When I was a newly married woman, we had a small, two bedroom apartment that was modestly furnished. I enjoyed decorating that first home but was not very satisfied with performing homemaking tasks. Honestly, I did not spend enough time on them to know whether I really liked them but I convinced myself early on that I did not.
I look back on that little place and realize just how small a space it was, yet I remember feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of keeping it clean not because the job was daunting but because I preferred to spend my time doing other things. I still placed a lot of value in my "me time" and did not want to be burdened with what I thought was the dull, repetitive job of keeping house. Homemaking was for my grandmother and my mother, I thought, not for me. I desired to have a big family someday but I did not really consider the amount of work that would come from that blessing.
Many nights, I went to bed with dishes in the sink though I had plenty of time to wash them. I just preferred not to. I was not very fond of dusting so I went long stretches between dusting and polishing the furniture. I often waited for the laundry to pile up before washing it rather than keeping up with it. I did not consider myself slovenly but simply "undomestic". I wanted to spend my time doing other things and would get to the housework when I could no longer bear the mess. In time, I grew increasingly resentful and frustrated with homemaking, wishing someone would come and do it for me so I could "get on with my life". Little did I realize that my home reflected me as a person. To neglect my vocation was to rob my family and myself of peace and happiness.
(I believe that the above situations are far different from a mother with many little ones who simply cannot get it all done. I could have gotten it done but had no interest in doing so.)
We bought our own home eight years ago and no longer live in that tiny apartment. We now live in an itty bitty bungalow with four children. There is more work to do these days, not less. I am no longer working in the corporate world as I was when I was first married but, instead, spend my days reading stories to little people, caring for the day to day needs of my family, driving to ball games and cooking up a storm. One would think that my "me time" would be even more coveted because, as many a mother knows, there is little time each day to spend on things that we choose for ourselves. Yet, oddly, I find myself enjoying my life more now than I ever have, despite my lack of "me time".
"It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do, that is the secret of happiness."
James Matthew Barrie, novelist and author of Peter Pan
Certainly there are household tasks that I do not enjoy as much as others. I used to abhor washing dishes. They would pile up until there were no clean dishes to be found before I would touch them. I loved to vacuum and clean floors but dishes made my head spin. Then one day I decided to dim the lights (not too dim or the dishes will not be clean. :), fill the sink with hot soapy water, light a candle on the counter and roll up my sleeves. I really don't mind washing dishes anymore. The warm water is very therapeutic to me. That does not mean if you stop by unexpectedly that you won't find any in the sink at any given time (right Anne? :). It just means that we can find happiness by doing the chores we used to hate if we try to do them with creativity and a servant's heart of love.
Homemaking, done well, has blessed my family more than any other activity on which I could spend my time. While I like to knit and scrapbook, neither of those things affect my family as profoundly as my efforts to make our home a welcome, tidy, and clean place to live. I have seen firsthand how our decluttering efforts have changed the very countenances of those who live here. While we are far from done, not a minute of that time was wasted. I plan to keep it up and not to lose heart.
"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is liking what you get." H. Jackson Brown
Now that decluttering has become a habit around here and we have begun to see the fruits of a tidier home, I have become interested in reading more about how to perform different household tasks. I have been reading two books, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson and Keeping House by Margaret Peterson . Keeping House shares the "why" of homemaking. Mendelson's book explains how to go about it. I will be using these two books to encourage myself in my vocation as my decluttering is completed.
"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." --Mother Teresa
Is my home always neat? No, though I'm finding it is much more manageable now that there is less stuff. The time it takes to tidy up has shortened drastically and will continue to do so as we finish decluttering. I am inspired to continue to bless my family by being diligent and faithful in my homemaking efforts. By abandoning ourselves to the tasks at hand with love, we will find joy in our vocations as wives and mothers. There is great satisfaction to be found in serving others and denying ourselves. That is the message of Christ and it can be done within the walls of our home each and every day.