I went to the library today just to relax and browse. One of the things I find the most relaxing to daydream about is a beautiful, clean, well organized home. Of course I also want my home to be brimming with life and activity. I want all this to be done with love and smiles. So I found the books of greatest interest to me today were on the subject of home organization.
I love browsing through pictures of ideal family homes with seemingly spontaneous, yet somehow perfect design schemes, and order. Lots of Scandinavian orderly perfection everywhere. Then I compare this to my own shoddy attempts at creating it and try to use this imagery to inspire myself to keep trying, keep striving towards the goal of a bright, well ordered, happy home complete with kids in socks flopped on the couch absorbed in good books.
After a while in the clouds, I come back down and remember that these pictures don’t take homeschooling 6 children and an income with limits into account. But yet, valiantly, I proclaim to myself that I will try! I will not sink to the depths of “lowering my standards” as so many of my fellow homeschoolers of large families have claimed it is necessary for me to do! No, I shall break the mold, and bring my family to higher heights. All the while comparing my home to the spotless homes of friends with 0-1 children, and professional decorators. Yeah I want it all.
Then there, between the books about how to declutter, and how it’s all too much, was a book about how a house too well kept represents a life unlived. I had to see what this was about, because we live. We have so much housework to do, because we are living so much life. Was this a stamp of approval on life, lived and unexamined through a microscope of perfectionistic housekeeping? Could such a thing be acceptable? Could this writer prove it to me?
I love clean. I hate clutter and too much stuff. But I must admit, I have, in the past, whittled things down to the point that there was nothing left to do. Nothing but maybe read. But it’s so easy to clean up after reading. I have also experienced the joy of being deeply involved in the process of creating something. I do enjoy being nestled in the busy-ness of producing something wonderful. It’s exciting.
In this book were pictures of homes where people live more to do things, love one another, care for others, and place things that they love, and that they love to do. Cleaning things out can mean cleaning all the things you do right out of your life. Sure, cleaning’s easier when you have nothing left to clean. But is having nothing left to clean really the best goal to have as a mother of 6 in the prime of busy family life? It’s actually a little mean.
What we need are places to conveniently store the wonderful things we each love to do. There should be a place to lovingly store those objects of each person’s passion, whether it’s painting, writing, gardening cooking, programming, rocketry, electronics. And these places should make sense and invite the passionate endeavor, but also enable quick and sensible clearing. I think our 3 year old’s train track basket fits that description. The trains and train tracks don’t fit my usual criteria that we just can’t have toys made of millions of little parts. The train tracks are really only dozens, but there is such a quick and convenient way to pick them up and store them, that they’re kept in their unassuming basket right in the living room.
Perhaps more living and less cleaning would take place if there were a sewing basket near the dining room table like that instead of random sewing supplies housed in bags in the furthest reaches of the laundry room cabinets. Accessible passionate living. Books stacked next to a favorite chair. My paints and brushes where I can get to them instead of hidden out of reach above the refrigerator.
Life is about relationships. Home is about welcome. It’s for people to live in and love one another and pursue their passions. Our home is not about hiding our stuff to make it more palatable to those who prefer to tiptoe around their homes feeling glamorous in them.
And you know, it’s much better around here since last year, when we had a very colicky baby who nursed hourly, everyone had a deathly flu, and our living room floor had to be torn out due to a leak in the kitchen sink, and all our belongings had been tossed aside into sliding avalanche of disorder by the demolition crew who left us in this train wreck covered with white sheet rock dust. We cleared a spot and set up our Christmas tree and felt thankful to have a home and 6 healthy beautiful children.
This year, our home is intact, and imperfectly, but functionally organized. I have realized that functionally organized is organized. Our kids are here, being homeschooled this year, unlike last when they were in public school, and they are so very helpful at keeping things clean and orderly! Yet, not perfect. But that’s okay. I’m not ready to be photographed for a publication, there’s life and love happening here. There’s noise, activity, sewing, painting, computer programming, laughing, cooking, playing, reading, and sometimes there’s arguing and fussing. But LIFE! It’s beautiful too.
As some of my friends are prone to point out, “Where no oxen are, the stable is clean, but much revenue come by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4