St. Martha’s Apron Strings – Part 2, Making the Home a Haven

…all things should be done decently and in order.
1 Corinthians 14:40

In educating a young lady on the skills necessary to tend to a home, housekeeping challenges are probably the most difficult to categorize and teach. We just do, don’t we? And what we don’t do, we have little idea of how to teach and convey. But truly, keeping house is so much more than dusting and washing. As a wife and mother I do clean the house (and have found many helps for streamlining this process over the years,) but my goal is for my home to be comfortable, inviting, ordered and pleasing – first to my husband, then to my children and finally for my guests. It does not have to be spotless or designer chic.

So, as I pondered this post, I tried to sort out in my mind how I go about trying to make my home a haven for family and guests. I pondered the importance of this for my husband and for my children. What a delight for my husband to come home to an ordered home after a day of work. This is possible – it is not out of the realm of reality. What a help when crisis strikes to be able to fall back on routine and order. It is a help to a smoothly running home. If a guest is coming over, I can have the home tidied in 15 – 30 minutes. This is a comfort. I find order assists in the art of frugal living. If all is ordered, you know what you have or what might work in a given situation, you know where it is and there is no overspending to replace an item that exists under piles of old clothes and toys up in the attic. So, the million dollar question then becomes…

How do I set up an ordered home?

Order does not just happen, nor does a home stay ordered once belongings have been given a space of their own. It is a constant battle. Hopefully, the action of maintaining order is easier, but there will always be the need to be attentive to order in the home. Ok, so specifically, how do you uncover the beauty and order in your home so you can go about setting up a routine for your daughter to join in and emulate? I really believe in the “one-room-at-a-time” approach. If you start gangbusters de-cluttering your entire home you will be overwhelmed in a hurry. Spend all of your time, effort and energy in one room and see it through! Say what you want about Martha Stewart, but she offers some great ideas about organizing the home.

Part of organizing the home and achieving order comes as you decide how to make the rooms of your house work for you. Each room serves a purpose for the home, find that purpose and organize your room to best serve that purpose. Allow and encourage your daughter to help with this task. Stand together and visualize a room – mentally add or subtract those items that either add to or take away from the purpose of that room. Visualize the placement of furniture. Try to create a warm and inviting seating area with a focal point. Think about the use of color (whether in pillows, paint, throws or furniture) to create a mood or an atmosphere. Does the room need a group of items to be more accessible in order to work better? Will the use of fabrics soften a room? Is lighting adequate? Are windows obstructed, blocking access to natural light and fresh air? All of these will be vital skills, and an eye for beauty, symmetry and order can be developed alongside mother in working to make the home pleasing and practical.

I was highly influenced by Thomas Howard’s Splendor in the Ordinary. Ensure that each room has a token of beauty within – something that lifts the heart and mind to God and gives glory to the Creator of all that is within your home.

In Tea and Cake with the Saints: A Catholic Young Lady’s Introduction to Hospitality and the Home Arts Alice Cantrell introduces the young lady to the great value of order in the section entitled “Beautify Your Bedroom.” What a jewel of a chapter to foster the value of loveliness in a room. Alice provides specific helps for how to accomplish a de-clutter, ideas for the young lady to organize her room, and helps for the young lady to maintain her room. This is a wonderful place to start cultivating a respect for order – in her space.

A Homemaking Journal or Notebook

Once your home, or even a room of your home, is de-cluttered it will be important to set up and maintain a routine that helps guide you and your children. In Tea and Cake with the Saints, Alice suggests that our young ladies begin a notebook to contain snippets of information about homemaking. I have found a homemaking notebook or journal to be very helpful to me, and my daughter is very excited about beginning one of her own. I envision this project to be one that is lovingly and slowly completed with much thought put into the decoration and personalization of the book. It is a wonderful way to keep ideas organized. This will be a notebook that will be added to for years. It is much like the hope chest. In the hope chest a young lady collects beautiful items to use in her home one day, in the home journal or notebook she will collect lovely thoughts, ideas and recipes to make use of. Alice’s idea of creating a home notebook/journal is really the spine of my entire program. I will make use of the different sections in the notebook to provide topics of study. This will be the first project we undertake together. The notebook will provide a frame of reference to return to and provide perspective and direction for learning about and gathering information on the many duties of tending the home.

It goes without saying that I’ll be using Alice’s Tea and Cake with the Saints: A Catholic Young Lady’s Introduction to Hospitality and the Home Arts a lot in my introduction to homemaking. I’ll also be using Mary Frances Housekeeper: Adventures among the Doll People. This book is so charming!

I have a lot of resources I’ll use for reference for myself, and also for my daughter as she matures and her need for specific information increases. They are:

These are possibilities – they look promising, but…there’s always the matter of the budget…

St. Martha, patroness of homemakers, pray for us.

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