Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Homemaking 101

My Daughters,

I am not an expert on homemaking or housework, but I can share with you what has worked for me, as well as things I have learned about all things home-ish through the years.

The first thing about homemaking and housework is that it can be fun!  Seeing chaos turn into something pleasing to the eyes can be very rewarding.  In order to find pleasure in working around your home, you need to have the right perspective - and seeing it as just plain old work will make it tiresome.  Yes, some "chores" are very repetative and even boring if you come to the work without a good attitude, but it doesn't have to be that way.

In Titus chapter 2, Paul encourages women, both young and old, to be "keepers at home."  To me this means that women are to be the guardians and caretakers of the home.  Not that we can't leave our homes, but that it is our privilege and duty to take care of our home and make that a very high priority in our lives.  Our homes should be the one place in all the world where each member of your family wants to be to relax, feel at ease, accepted and loved.

The first part of homemaking is creating a place of refuge from the world for our loved ones and this is a great way to show them your love.  And your refuge from the world can and will be a refuge for others as well - extended family, friends and acquaintances will come to your home at different times, and if your home is pleasant and well cared for they will sense this and be able to relax, de-stress and enjoy your hospitality so much more than if your home was in chaos.

I am not talking about making your home look like something from a magazine (most of those homes do not look inviting to me at all as I'd be afraid I'd mess up the perfection just by being there!), and you don't have to have invested a lot of money either.  Using what God has provided for you to create beauty does not require lots of money, just careful planning.  I'll go more into this later.  The important part is that you work to create an environment in your home that is pleasant, both in appearance and in mood (screaming, uncontrolled children, for example, would not create a great mood - but that is for another letter my dears!).

So what does it take to make a house into a home that meets the needs of your family?  There are a lot of things to consider when trying to create a place of refuge for your family.  The most important is to consider the likes and dislikes of your family, especially the man of the house! If your father or husband hates the color green, then you shouldn't decorate using that as a primary color.  If he likes to come home to a tidy home, then making a time to tidy up before he comes home from work should be a primary priority.  Ask your dad or husband what makes him feel well cared for when he is home, what colors he likes, what kind of furniture is he the most comfortable relaxing in. Does he like a cozy place with lots of things to look at, or does he prefer a wide open room with very few decorative items.  Some men may have no idea what they like, and if that's the case, ask them to think about homes they have been in where they felt like they could relax and enjoy the company, and see what he remembers about the atmosphere, furniture and decor thatwas there.   You could even check out books on interior design and look through them with him and see what appeals to him.   Once you have some idea of what will work for him, then you have a place to start!

I believe color is very important when planning to create atmosphere!  Reds are aggressive and powerful and can lead to feelings of irritation or even anger, whereas blues and greens are calming - Check out this article about creating a mood in a room using colors.  Lots of color can make a small room seem smaller or help make a large open room seem more cozy. Pale or cool neutral colors can make a small room feel larger or make a large room feel starched or cold.  The color you use should flow through the room - paint (maybe one wall will be a darker color while the others are lighter), wall paper, borders, pillows, wall hangings, knick knacks and the furniture may be in the color(s) of the room, but having some things in neutral colors (white/black or woodgrain) or a complimentary color can really create a nice blend, and not make the room overwhelmingly one color.  You may also find a theme for the room - nature, mountains, grapes. antiques or light houses for example.  Start simple and add items to the room as you find them/can afford them and over time the room will become exactly what your family need.  Make use of second hand stores and garage sales to purchase decor for your rooms to save even more money!  Making items for the room yourself is a great way to make your room really personal too!

I found "The Homemaking Arts" blog and I highly recommend it!
But where do you start?  Creating a peaceful home can't be done in a day, and whether you are a young girl in your mother's home, a young woman engaged to be married planning her future home or a mother of many who needs to transform a home of chaos into a place of refuge it can be a daunting task.  Start with the room where your family spends the most time, whether that's the kitchen or the living room or the family room.  Start there and create a refuge in that room, and then move on to the next room from there.

If you are a young lady in your mother's home, do this in your bedroom.  If you share your bedroom with a sister or sisters, work with her/them to find a way to create a place of refuge that you both/all like.  Creating a pleasant bedroom, maintaining it's order and keeping it clean (like washing windows and walls) is a great way to prepare yourself to be a keeper of a home someday!

But what about living in this place of refuge.  Doesn't that mean that it won't remain in perfect order all the time?  I've been in homes where perfect order was maintained at all times in beautifully decorated rooms - and the children felt like visitors in their own home, choosing to hide away in their bedrooms or stay away from home as much as possible rather than risk upsetting their mother by making any disruption to the perfection of their home.  Creating a refuge for your family means that they feel free to experience the room, make a little mess at times and relax.  A place that is inviting means that it will be lived in and will end up looking lived in, but that isn't all bad!  It means you did a good job of making the room inviting and your family has enjoyed using the room together!

So that brings me to the second part of homemaking - maintaining a home!  Maintaining a home can be as important as creating a refuge in the first place.  If you create a refuge, but allow clutter, messes and chaos to take over, it will no longer be a refuge!  If you keep your home tidy, but never do any cleaning, it can and will become anything but a refuge before long (who feels comfortable sitting under a huge cobweb or walking across a sticky/dirty floor!).

I hightly recommend creating a daily/weekly/monthly plan to keep your home tidy and clean! Large Family Logistics is a great book to help you to do this.  It helps you plan your week around the things that need to be done every week in your home.  It also helps to plan for the less frequent jobs, like dusting, washing windows and spring cleaning.  A very helpful part of the book is in the back where she talks about how to keep things going around your home when the going gets tough, like when mom is pregnant, has had a new baby, or is sick,  or when a child is in the hospital.  Very practical help for any mother, whether or not she has a large family!

Cleaning the house and keeping it tidy are those repetitive/boring chores I talked about earlier.  But to make them pleasant and even enjoyable, take time while you are working to thank God for the family He has given you.  Think about the pleasure a tidy/clean room will give to the members of your family.  Another way to encourage yourself and your family to keep things in order in your home is to actively plan hospitality events!  This may include making a list of families in your church or homeschool group that you want to get to know better and plan to invite them over for a game night or meal.  This could also include planning bigger events like a potluck, a game night or a tea party.  Knowing that you will be having guests is always incentive to get things looking their best.  But remember, while you are getting ready for an event, you need to be careful not to make your home a stressful place, causing your loved ones to feel stressed about preparing for guests or making them feel like they are causing problems.  Your home will not feel like a refuge if you are stressing about the housework!

But what about the knitty gritty of how to clean a home?  I highly recommend finding ways to make your own cleaning solutions.  Research on line, ask your friends what they use.  I have found many ways to make our own window cleaner, tub scrubbing compound, counter cleaning spray and more.  I just did some online research and found lots of recipes to try!  This saves time (you don't have to go shopping) and money (homemade is always cheaper!) and will be less harmful to your health (many store bought cleaning supplies contain harmful chemicals!).  Make up a basket of cleaning supplies for each bathroom, the kitchen and the laundry room and put it under the sink, then when it's time to clean that room all your supplies are right at hand and you don't waste time collecting them.

There is no right way to clean, but there are some great helpful books and websites out there.  I did "Flylady" for a while, but found it impractical for a large family.  "Large Family Logistics" is a lot like Flylady, but tweaked to make it work for a large family.  I do think it's good to have routines in place so that in the course of a month you get everything in your house cleaned, and that way if something doesn't get done one month, it will get done the next and things stay nice looking!  The best advice I can give you is to clean up messes when they happen (this applies to dishes especially). When the mess is fresh it's easiest to clean.  Second to that is to use water to do the work for you!  If you have a sticky/dirty mess to clean up, spray it with water or water that has some dish detergent in it, go do some other job and then come back.  It will wipe right up, and if not, wipe up what will come off, spray it again, go do something else and come back.  No need to scrub, just let the water do the work for you!

Esther (2 1/2) unloading
the dryer!
The most important things a mother can do to make the workload lighter is to delegate.  As long as there are children in the house old enough to walk, there is a workforce that needs to be tapped!  Even toddlers can put away spoons, sort socks or fold washcloths!  While teaching children to do chores can mean more work for the mom at first, the benefits in the long run are huge.  For the mom is relieves her of some of the day to day workload allowing her to be more of a mom and less of a maid.  This is really important if the Lord blesses the home with more children as many hands make light work, but many bodies who don't help make for an overwhelmed mother and a crazy house.  For the children, learning to help with the housework and doing them on a daily basis is training that is so important for preparing them to take care of their own homes someday!  I believe in training my sons to do all the housework as well.  Yes, women are to be the main caretaker of the home, but knowing how to tidy and clean and do things like dishes and laundry can be very important for men.  There may be a time when he is living on his own, or his wife is ill or away from home.  When his family is young and the workload is daunting, having the young husband lend a hand in the evenings and on weekends can mean so much to a your mother!

One more trick I will share with you is to tackle big jobs a little bit at a time.  When you are facing a big mess, start in one corner and work for 15 - 20 minutes (start a timer).  Have a garbage bag, a box and a bin.  Put garbage in the garbage bag, things to give away in the box and things to put away in other rooms in the bin.  Work steadily from that corner across one wall, work diligently, leaving a very tidy path behind you, and do not allow yourself to get distracted.  When your timer goes off, leave the room!  Go do something fun or enjoyable for 5 - 10 minutes (use a timer), and then go back to tackling your big job.  If you can't finish the entire job in one morning/afternoon/day, then be sure to maintain the areas you have cleaned and tackle the rest again the next time you can!  This is especially great for areas like the garage, attic or family room (especially after an illness in the house and the housework was left undone for a while).

Lastly, making your house a home and keeping it that way will have its ups and downs.  Sometimes as a mother things get down to survival and the home can suffer for it.  When that happens, focus on just the most important things and let the rest slide.  If you can plan ahead for the tough times (like having a new baby), simplify as much as possible (put most of the toys away in the attic for example).  When you find yourself  physically challenged, overwhelmed and understaffed, try to get help.  Especially if you are injured or unable to do the work for a while.  Ask other women and/or families to come and help you with specific tasks that are beyond your capabilities.  Allow them to be blessed by helping you in your time of need.  And be willing to do the same for others when they need the help and you are able to do so - offer to help before they have to ask for it!

Homemaking can be such a rewarding part of being a keeper at home.  Do it purposefully and out of love for your family.  Make your house a home where the Lord is glorified and others are blessed.

All My Love,



  1. Hi Ruth, I'm so glad you like my homemaking blog. Gosh, the decor has changed so much since that post. I hope you like this one too on spring cleaning. I do love your letters to your daughters so much! I also checked out Ttap and since my daughter is about to get married in six months, I think this is perfect timing. Thanks for the great ideas. :)

  2. Sorry, that was my search. Here is the link to The Art of Spring Cleaning