I have a special treat today! I asked my sister Leah to guest post on the topic of caring for ourselves by taking care of our homes as the final post in this series. Leah is the most dedicated and loving wife and mom I know. I want to be her when I grow up! Enjoy! (And check out her blog here!)
Webster’s dictionary defines home as “a house, a close place, or a place of rest.” It goes on to say, “The primary sense is probably to enclose, to cover, or to make fast.” I love that! In my mind, I picture a medieval castle, a fortress against the stress and grime and ugliness of the world. This is something that, as moms, we create for our families, but before that, it is something that we create for ourselves. Our home is our domain, our castle, our safe place.
I don’t think that it’s going too far to say that creating a home is a way of feeding a woman’s soul. This is what we were designed to do. And so the way that we create or don’t create our “place of rest” can have a direct impact on our health and well being, our mental state and how we feel about ourselves. Speaking from experience, when my castle crumbles, the rest of my life quickly follows. I am by no means an expert in this area, but here are a few things that I am learning about being a home-maker.
It must be a priority. This means saying no to a lot of things. I heard someone say the other day that every time we say yes to an outside activity, we are saying no to our homes and families. Of course, this is a place that we must find balance—we must certainly never sequester ourselves away and refuse to engage the outside world—but I am learning that I must put first things first. At this particular time in my life, with four children under eight years old, that means that I don’t do a lot of lunches and shopping dates with friends. But at the end of the day, when the living room is not in chaos and we all have clean clothes to wear the next day, I am much more relaxed and peaceful than I would have been if I had spent the day at the mall while my home fell to pieces.
Clutter is your enemy. Seriously. Treat it like the deadliest snake you can imagine. It will never completely go away, it will be an ongoing battle, but don’t ever stop fighting! Maybe it doesn’t affect everyone the way that it does me, but as a minimalist, I find that when the house gets too full of stuff, I start to get depressed. I recently had the opportunity to spend a week in a place that is extremely cluttered, and by the end of the week I felt like a mental case. If this is an area that is a struggle for you, start small…create one clutter-free zone in your home. Maybe it’s a whole room, maybe it’s just one corner, maybe it’s just one area of your kitchen counter. Or the top of the refrigerator. Just have one place that you can look at when things feel overwhelming that is clean and simple. Then you can add another zone, and another. Empty space is good. I actually feel peaceful when I have some blank walls and empty corners in my home.
In my house, I don’t allow toys in the master bedroom. Every morning, I make the bed and straighten the room, and throughout the day, when I need a place to breathe, this is where I go. Just two minutes in a peaceful space recharges me!
Home-making doesn’t have to cost money. Your biggest tool, decluttering, is free. In fact, you can have a yard sale with all of that stuff that you cleared out and actually make money from it! But then beautify your home with what you have. Several years ago, I lived in a tiny farmhouse that was literally falling down around us. Money was somewhere between tight and non-existent. Some of my floors were just exposed plywood and I didn’t have two pennies to put into decorating. I spent several months feeling discouraged and overwhelmed and just “getting by” in the housekeeping department. Then one day I decided to pull myself out of the rut I had fallen into and look at what I did have rather than what I didn’t. First of all, I rearranged the furniture. Then I took a baby quilt that my mom made for one of my kids and hung it on the living room wall with thumbtacks. I had a pair of old, rustic shutters that I had gotten at a garage sale for fifty cents and I hung them on another wall. I picked some wildflowers and stuck them in a glass of water. Then I swept and dusted, and you know what? That shabby room sparkled to me! I went on to do the same thing in the master bedroom and the kitchen, and I ended up absolutely loving that little house. It may not have impressed anyone else, but it was my haven.
Fill your home with music and God’s Word. Hymns and praise music are free on www.pandora.com and they provide such an uplifting backdrop to the nitty-gritty of family life. Write scripture on index cards or scraps of paper and place it around the house where you read it often. I like to tape encouraging verses in my kitchen window to read while I wash dishes.
Don’t expect perfection. I tend to be a perfectionist, so this is something that I work on daily. People are more important than things! Yes, I want my home to be a place of order that nourishes my soul, but if keeping it spotless keeps me tied in a permanent knot, then I have completely defeated the purpose of home-making. Having small children has forced me to relax about things like cobwebs, dust and crumbs on the floor.
Take time every day to enjoy your home. I often get so caught up in my to-do list—some days in just surviving—that I forget to enjoy what I am working so hard to create and maintain. I try to take a few minutes each day to sit down (preferably in a fairly uncluttered room) with a cup of coffee or a book or some knitting and just be, just enjoy my sanctuary.
Take advantage of online inspiration but do not fall into the comparison trap. Sites like pintrest and decorating blogs can be incredibly inspiring, but they can also cause discouragement and guilt that your home doesn’t measure up. I am learning to be very, very aware of this. I start to get depressed over the fact that I don’t have fabulous window coverings or that my boys don’t have a bunkbed that looks like a pirate ship or that I simply do not have the time to craft artsy little candle holders to put on the mantle…and that discontentment totally steals my joy. Which brings me to my final and most important point…
Cultivate a thankful heart. This, for me, is key. Whether I have much or little, whether I live in a spacious three-bedroom or a micro-house, whether I can afford curtains and rugs or not…God has given me this home and it is my privilege and my joy to turn it into a soul-nourishing haven. When I start looking—really looking—at what I have with gratitude, it changes my attitude about everything. It gives me inspiration and energy to make my home what it is intended to be, which is a life-giving space.
Here is my home-making formula boiled down: Live simply. Cultivate beauty. Praise God.
Here are the other parts in the Mama Self-Care Series:
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