I’ve really been enjoying the new season of The Mason Jar from Circe Institute. Karen Kern has taken the reins from Cindy Rollins (of Ordo Amoris, if you remember that wonderful blog!), and the first eight episodes are regarding cultivating culture within your home. While it may be a “homeschooling” podcast, these episodes will encourage and challenge any parent. I’m chewing on what I’ve listened to so far; I have so much I want to say about it, but I’m marinating right now. Definitely go have a listen!
There are two good personal finance/frugal living books that have come out recently. I have been using the YNAB app for just about two years now, and I have learned a lot simply from using it. The book however, is absolutely stellar. I would choose this to hand to anyone lost in the money mess first over anything else, any other book, absolutely first. This is not this quick discussion of debt and then eighteen chapters on investments and retirement accounts and things that most of America can’t even contemplate right now book. It’s the real deal, right in the nitty gritty, say this is your goal, here are some things to think about, what happens when a medical emergency decimates your finances (HMM, sound familiar?) and how can you move forward, how to really manage your money, book. So much common sense, written in approachable, non-judgmental style. Absolutely recommend. I would recommend it over Dave Ramsey’s body of work every day of the week. (Not to say that I don’t like Ramsey, but it’s often felt like to me that there aren’t much practical helps for when you are pre-pre-pre-Baby Step 1 and are dying under the weight of your debt.)
Meet the Frugalwoods is by Elizabeth Willard Thames. I don’t quite remember how I first ‘met’ Elizabeth, but I think it was a ‘spend-nothing’ challenge group on Facebook. I have never strayed out beyond that one little group- I didn’t realize she had a blog or a significant social media presence beyond that group, and it flits in and out bi-monthly or so…I just don’t engage with social media and blogs like I used to. Imagine my surprise when I saw new book at the library! It’s an interesting read. She clearly comes from a place of privilege and she readily admits this- both her and her husband were raised by parents that gave sound financial education, and by the time they decided to start on their ‘frugal’ adventures, they were already saving over 60% of their combined income and had been major savers since before they even got married. That just isn’t the mainstream access point for the majority of America. It just isn’t. Most are living paycheck to paycheck up to their eyeballs in debt working at a job they hate, sick and tired, and don’t even realize there is another way and their parents are in the same boat, and had no better financial education, either. That being said, she readily acknowledges that and the book is still very interesting, and you will walk away with plenty of ideas to try, which was why I was attracted to her spend-nothing group on FB in the first place- I don’t do everything she and her husband discuss, but I always walked away from the conversations with simple next steps for my own needs and finances.
I’ve been having a sort of ongoing conversation about Slow Fashion over on Instagram lately. There is a part of me that has always loved the ‘hunt’ of finding clothes for a few dollars on the clearance racks or at Goodwill, but lately, I’ve begun to feel uncomfortable with even that. My dear friend Tonia has been talking to me about the ideas of slow fashion and mending for years but it didn’t really start to click until this last year. Perhaps it is a function of growing older and growing comfortable in one’s skin- I know pretty well what my style is, what clothes flatter my figure, what colors I love. My closet has grown to reflect this paradigm shift. Imagine my discouragement when I realized that quite a few pieces have become damaged this last year when I did my bi-annual closet cleaning!
I know that in past, I probably would have given up most of the clothing for lost and consigned them to the rag basket. Thanks to great IG accounts like Katrina Rodabaugh and Elise Joy, I felt much more confident about the needed repairs. They both have wonderful walk-throughs and tutorials in their IG Highlights- worth a look if you are getting started on a similar endeavor!
We had a rather…erm…eventful weekend, and I had a lot of quiet time on my hands on Sunday afternoon. I was able to repair six pieces of clothing yesterday afternoon, and one more this morning. I still have two pieces that need more major reconstructive/thinking work, so I’ll have to save them for another quiet moment. I have about six pieces of knit clothing that have either been damaged in the dryer or might (!) be moths, and I am going to use some of Katrina’s great visible mending ideas to fix/refashion those pieces a little at a time. They will probably make nice handwork while I listen to lessons from the children this fall.
More than anything I am very grateful to know that this is yet another area of spending needlessly (heedlessly?) that I can step out of, saving both the planet, people’s livelihoods, and my pocket book.
Here’s some of the projects, below, from my Instagram Highlights, with notes on each repair.
Came across this quote of St. John Chrysostom in Elissa Bjeletich’s great book, Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home and had to copy it out by hand. I think I will take it as my mantra for this school year.
“Things take the time they take.
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.