Saturday, January 29

Home: A Living System (or Embracing the Clutter)

 We had a housing inspection yesterday.  And I was totally stressed out about it.  I spent the whole week working toward it.  "Why the stress?" I asked myself.  Perhaps it was because I don't think of myself as a great housekeeper.  Granted I didn't do much before the inspection (dust, clean bathrooms, hoover, uncluttered some surfaces...) nothing that I don't normally do; and the house was fine for the inspection. As I went about our home this week seeing toys spread, yarn basket overflowing, sewing projects stacked in small heaps,..., I kept thinking of this quote from Shannon Hayes' book Radical Homemakers.

It seems a mystery, how a home can look nothing like those on the pages of a magazine, how it can have children's art projects spread out across the kitchen table, unwashed dishes in the sink, plywoood floors, no trim, unfinished walls, and maybe even sawhorse tables, yet still feel like an embracing refuge from the world.  Part of the warmth comes from the presence of human beings constantly inhabiting them, keeping the living systems within them vital.   (pg 134)

I love this vision of the home - a living system with all that entails; the feeding, the resting, the making, the diapering...  Life is messy.  That isn't to say organization isn't important.  I live by the motto that 'an organized home is a happy home'.  I'm not claiming that I ever achieve that goal - just that I think about it and work towards it (though at times, seemingly futilely).  But I think, what I realized this week as I thought about this quote is that I'm not a housekeeper, I'm a home maker.  That means I work towards organization and cleanliness not as an end in itself, but as a means to helping our family live more fully. 

I love the book The Seven Silly Eaters.  The story is great, but what I really love are the illustrations.  I love the home.  Every time we read that book (which is fairly often) I see that home and I think 'I hope my home looks like this some day'.  I love the creative clutter; it feels so alive.  I love a home that is alive and full of creative productivity.  Not that I want my home to look like this all the time, but in the midst of our working day it does (minus five kids - but it certainly feels like more than two sometimes) and there's something really lovely about all the life and creativity happening around me.

After reading this article on quilting I've been thinking about hospitality of late.  My hypothesis is that hospitality is the place where utility and beauty meet.  I think I'd like to say the same thing about the home.  My job as homemaker is to create a space that is both useful for our family's daily work (playing, making, baking, dancing, dressing, exploring, reading, learning, writing...) and beautiful at the same time.  That doesn't mean that our home in any way resembles a furniture store show room with a single magazine positioned on a coffee table, shelves with perfectly placed books and eternally crumb free counters. 

Instead it looks a lot more like this...
... at least in it's better mid-morning moments ;o)

11 comments:

Sue said...

You provide a wonderful home for your family! I am very proud of you (and very grateful :))

EricaG said...

Beautiful tea set in the last shot!

Watkins said...

Sue,
and I'm very grateful for your son, who is so committed to giving me time to create and make home thanks to an egalitarian mom :o)

Erica, the tea set is from a potter in Crail, a little fishing village just down the coast for us. It was fired in a gas kiln, which gives the glaze such a varied look. I love it too!

Anna M Blanch said...

love these photos Emily and your post. I'm looking forward to seeing you guys when i get back!

A,

Anonymous said...

You have really inspired me! I spend my days driving my gifted daughter a distance back and forth to school, homeschool my autistic son, have a wonderful husband who works a lot of hours to provide for us and so on. I am going to post on my fridge "find the extra in the ordinary of your day" as a reminder not to worry about the clutter or the floors that need to be cleaned again, but to enjoy the moments doing things with my children and the few precious moments with my husband. God Bless you and your family. You are awesome!

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