Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Home to Enjoy

The question was posed to me recently about how to gain interest in housekeeping, especially when the house has been neglected and the work seems insurmountable.

My answer is that it has to be approached with spiritual values in mind, the first being your own spiritual character.  It does take some courage to make the best of a bad situation or turn a mess into a place of beauty. 

One of the major elements in achieving success at home, I believe, is being prepared, and in particular, preparing your appearance. When you are dressed and have your hair done, you might feel you are ready for the job; ready for business and more in control of the situation.

The next thing to do is remove everything from the jumbled room that does not belong there. It does not matter what order you take, but you might try removing clothing and things made of fabric, and putting them where they belong, and then pick up all books and paper items, then toys, then kitchen things like glassware or bowls or any food items. When all those things have been removed, you can sweep and wipe surfaces with a damp cloth . Open windows and let in some fresh air. Clear away anything that makes your house look too cluttered and leave some bare spaces here and there. 

Cleaning goes a long way to make a house a place to love, but there are other things you might not have thought of, which will make a house feel more homey and desirable to stay in. Many times a woman can be restless at home because it is not as nice or comfortable or clean or bright as somewhere she really desires to go. To solve this, create an atmosphere in the home that makes you want to stay. Observe what it is in other places that you want the most. Is it the lighting? The orderliness? The comforts? The seasonal touches? Colors? Quietness? Special sounds? Types of meals? The table settings?  Or, is it the special things you do in other places that makes them more appealing than the home?  Once you have taken note of this, you can begin to recreate them in your own home and make not only a place you enjoy spending time in, but a place you want to invite others into.

The matter of motivation for housekeeping is one area in which older women can help. They will have some years of experience with situations that seemed hopeless and be able to relate how they tackled unpleasant tasks or created order. 

Cleaning the home and maintaining neatness can become merely functional and materialistic unless you add spiritual values. Having a cheerful heart while keeping house and being good-natured means you know this is part of the territory of being a homemaker.  We have all known housekeepers who only clean house when they are angry enough at the mess to do something. The secret to having a better attitude is to make cleaning part of your daily life, so that instead of waiting for a cleaning day, it becomes automatic to pick things up and maintain your home. Make it your job that you dress for every day. As things are cleaned up, it becomes more of a pleasure to work, as you view your progress and start enjoying the way things sparkle.

 I was greatly influenced when I was a girl, by a woman who never sat down to do anything leisurely (reading, sewing) until she had surveyed the area she was going to be in, and put things aright. She never left a room untidy. If she was in the bathroom she straightened a stack of towels or wiped the sink. If she was in a bedroom she put a pair of stray shoes in the closet or folded a lap quilt. If she was in the kitchen she put dirty dishes into warm water in the sink, to wash later, so that the surface area of the kitchen looked nice. In the living room she stacked books and magazines and placed them where people could see them and use them. As a result of this kind of automatic habit which she bred into herself, she did not have those angry cleaning days with all the shouting and raving at the children. They easily picked up her "clean as you go" habit and were able to overcome the knee-deep messes that often occur in children's rooms.

Families enjoy and respect the home when it is meticulously cared for. There has been an attempt in modern days to made cleaning and fastidiousness seem conceited and nonspiritual. I heard a remark once that a woman who was a good housekeeper was just being too much of a Martha and not thinking of spiritual things. However I believe that being a good steward of the home is a very spiritual thing because it is done to serve others and make them comfortable so that they can develop spiritual values.  Some people find it easier to think and easier to study the Bible and pray, when the house is in order. The home keeper does a great spiritual service to the family and to those who would enter her house.

Women who never experienced the joy of playing house when they were growing up sometimes miss the joy of housekeeping in adult years. The playing house element of housekeeping lifts the burden and gives a light hearted hopefulness to getting things done. When children play house, they turn work into something uplifting and never really try to get it done, but to enjoy it while they are doing it.

You can always tell when a woman loves her home because it has certain touches in it that go beyond just cleaning. She is making it a place of warmth and welcome for her own comfort and for others. There are women who can take a mere shack and make someone feel that they have spent an evening in a castle, and there are those who can make a trailer or a tent luxurious and comfortable, because they have given it an atmosphere of love and care. A home can be enjoyed when it is orderly and when creativity is used to make it beautiful.

You might enjoy this video of Cheryl Mendelson's Effective Dishwashing Tips, or this article on washing dishes by hand.


Finding Joy said...

My mother never walked through her house without straightening out things, making sure an ornament was in the right place or a quick dust with her hanki! She never left a room messy once she had finished a task and when cooking she was always tidy in her approach. I think it is in our gene's as I do the same thing myself, but it can be a bad habit when you do it in other peoples houses as well!! We both just have very orderly minds.

Wishing you a joyful Christmas with your family.

Housewife59 said...

I try and make my home an oasis, that people can come and be refreshed, replenished and find quiet peacefulness from the world outside. I agree that a spiritual approach gives you the enthusiasm and interest you need to be a good house-keeper. It really changes one's attitudes and brings contentment. I enjoyed this helpful post. Thank you

Anonymous said...

I haven't commented in a while, but I always read! Another wonderful post. I find that keeping the house daily and even heavier cleaning lifts any blue mood I might have that day. There is something very cheerful about it.

~ Ann

Lydia said...

Thanks for mentioning that, Ann. The very thing that we dread--all that grunge work--is the thing that will improve our mood the most. It also can ease loneliness and isolation somewhat and you get more creative when there is order and cleanliness at home.

Anonymous said...

This was very motivating to me as I am not a house cleaner. I never grew up in home that was clean so starting now is difficult and I am not motivated......but after feeling the Holy Spirit nudging me I have been making more of an effort. You are always so encouraging,. Thank you and I pray that you and yours have a Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could have read this 17 years ago when we first got married, but even now, it is helpful. I had a "born organized" mother, and had to train myself how to run a household, with now 6 children. Thank you for writing it and Merry Christmas!

Tricia said...

Do you have any tips for homeschooling moms? I feel so tired by the end of our school day that cleaning is not fun for me, but a necessary chore. I struggle between being a good teacher and a good homemaker!

Rachel said...

I find too that sometimes breaking things down into baby steps makes it a lot easier. For example, for a week focus on always leaving the kitchen clean after making dinner, and then adding on during the subsequent weeks different tasks you need to work on, making building up the habits of good housekeeping longlasting and not so overwhelming at first. If there's a certain habit that's a major struggle, then you can focus on that habit longer before adding on a new one. Sometimes that feeling of so much needing done can create a lot of hopelessness of not knowing where to start.

Getting dressed really helps too. There's nothing more unmotivating for me than to just stay in pyjamas all day long. It's like getting up for your job. People who get up to put on their work clothes (be it a suit, scrubs, specific uniform, etc.) in the process puts on getting himself mentally ready for work. It's the same thing in the home. Having a few sets of 'house clothes' for your work gets you mentally prepared in the morning to do what needs to be done. I always feel much more focused and prepared being attired so.

Plus, I get some very quality prayer time in when I'm cooking or cleaning. I do a lot of meaningful thinking about my latest Bible study or any personal lessons in my life. There's a lot of mental 'cleaning' that occurs at the same time as the literal cleaning.

The last thing is lists. Those have helped more than anything. I keep a calendar of what focused cleaning I do what day of the week, my meal plan, writing schedules, sewing schedules. I went crazy with it when I realized how much those helped more than anything. That was the other thing I realized, taking the time to write down what needed done helped conquor that overwhelmed feeling so that I could just start working down the list. I knew exactly what I needed to do, and just did it.

The thing with lists I found I needed to guard against was not letting them take precedence over people or relationships. For example, if my husband comes home and asks me to take care of something ASAP, I'll finish up what I'm doing and stop my list to go take care of that first. Or if someone needs help or guidance, I'll take the time to be there for them before house keeping. Things like that.

Faith F. said...

I love your blog. Merry Christmas Lady Lydia!

Anonymous said...

the spiritual outlook is Key...and thank you for that reminder, Lady Lydia. blessings for Christmas Day.

Anonymous said...

You're only a "Martha" when you fuss unnecessarily at an inappropriate time (like when a loved one is there only for a short time and you spend more time in the kitchen than with him or her, the way Martha did when Jesus visited them for a short time before His death, unable to discern which was the more important thing). Otherwise, it is a good thing to take pains and fuss over your home and make it lovely.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tricia. I am not the most organized person and I have had to learn to p/u regularly since having children. (Before, I could race around and finish the house in very little time but once I had a toddler at my knees that became a very ineffective method.) But now I feel like a pick up all day long as I go around the house (and I ask the children to p/u) but the house just feels like a mess and I feel tired and behind most all the time. I like all the suggestions you give here!

Anonymous said...

Tricia, as a trained teacher both kindergarten and elementary, my advice would be to try to get your children to work independently of you as much as possible. For example, let's say I have a three year old and I want to give them a task to develop their cognitive skills. First of all I look at what they can already do, maybe they can manage a ten piece jigsaw puzzle. So I give them something just a little bit harder, for example sixteen pieces. Then I tell them 'I have a lovely puzzle for you today. Now you work on that and when it's finished, fetch me and I'll take a look at your work.' This gives you twenty minutes or half an hour to do some housework. With an older child, who has literacy skills, you can set them a suitable task, explaining what they need to do and again remove yourself while they do it and when they've finished, you assess and correct the result together. You don't need to be there physically, supervising the work in the same way as a class teacher in a school. You should aim to plan, do, review. You plan the task with your child, they do it independently and you review the outcome together.

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia thank you for publishing my comment with advice for Tricia. Could I also add something that may be of use to other young mothers. Often, people don't realise that young children, both boys and girls, under the age of six really enjoy helping in the house and especially cleaning and tidying. The earlier you start them off, the better. Then by the time they are older and maybe inclined to resent having to do household chores, the habit is already formed.

A child of two is old enough to learn how to put toys away in a box. Actually this a great early maths activity because it involves sorting and classifying objects. For example, we have one box or basket, shelf etc for dolls and teddies,another for construction materials, not just everything jumbled into one box.

Helping your children develop a sense of order is really the first thing you need to actively teach them, worry about the 'book-learning' stuff later!

Pre-school age children usually love cleaning and they also love folding. So they can fold and put away their own clothes. Your three year old can dust their own room. Try to make all their furniture low level, so they can reach all shelves, drawers etc. Give them a nice feather duster, a cloth duster, a little tin of polish or a pretty basin with a little water and they will be happily occupied for an hour.

This gives you plenty of time to do your own household chores and your child feels important because they are contributing. And when Daddy comes home in the evening you can say 'just wait till you see the lovely work Jenny did cleaning her bedroom shelves today'! This also helps to educate the children that no matter what other achievements we may have, the work of creating and maintaining the home is the most important.

Lydia said...

Thanks for the great advise from readers. I posted two other articles after this and was slow to get back to answering the question.

The way I kept house whilst homeschooling was to have my children tag along into each room and give them something to do. They accompanied me on all my housekeeping. If I was doing laundry they were handing me things to put in the washer. If I was cleaning the bathroom, they were right there watching me, and helping with their own little rags or brooms and mops. If I was in the kitchen they were there, too.

But of course there were times when they sat in a chair while I was washing dishes, and looked at a book. Other times I'd ask them to sing to me or tell me a story or I would just talk to them while I cleaned the kitchen or cooked.