check off the items as they get done, as it gives the feeling of accomplishment. If you write your "to-do" list on some nicely decorated paper, and do it in your best handwriting, or even type it off the computer, it gives it a sense of importance, and you'll more likely look forward to doing it. The check mark boxes can be some favorite icon like roses, apples, hearts, or pies.
If you get the major work done in the morning, you'll find there are more hours in the day to do things you really like to do, that aren't "work" but still benefit the family, such as sewing.
It is a real treat to know someone who has a nice house and seems to be able to manage it, and will invite you over sometimes to observe. It gives you real inspiration as you see someone else doing the job right. We all need a standard to reach for, and sometimes there is a person who can supply this. I benefitted a lot in my teens from watching several people, and one time I visited a woman who was really enjoying her home, and I watched as she somehow effortlessly made her home into a beautiful type of kingdom, where you felt really royal. She never complained, but enthusiastically cleaned and moved things, and when she was in a room even to get something, if she noticed something out of place, she would put it right or clean it right then and there. These were small jobs, mind you, that only took a few seconds, but it kept her home sparklling. She had small children but they always appeared to be clean and her laundry was reasonably caught up. Watching her gave me so many ideas, and made me look forward to having my own home someday.


Michelle Galo said...

I grew up in a small house with our one dining table in the kitchen. The idea of the dining room was rather foreign to me. I don't know what we would do without the table where it, as it sometimes doubles as a counter space when two or more of us are cooking at once. Take Thanksgiving: I'm whipping cream and Dad's basting turkey and mashing potatoes. Our kitchen is not large, but it's convenient, and cozy.

My fascination with homemaking and with the little details such as those you wrote about would probably amuse you! My mother has always worked full time, so I don't have any close examples of full time homemaking, but I love the idea, and I devour any first-hand information I can get my hands on. I'm trying to prepare myself for that role should I eventually marry, but I have a long way to go! Your writings are very helpful.

Anonymous said...

When I got married and started having our children 5 years ago I hadn't a clue as to how to make a home. My mother was never around and taught me nothing. Now, home making is my life! I search everywhere for information on HOW to do it. I ask women I know from church, and the neighborhood, but haven't found anyone who is willing to teach much about this. Thank you so very much for this information. I look forward to more writings of wisdom such as this. Thanks!

Mrs. S said...

My mother was a stay at home mom while I was growing up but for some reason had no desire to pass on her knowledge to me. The result when I got married was that I had never so much as made my own bed let alone done laundry or cooked a meal! Bless my husbands heart for having been so patient all these years! He will never let me forget the first loaf of bread that I baked. It must have weighed twenty pounds!

The funny thing is that I never wanted to be a stay at home mom. I saw it as being subservent and a complete waste of talent. Little did I know that one day I would call myself blessed to be the mother of three wonderful children and a full time home maker!

I have come along way from that first loaf of bread. There is no greater achievement for me than being able to put a wonderful meal on the table and seeing my husbands grateful face as he asked the blessing. The kitchen is the center of our home and I am very thankful that it is large enough to allow the family and friends to gather while I work. Many evenings of the week my childrens friends join us for a home cooked meal. They gather around while I cook, helping and sharing. It is a wonderul time of fellowship.

There has been a definite learning curve involved in my beoming a home wife, but what a wonderful journey it has been. Many times when I tell people that I am a home wife they ask what I do all day and want to know if I get bored. How could I possibly be bored! I have freedom at home that I never had when I was working at a "job". If something takes my interest or might benefit my family I have the freedom to learn and investigate these things. I have discovered so many things about myself I might otherwise have never learned or had time to develope. My mothers family frequently jokes that I was born into the wrong era. My grandmother tells me that I remind her of her mother! I have learned to garden and love to can the food we grow. After several years the salsa that my husband and I can has earned a reputation and is in demand by all our family and friends. I still can not sew but have learned cross stitch and am trying to learn quilting.

Being a home maker is such an awesome privledge!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I am a homemaker with 4 small children and my mom worked full time, so I never learned anything about keeping a nice home for my family. I have gotten much better over the 10 years of my marriage, but articles/posts like this one are so very helpful and inspirational. Thank you!

Lydia said...

It takes some getting used to, but it is possible to keep a routine, clean house, and pay attention to the needs of the other family members. I watched this woman do it whenever I visited and I was fascinated. Because she was "ready" for work (dressed her best, good grooming, etc) she felt more in charge. She may have had something on her list like, "clean living room" and right in the middle of the task, would stop and go do something for one of the children, or her husband. Then she would return to the job. Several more interruptions later, she completed her task. She didn't get upset because she wasn't able to just work on the one room. She had it in her mind to go back to it, and just plodded away, despite having to change the baby, brush someone's teeth, or help another one get dressed. She liked crossing off the piece on her list, and going on to the next job or room. Mostly, she kept her children in the same room, so she wouldn't have to check on them. I thought that was a good idea. Eventually, her children got used to watching everything she did, and could do it themselves, and enjoyed it. The younger boys always liked the broom or the vacuum, and even liked to wipe the table with a cloth.

She could visit as she worked, and talk to the children about every subject on earth that she thought they needed to know, yet she also made a point of sitting down at a certain time with them for what is called Afternoon Tea. They actually drank juice or milk in tea cups and had a piece of bread and peanut butter, but it was a little break they all looked forward to.

When she opened a closet, cupboard or drawer, if she noticed something she didn't need anymore, she would take it out and put it in a box she kept for give-away or throw-away. She didn't let things accumulate for a special cleaning day. I never knew her to do spring cleaning, except in the sense that she may have changed the furniture around a bit to accommodate the different way the sun came in.

It does a child good to watch his mother, or be in the same room with her, even if she is just resting. I think it gives the child a sense of who is in charge and what the home is all about. In the 70's, when so many women went to work and the neighborhoods were empty, it was a sad, lonely place to live, and the few women who stayed home, felt a kind of lack of support and motivation. Now, thanks to the web, we can discover many women who are at home and we don't feel so alone.

The thing I look forward to the most in home keeping is the end result of a room. I just love peeking around the wall into the living room after it has been de-cluttered and cleaned and straightened, and imagining the delight of someone just walking in. Naturally, three-fourths of it is just hard, roll-up-you-sleeves work, but the finishing touch, like lighting a candle, putting on music, giving a spurt of scented home spray (like cinnamon), a vase of fresh flowers, music, or something cooking, is a total delight, and makes it all feel "finished"

One day my son, a construction worker, walked in and I was in the kitchen and I heard him say "WOW!" I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "I just came in from the filthiest, coldest, hardest job in the world. I've been rained on, and had lumber fall on me, and stepped in holes and mud, and then I walk in here and what a contrast! It is like coming to an Italian restaurant." I think I had Italian music playing and Italian type food in the oven.

Comments like that seem to make it worth the effort.

I have a particular jealousy of other women's cooking, particularly from the grocery store. I get peeved if the men in my family are eating Little Debbies, or buy canned cookie dough from fund-raising efforts of school children. I don't like them to stop and eat a cinnamon roll in a food court. I think it takes away the motiviation of the homemaker to make those things, if she thinks, "Oh well, they can get a cinnamon roll somewhere else." I think my baked goods are more wholesome and without additives, and I want them to develop a particular taste for them, rather than commercial stuff. They know I feel this way, so every once inawhile they will tease me and say, "Well, I guess I'll go get some Little Debbie's"

I don't bake often, but I think it is important in the morning to get the house smelling nice with something in the oven, and I think a small batch of cinnamon rolls doesn't hurt. If you have a large family, there is never any danger of over-eating, as food doesn't go far! In the evening, also, if there are some who come into the house after being out in the world, it is a great relief to them to smell something good like a stew on the stovetop or hot spiced punch in the winter.

Back to homemaking. It is really helpful if you can get into the habit of picking up as you go. As soon as you see some stray cup or paper on a table, pick it up and put it where it belongs. Keep children's hands clean so they won't leave sticky prints all over the place, which can smell bad. I've noticed some homes just smell like dirty clothes, dirty children, dirty diapers, old food in the sink, etc. If you can't fold and put away laundry, at least keep it washed and don't let it pile up really high. It is better clean in a basket than dirty in a basket.

Sometimes when someone comes over and I'm busy, I invite them to the area which I am working, such as the kitchen. "You just sit there, and I'll get you something to drink," I will tell them, as I keep moving about the kitchen. I simply cannot stop all the time and visit, and they know it, but they also know I can listen and work at the same time.

The concept of keeping the home "as you go" is similar to the way the gospel was supposed to be preached. We read it as "Go into all the world," but the original language means "AS you go into all the world." So, in homemaking, as you sit in your house, and as you help the children, and as you get breakfast, etc., you can clean and straighten. In a few years, it will be so automatic, you won't know you are doing it, and your children will automaticaly be able to clean up after themselves without even thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,

I really think you should write a book. All the wonderful things you are posting are unfortunately quickly becoming a lost art. Even today, in the Northeast at least, the stay at home mom is lonely, there are so very few of us. It is difficult when you feel society does not value what you do, or assumes you are too stupid and incompentent to do anything else.

I love being at home, there is nothing I would trade for it. But your posts and websites are so helpful. They inspire me to be the best I can be, no matter how tired or discouraged I feel.

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,
I don't think I can express how helpful your comments are about the details of what makes a home! Some of us ladies out here who are staying at home being wives and mothers and home makers really don't know how to make a home. I love what I am doing, and reading these hints helps so very much! Thank you.

Lydia said...

There are a number of things that new homemakers do that make homemaking more difficult than it needs to be. As much as possible, I think we should make this role a joy, and not a huge burden that makes you get up in the morning hating your life.

One thing that you need not be doing is making huge meals and standing there cooking all the time. There are so many other things to do that are enjoyable and creative. The day should be started with a huge breakfast, and then, the other meals will be small efforts. If you haven't had the advantage of a home life when you were growing up, the preparation and cleaning up of meals can seem like a real chore, so here's what I'd suggest you do.

Begin the day with a big breakfast. You can even have a baked potato for breakfast, with all the toppings, and not feel any guilt, because what you eat at the beginning of the day, your body will use up more efficiently. You'll find that the family is not as hungry at other meals if you begin the day with a hearty meal, and spend your grocery money on that meal. The middle meal can be
a homemade soup, which you can put on the stovetop in the morning and let simmer. The evening meal can be a even less--just a salad or a quick vegetable stir fry.

Women get into enormous discouragement over meals, and I think it is because as the day wears on, and they get more fatiqued, the meal demands get greater. It should be the opposite: Breakfast like a King, when your energy is at a greater peak, lunch like a Prince, and dinner like a Pauper, when you are wanting to wind down and quit working. You'll find your family won't gain so much unneeded weight, and will sleep better, and wake up more easily. Eating the evening meal at 5 or 6 is preferable to eating late.

Several good books about eating are "Fit For Life" by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, "Greater Health, God's Way" by Stormie Ormation, and "Protein Power" by Michael R. Eades.

torii said...

Thank you for the teachings on homemaking. The information you give is so valuable. There are so few teachings on homemaking nowadays.

Mrs.Garcia said...

LadyLydia, your Homeliving Helper blog is such an encouragement to me and also to my family.
I at first hated being a Homemaker however I am slowly learning to love being a homemaker as well as teaching our child at home.

Lydia said...

There are some women who can really shine in the home. The way they use their talents to help their families develop good standards, is an inspiration. While some women will sit in a place feeling depressed and discouraged, others will take charge and make the best of it. I've seen women living in the most hopeless looking places, make them come alive with the way they clean and arrange things. They just seem to have a special touch. Such is true with an older friend of mine. Nothing seemed to daunt her. She could walk into a run down place and make it a haven.

Sometimes young women are waiting for something better. They don't like the house they have, or the neighborhood, and they feel that it isn't worth the bother of living their best while there. They may let the shabbiness of the place get them down. They sink into a depression, where they can be of no use to anyone, and never seem to rise above their circumstances.

This friend of mine is not a mythical creature. She is about 65 years old, and a very hard worker. She never sits still for long, and while she is sitting, she's reaching over to straighten something out on a table, arranging the cushions or folding the lap quilt. She keeps a very pretty notebook that has the neatest cover I've ever seen--sort of metallic. Even when she has been ill, she doesn't get far behind in her homemaking. Perhaps it is because when she is well, she works so hard and so efficiently that it doesn't matter if she has to slack off for a few days.

I'll talk more about her later.

Lydia said...

In the meantime, if you have comments, send them to my online email Indicate if you would like them posted.

The woman I was talking about had a unique system of getting things done in spare moments. While she was waiting for something, maybe in a 10 minute span of time she would do something, even if a small portion of a bigger project. One time, while she was waiting for the tea water to boil, she cleared off a shelf in the utility room, (in view of the kitchen), got out a small can of paint, and painted it. Then she washed the brush and put away the paint. She had a floor to ceiling storage area to paint, but she just did one at a time. Later, after it had dried, she replaced the items that belonged on that particular shelf. Since I was in the habit of making a huge mess around me everytime I attempted something of that nature, I learned a lot about how to do something major without putting the whole room or whole house in chaos. It also showed me how to make best use of my time. Now, I rarely just sit around, and I'm always looking forward to the things I have to do. I've seen what a difference it makes.

Kelli said...

This is a lovely post and very encouraging. I'm enjoying catching up with some of the older posts at Home Living.

I'm very happy with my kitchen it's the heart of our home. There's ample space for everyone at a big table and two comfy sofas. When my husband gets home he'll relax on a sofa while I prepare dinner and we'll talk. I wouldn't have my kitchen any other way!