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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Keeping House: Preface

Honestly, this is a discouraging time to begin reading a book on housekeeping.

My husband has been working 14-16 hours a day, or more, for the past month or two.  He rises and gets to work around 8am and ends his day around 1am or 2am.  Since he works from home, we do have him around to pitch in at breakfast and dinner...and other times during the day.  It certainly eases the load I'd normally be carrying in the home if he were at an office during these hours.

Girls and Daddy carving our jack o'lantern

In addition to that, I've been taking two classes at night and serving as co-coordinator for my church's Women's Retreat.  These commitments, in addition to a heavier homeschool load for all my children, has left me very little time to do housekeeping, much less housecleaning. (And there is a difference!)  There have been moments of housekeeping, but they have been far and few between.

When I came home from the retreat this past weekend, I exhaled and looked around my home.  I am not exaggerating when I say there was an easily visible layer of dust on most of my furniture.  That served as a visible accusation: "You are slacking!"  On the whole I feel our home is barely limping along at the moment.  Home meals are cooked, clothes are managing to get laundered, basic cleaning is being done...but none of this is being accomplished by much more than grudging duty.

When Willa announced that she would be blogging through this book (Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Living by Margaret Kim Peterson), I made my first "impulse" Kindle purchase.  (oh, my the ease of that transaction is tempting)  I felt in a moment that perhaps joining this book blogging would help me find some inspiration to get my home in order.

Roasting and spicing the pumpkin seeds is our favorite All Hallows Eve tradition! 

I'm thankful we are going slowly through the book, although it is an easy read...and I'm already well past the Preface.  Going slowly will let me keep up with the blogging.

One of my questions going into this is, "Can someone discuss this in a Christian context without over spiritualizing it, making it too abstract to be any use, or, on the other end of the spectrum, without it becoming another example of legalism.  We'll see...

The author began her book by doing informal interviews with her friends.  She found a commonality in their desire to run their homes with "enough predictability and order for it to be easy and pleasurable to invite others in for a visit or a meal."  How many times have you been embarrassed to have someone come to your front door?  You know you *should* invite them in, but where would they sit?  Do you even have a clean glass to offer then a drink?  Surely, most of us have experienced this!  So, it is a common enough desire.  However, is this enough of a reason to keep house?  Our family has to live in that chaos on the other side of the front door, is that appropriate?  Surely, we shouldn't keep house with the main goal to be avoiding embarrassment.

Artemisia and Kalliope dressed as the Winter and Spring Fairy Princesses.
 Good friend the Little Mermaid in the middle.  

Our author, Mrs. Peterson, noticed that each of the women she spoke with felt that "the disciplines involved in feeding and clothing, and sheltering others, beginning with the members of their own households, were profoundly worthwhile...."  Do you feel that way?  Honestly, there are times I see the value and many times I just don't.  I mean, yes, I want to have clean clothes and freshly made food for my family...but do I always feel that it is "profoundly worthwhile"?  No.  Sometimes I just feel it is my duty...and that it keeps me from feeling out of sorts.  And sometimes I just do it because my family expects it to be done!

 As a homeschool mother, I often find that I can relate more to working mothers than stay-at-home mothers who send their children to school outside the home.  I find that I can entirely relate to keeping house in the "leftover bits of time".  I believe this book is written from the perspective of a woman who has a few hours in her home each day to work undistracted.  This is not something most homeschool mothers or working mothers have.  In both these cases, our attention is focused elsewhere for significant portions of the day.  It will be interesting to see if what Mrs. Peterson has to teach us is something that is adaptable to these two family lifestyles.

One quote that struck me, that is true no matter where one works, and no matter how much time one has to devote to housekeeping: "...a Christian home, properly understood,  is never just for one's own family."  If this is the main point and focus of this book, it will have a great deal to say to anyone keeping a home.

"...housekeeping is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of Christ as we encounter him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests."  M. K. Peterson, Preface to Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life

Be sure to read Willa's first post...and check the comments for other bloggers!

Artemisia and one of her best friends (Dressed as "I Dream of Jeanie") ready for the CANDY!


Willa said...

That's so true about the homeschooling and housekeeping. Especially if there are young children involved! I often feel that I am housekeeping around the edges.

One thing I noticed about the book, though -- since she defines housekeeping as much broader than just keeping things clean, she is talking about "making a home" for our family and homeschoolers do way more of this than average parents.

At least -- I hope the book is somewhat of a validation of our decision to "stay home" with our children and keep thinking in terms of nurturing families rather than building careers or whatever.

Blessings and thanks for joining in. I loved the post and the pictures.

Jennifer said...

Oh, how I wanted to join in this on-line bookclub, but for now, hearing about the book through your blog will have to suffice. I can totally relate to the feelings of barely keeping up with the things that must be done each day (like feeding the family and providing clean clothes), much less the things that should be done (like dusting and vacuuming). The irony is that, after five years of homeschooling, we sent our boys to a local Christian school this year. Oh, I thought I'd have so much more time... but... I don't. I'm still housekeeping in the bits of time left over. Between driving the boys to and from school, volunteering at the school, and accompanying them on field trips during the day, and helping with homework and chauffering to activities (that we used to do as part of our homeschool day - like violin and piano) in the afternoons, I rarely have more uninterrupted time now than I did when we were homeschooling. In fact, most days I find I have less. I'm beginning to think mothering in today's world leaves little time for all of the household responsibilities whether your work outside the home, stay at home, or homeschool. It is rare to find a stay-at-home mom who is really staying-at-home (whether homeschooling or not)... and gone are the days when they are not at home because they are out at luncheons or getting their hair done.