the home arts

The roads of quotidian faithfulness

“Things take the time they take.
Don’t worry.
How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?”

― Mary Oliver

I got to thinking this morning while refreshing our master closet that while Mary may have been talking about the existential realities of the soul, this poem is also quite true about the work and art of making a home.  It always takes so much longer for me to find a comfortable rhythm in a new season, a new place, a new home, than I ever think we’d need. Until the rhythm is found, everything feels off. Often overwhelming. I struggle to master the balance of the needs of the home, the needs of homeschooling, the needs of family until I find it. And then…it just clicks. Things run so much smoother after that.

I can’t write a “do these five things for happy homemaking” post because it just does not exist. No two homes are the same. No two families are the same. You could have the exact same house, structurally, and two families will live in and use that house completely differently. Different rooms and appliances will need cleaning at different times based on who uses them. And the seasons families go through are profoundly different too.

So much of what makes a house a home isn’t even quantifiable in a measurable sense. It’s the way light is set about a living room, the cozy blankets tucked waiting, the books lining the bookshelves, the soft classical playing, that invite rest for a family. It’s not the things themselves: the lamp, the blanket, the couch. It’s the sum of it all, and more.

When I focus on the sanctifying aspect of home keeping, it makes it easier for me to focus on the whole of it. Each day, take it up, work hard at it, let it go. Ora et labora. Work and pray. Threads of a larger tapestry that I may never see in this lifetime. How many roads did St. Augustine follow? So it is with sweeping the floor, and I don’t think the venerable saint would disagree with me.

It has been almost a year now that we moved in to this house, and it’s only this month that I finally feel like I am getting a grasp on a workable rhythm. A year. It’s a bit staggering looking backwards at it. But I didn’t see the year before me, I just kept trying. And now I have come out the other side of it. It’s a lesson I need to carry into and remember in other areas of my life.

I’ve really liked Amanda Watters’ blog, Homesong, for a while now, and her weekly cleaning rhythm printable has been a guiding light for me for a few years. She came out with an editable one, and I’ve slowly been adjusting mine over this last year. I think the thing to note about any sort of home care rhythm is that it should make things easier, not harder. It should get to a point that a reasonable amount of chores are done each day, and no one day is loaded up with so much that you can’t think about anything else. That’s not helpful. (It’s also why I could never understand why people will wait until Saturday to do all of the chores. No wonder they hate Saturday! Ten minutes here and there each day, and Saturday is all yours, no chores required.)

If a rhythm is really working, it will almost become invisible, without any real thought applied to it. It just becomes the thing you do to a point that you don’t have to actively think, okay, now it is time to water the plants. You just walk and do it because your brain has become so used to it. And when that happens, your brain has so much time for other things! More time to read. To homeschool. To paint. Whatever it is that truly brings you joy, you’ll have time for it. Does it take work to get there? Yes. And probably more time and diligence than you think. But once you invest the time, the payoffs are enormous.

2 Comments

  • Emily

    Oh, yes it takes work to get there! But investing in it…..so worth it. I’m playing around with rhythm and housekeeping right now and what I’ve learned so far is REALLY interesting: “spend out”–use up the pretty things; clear flat surfaces–it brings me a lot more peace than I thought it would…..leave margin in the morning…..

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