Atmosphere in the Delightful Home

 

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We came across this clay heart on a recent hike!

I wanted to stop in to say thank you!  In the few months since we have begun blogging, we’ve had so many kind readers reach out to us with comments, suggestions, and encouragement.  It is a joy to share some of our stories and advice with you.  We were honored to have so many of you join us last night for our first webinar and it makes us excited to create more posts and talks to inspire you in your journey as a mother, teacher, and homemaker.

Since so many new eyes have come to our blog in the recent weeks, we also wanted to call your attention to some of the posts in the archives.  In discussing the home going forward, it might be helpful to look back a bit as you think about what you want from your home and how you can make it fulfill those goals.

We have chatted about how the atmosphere of our home is shaped by our person – the attitude and tone that we set.

We discussed our thoughts on organization and decoration, which often means cutting clutter to make room for other aspects of a full life.

We wrote about the tactile nature of your home – textures, smells, and sounds.

We pondered the fact that we NEED beauty, it isn’t just a want.

Then we talked about our outdoor spaces and the atmosphere outside of our four walls.

We hope this gives you something to ponder as you start critically looking at the rooms in your home!  We’ve been doing it too and we have lots of pictures to show you as we simplify, organize, and add beauty to our spaces.  We hope you are taking pictures too, or will as you follow along.  Don’t forget to use the hashtag #delightfulhome2017 when you post them on Facebook or Instagram!

Thriving in a Delightful Home

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Thriving.  This is what we all want to be doing, but all too often we find ourselves feeling like we are barely surviving.  We are treading water, or worse – drowning.  There are times this is a legitimate feeling.  Illness, pregnancy, new baby, lack of sleep, moving, job loss, etc. can throw us off of our usual routine and send us down a path where we find a temporary new normal in a lower gear – survival mode. If you are in a time where you are in legitimate survival mode, get some rest and take care of what you must do as best you can.  You can come back to this series later, it will still be here.

For those who are ready to Learn How to Liveand to Thrive… read on.

thrive: 1. to prosper; be fortunate or successful. 2. to grow or develop vigorously; flourish.

To thrive is a decision.  The greater part of this decision is mental, but we need to support this decision with changes to our physical space in order to aid our success.  For example, I can make the decision to eat well, but unless I shop for proper food and make a plan to step out of old, bad habits, I am not likely to succeed.  In order to thrive in my home, where I spend a large portion of my life, I need to make a plan.  Not a plan for a home that works for someone else on Pinterest, or a home that looks great in that catalog in the mailbox – a home that supports the people who live in it.  If I am the home-maker, then it is my job to make a home that supports my decision to thrive.

So then, what does it look like to thrive as a homeschooling mother, which is what I am? This is my vision of a delightful home- easy to maintain, pleasant to look at, many cozy spots for reading, a place for everything and everything in its place, a quiet space for prayer, designated toy spaces, organized pantry, bird feeders just out the window to look at, bookshelves (oh, the bookshelves!), neat and easily accessible storage for out of season items… Your list may be the same or radically different, but now is the time to make it.  Now is the time to sort out what you want from daily life – then adjust your home spaces to that vision.

This series isn’t about just cleaning your spaces, or just decluttering them, and certainly not about creating spaces that are picture perfect at all times – it is about creating spaces that will help you to thrive in your daily life.  Your home can’t do all the work, but it can either aid or sabotage your efforts.  Cooking is easier when you can see your ingredients, know your meal plan, and reach your tools with out other tools falling out on you.  Cleaning is easier when there is a schedule of chores and the cleaners you need are neatly stored near to the spot they get used frequently.  Laundry is easier when there is a method to the madness. Schooling is easier when you know where the books and supplies all reside and they are easily accessible for use and when they need to be put away.  When each of these tasks become easier, they take less time.  That is time you can now use for those other things in life that bring you joy – reading, writing, crafting, birdwatching, or any amount of other things.

All of this planning and change doesn’t take place over the course of a day, week, or month.  At least, we didn’t think we could!  We wanted to take our time and do this well.  Amy and I are both in the oddly similar situation of living in a home where things are unpacked, but not… ideally placed.  Maybe you are in the same boat.  Let’s go room by room and make our homes into places that serve our families well and help each member to thrive.

Each week, we’ll discuss some aspect of a room here on the blog.  We’ll talk about the room itself and what the purpose of it is.  What do we do here, and what do we wish we could do here?  What does this room do well, and what can we not stand about it?  Is a big change needed, or would a small change be enough to make a big difference?  Then we’ll declutter – remove all the things that prevent the room from doing its job well.  The rest will be organized so that it can be a room that helps us, rather than hinders us.  Lastly, let’s add in a few things that will add beauty and joy.  Every room needs to be one that we enjoy being in!

Here is the schedule for going through our homes this year.  We will post all the links to this post as we create the posts week by week.

February: The Kitchen

March: Dining Room

April: Pantry

May: Laundry

June: Bathroom

July: Outdoor Spaces

August: Schoolroom

September: Bedroom

October: Living Room

November: Entryway

December: Storage

Resources for a Delightful Home

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When we set out to begin this delightful home series, Amy and I really thought long and hard about why we would do it.  We discussed that we really wanted to share was a series of posts that would help you love your home, right where you are.  We have both recently moved (sadly, farther away from each other, rather than closer), and we’ve fully unpacked, but we needed to live there a while to really let it feel like home – to see how we use each room, what feels out of place, or what we’d like to adjust.  We’re sure you have similar adjustments you’d like to make and maybe you’re on the search for new ideas and to see how other homeschooling moms use their spaces.

We began to discuss the resources that we had used in the past to really bring order and joy to our spaces.  First and foremost, Amy and I both really liked The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Sure, Kondo thanks her socks for their usefulness before puts them in the hamper and there are some other strange notions to avoid, but the overall message is a good one: Keep only the things that bring you joy through their beauty or usefulness.  It is amazing how much your home will change for the better when you implement that rule alone.  Add in a few other ideas for storage and space saving folding and suddenly you’ve freed up hours of your week because you don’t have to maintain and contain messes.

When you’ve decided on what to keep, there are best practices in organization.  The Complete Book of Home Organization really helps here.  (Her blog also has lots of inspiration and ideas!) Many times, we may have dishes stored across the kitchen from the dishwasher meaning tons of extra steps and wasted time when unloading or other similar inefficiencies.  We may store pans where they are buried under pots and being scratched and dented, and so disorder means having to spend more on replacements.  This book has many tips to keep things orderly, and before you know it, using and cleaning your rooms is so much quicker and easier.  We can also put into practice ideas to make chores easier for younger folks by keeping certain items in lower cabinets or drawers.

The book that taught Amy everything she knows about homemaking and, even more importantly, convinced her it was a worthwhile endeavor was Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. I still remember hearing the NPR story our first year of marriage (yes, 1999) and then heading to the bookstore (there were still lots of those around back then!) to buy it.

When I was in the midst of having a whole gaggle of babies (3, 3 and under!), I would reread  A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul every couple months. Pierlot applies lessons from monastic living to motherhood and homemaking for a higher sense of vocation.

We also love Like Mother, Like Daughter, for her very practical approach to homekeeping. It is inspiring to read the wisdom of a woman who has raised seven children and has really reasonable advice for how clean a home should be and great advice to keep it so.

The Madame Chic books are refreshing and elevating. At Home with Madame Chic offers practical advice on “having a happy, fulfilling, and passionate life at home.” Jennifer Scott shares how a little planning and the little details go a long way in refining the tone of your home.

I also loved this 31 post series about having a Heart of Hospitality.  It reminded me that my home is not to be made beautiful in order to puff up my own pride, or to impress those who may see it, but rather I should have a home that is beautiful in order to offer beauty and hospitality to others.  To make them feel comfortable, welcomed, and loved. That goes for people who visit as well as those who live here.  I now think of my rooms as servants and ponder how they serve those who use each spot.

Along those lines is also the book, A Life Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson.  It is lovely and was the book we used last year to guide our monthly chats.  There is a lot to enjoy about their story as well as the home life the Clarksons aim for.

Lastly, while not a book or a blog, may I recommend, before starting on a path toward order to take a good hard look at your cleaning supplies?  A few months back, I realized that I disliked cleaning in part because my supply closet was disordered and full of ugly things. A neon broom that was frayed and cracked, a mop that was just not that good at the job it was supposed to do, etc.  Now might be a good time to check the tools of your trade. It may be time to freshen them up. If your mop and broom are in good working order, consider a fresh new caddy for your cleaning supplies and maybe some non-toxic cleaners. Something that is a joy to use and leaves your home cleaner will make the job so much easier.  As Mary Poppins says, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.”  Then organize them in an attractive way.  A few tools neatly arranged on hooks can be pleasant to use and easy to put away.

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We kick off our month of the Kitchen in February.  I hope you’ll join us in decluttering, organizing, and beautifying one of the hardest working rooms in the house.  If you want to share your photos with us on Instagram or Facebook, we’re using the hashtag #delightfulhome2017

5 Steps to Begin Again After a Holiday

Happy New Year! It’s time to begin again in the Snell household after a full holiday season.

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Our Holy Family of Nazareth remains as a reminder of Christmas lessons

“Ordinary Time” sounds like a good idea after feasts, travels, a new puppy, family-time, a teething baby, gift-giving, and more. My 5 year old keeps saying, “I’m so tired and I don’t know why!”

But starting again is often easier said than done. I love Mason’s metaphor of “Laying Down the Rails,” because it rings true. When our whole system is up and running, it just keeps running. When the train falls off the track, it’s so hard to get it moving again…

So here are 5 steps I take to get back-on-track, after holidays, travel, extended illness, or at the beginning of a new term.

  1. Order and refresh your home.

  • Toys: Often on a break, I’ve let out more toys from our toy library or we’ve been given gifts so I take the time to go through play areas and bedrooms and return items to our toy library in the basement.

  • Food: I make sure we’ve restocked our pantry and have a solid meal plan. Over a break, it’s much easier to wing it, but since starting back is hard to do, having all of my meals planned (even breakfast and lunch), means I have one less thing to think about. Also, I try to purge all of the sweets and extra sugar that has made its way into our house and be sure we have lots of healthy snacks around instead.

 

  • Clothes: I try to do a quick purge of items that the children have outgrown or seasonal items no longer needed (Holiday dresses put away, for example). And then we catch up on laundry.

  • De-clutter Hot Spots: It’s easy for piles to start when everyone is in holiday mode–the stairs, the kitchen table, the mantle, a coffee table. We spend time to put things back in their places. After Christmas gift giving, there are usually a few items that need to find a new home.

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  1. Order and Refresh the school room.

 

  • Schedule/Timetable: I look over our time-table to be sure it is still will work for this new season. Has a new activity or sport started? Will the upcoming few weeks entail more travel or any disruptions I need to plan around?
  • Refresh Supplies: It sure is nice to begin with freshly sharpened pencils and to be sure all of our notebooks are ready to go.
  • Organize Bookshelves: I purge any books no longer needed and any books that have found their way to the school shelf that don’t belong. Books have a life of their own, don’t they?
  • Weekly School Prep Page: I walk through “my weekly school prep page” in my bullet journal
  • Pre-reading: I make sure any books I need to pre-read are up in my bedroom so I can skim them at night before bed.

 

  1. Choose one new habit.

Though we have turned the page of our calendar to a new year, for the Charlotte Mason mamma, not much changes…We think in terms of habits, not resolutions. The New Year is a natural time to pause and reflect, but we know that refinement is a slow, steady effort. Not a wild goal. Resolutions tend to be easily broken, frustratingly out-of-reach, quickly discarded. Big goals may help motivate us for a time, but we are in it for the long haul.

  • Habits are part of our regular, every day life.
  • Habits are consistent and reliable.
  • Habits become involuntary. Like eating, breathing, and making our beds
  • Habits are something we do because it is part of who we are.

“Learning How to Live” means we are in the Habit of Building Habits.

What new habit do you need most?

  1. Bullet Journal! (Yes, it’s a verb)

The bullet journal has truly revolutionized my life—I’m better organized and much more at peace. Here’s what I do:

  • Brain Dump: I just list out all of the things that have been swirling in my head—thank you notes, items to be returned, a check to send, a worry about a child, a goal I have. There is no rhyme or reason to the list.

 

  • Monthly Calendar and Project list: I migrate items from the brain dump that belong here and add anything that might be missing.

 

  • Weekly Calendar: I create the new weekly page.

 

  • Planning Routine: I look over my planning routine page just to be sure I’m not forgetting to do what I’ve planned to do to plan.

 

  1. Start with a modified schedule.

 

I plan to start at least a half hour later, if we’ve been sleeping in, so I cut back on a few blocks on our time-table for that day to account for the later start. I also know brains will be a bit sluggish so I lower my expectations. This might mean I read smaller sections than usual before asking them to narrate or I might allow a child who has difficulty writing, draw their narration. I might re-arrange the week to put the books and subjects that bring us the most delight on the first day.

I know the temptation to just jump back in and not take additional time off, but time and time again, I’ve seen this backfire. If education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, it make sense that we need to think on these things for our days to go well. Putting things in place will mean that the train will chug smoothly down the rails and in the end much more will be accomplished.

Often, I am disappointed that I didn’t “accomplish more” when a break comes to an end. But it’s important for us as parents and teachers to take real breaks too. So now I just tack on a few more days at the end of each break and try to fully embrace each holiday. “Work while you work, play while you play, this is the way to be happy each day.
Remember school teachers have in-service days to plan and organize–homeschooling moms need them too!

So take that extra day or two or three, after you’ve gotten off the tracks, and you will find delight again in your home, your children, and your day!

The Delightful Home

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Amy and I love to chat about home.  We could go on and on about books, blogs, and tips we’ve heard from friends that can help us to make our homes more welcoming, more beautiful, and more efficient. Between us, we have nine children to feed, clothe, and love.  It takes a lot of work to keep our homes in order, and even more work when that order falls away!  We love it so much in fact, that a few years back we asked some of our friends if they wanted to meet to discuss our homes once a month.  To get breakfast as a group and have some time for what we considered to be professional development.  If we were going to be homemakers, we should allot some time to discuss it, learn about it, and do it well.  That group is still going strong and has been an enormous blessing to us, our families, and our homes.  We now want to bring many of those pages of notes, tips, tricks, and new ideas to you, our readers.

This is not about having a dream house, or a home that could be showcased in a catalog.  This is about creating a home that is delightful to you and your family because it is both functional and beautiful.  It is about making small changes that make a big difference in how you use your home and how well it serves the needs of your family.  It can be done in small spaces or large ones, a home you rent or a home your family has lived in for generations.  You spend most of your time at home, so let’s work toward making that time enjoyable.

Why does it matter to have a home that is delightful?  Isn’t it good enough to have a roof over your head and a place to cook meals – even if you can barely see your counters?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, because we should be grateful for even the humblest of spaces and no, because we weren’t called to live in disorder.  As mothers and homemakers, we set the atmosphere of the homes we inhabit.  The atmosphere of a home with a calm mother, who is not stressed by the chores because there is a plan in place to complete them, and who has an orderly home ready for drop-in guests will naturally be different than one with a frazzled mother, constantly feeling behind and downtrodden by her workload.  We want your homes to be places of delight for your families, but also for you!

We were inspired by the Home Organization Challenge going on right now.  That is a great site for inspiration and tips!  We also knew that dedicating 14 straight weeks to overhauling our homes wasn’t going to work for either of us.  We wanted to stretch it out over the year and do a great job in each room of our homes.  Taking a full month to dedicate to decluttering, giving some thought to how the space it used and making adjustments, then adding in beauty to complement the improved function.  We welcome you to join us!  We can’t wait to see your photos and comments on Instagram and Facebook.

Being a Hometown Tourist

A common theme I read when going through the volumes is that children should know their surroundings and have a sense of place, topophilia if you will.  They should be aware of the nature that lives in their backyard and the surrounding countryside – what trees, wildflowers, and creeks are present, when they bloom and when they fade.  She also uses their local towns and neighborhoods as the perfect starting ground for geography lessons.  What better place to learn east from west than where you see the sun rise and set each day?

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I can’t help but notice however, that all too often, we mothers don’t even have this deep knowledge of our own place.  Perhaps it is due to a recent move, or perhaps due to the fact that we didn’t learn about our own surroundings well when we were growing up, but we just don’t know if our street is lined with ash, or elm, or maple trees and we aren’t sure if Elm Street runs north and south or east and west.

May I invite you then, to become a local tourist?  Why daydream of traveling afar, when the local surroundings may be just as new to you?

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First, it could be helpful to find a local Nature Center.  The center itself will probably have plenty of helpful information about the local flora and fauna – more than you can learn in a day, so consider getting a membership and making this a spot to visit often.  Sometimes these are privately owned and other times they can be found within state parks.  Learn the surrounding trails, creeks, and the trees and plants that grow there.  Immerse yourself in the native species around you.

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When you know a bit more about your area, it is easier to spot local species in local parks and on your local street.  Pick up a field guide to help you if you don’t have one specific to your area and climate.

Next, grab a map of your neighborhood (printing a map from google maps is easiest) and acquaint yourself with your immediate area.  Did you know there was a pond behind that house, or a creek?  Are you surprised by how much forest-like growth covers the neighborhood?  Next, explore your town center, or the neighborhood of a close relative or friends.  Walk it, don’t drive.  Don’t use a gps, but just your printed map and your senses.  Bring a compass and keep an eye of the movement of the sun during your walk.

If perhaps, you find yourself in an area that is new to you or that you don’t really love, consider this your chance to learn to love it.  Maybe the location is temporary, or out of your comfort zone (speaking as a northeastern gal who lived on the west coast and the deep south, I feel you) but there are tactics to loving it more and making wonderful memories there!

Once you learn a bit about nature and geography, learn a bit about the people.  Make an attempt to find local shops and restaurants and meet the owners.  It is all too easy to come to a new place and order all the stuff you need from Amazon so you can unpack, homeschool, cook, and clean.  Choose to lean into the local resources of your neighborhood and the people of your town instead.  Find a great book store, a great coffee shop, and the library.  Attempt to have a conversation at each place.  When you find your church, make an attempt to walk there if you live close enough.  If not, then just try to spark a meaningful conversation after the service.

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Soon, you’ll find yourself feeling a deeper sense of place and a deeper curiosity as it changes through the seasons and the years.  Being a hometown tourist will help you find real joy and contentment exactly where you are right now.

The Relationship of Atmosphere and Discipline in a Mason Education.

There are many important aspects of home-life from first training to highest education; but there is nothing in the way of direct teaching that will ever have so wide and lasting an effect as the atmosphere of home. And the gravest thought concerning this is that in this instance there is nothing to learn and nothing to teach: the atmosphere emanates from ourselves–literally is ourselves; our children live in it and breathe it, and what we are is thus incorporated into them. There is no pretence here or possibility of evasion; we may deceive ourselves: in the long run, we never deceive our children. The spirit of home lives, and, what is more, [home atmosphere], is accentuated in them. Atmosphere is much more than teaching, and infinitely more than talk.

The Atmosphere of Home” by M. F. Jerrold Parent’s Review Volume 8, no. 12, 1897, pgs. 772-777

 

Atmosphere isn’t a “child-environment” that we can create. It “emanates from ourselves—literally is ourselves; our children live in it and breathe it, and what we are is thus incorporated into them.” So how do we go about building an atmosphere that we want our children to live and breathe?

Mason repeats the aphorism that if we ‘Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; a character, reap a destiny.’ Volume 2 p. 29

Our destiny, our life, the Atmosphere of Our Home is dependent on daily actions. We make the choice. We begin again. We do the next right thing. Habits are grown, a character established. We become more and more who we were meant to be.

Mason continues, “And a great function of the educator is to secure that acts shall be so regularly, purposefully, and methodically sown that the child [and all persons!] shall reap the habits of the good life, in thinking and doing, with the minimum of conscious effort.” p. 29

Yes, we want a home of beauty. We want to “lead them in ways of order, propriety, and virtue, instead of leaving their wheel of life to make ugly ruts in miry places.”

But we need the habits, the disciplines, to make the atmosphere. The atmosphere depends on the habits; the habits are motivated by atmosphere. Atmosphere and discipline go hand-in-hand.

I noticed a small example of this in the past few weeks.

At the end of each day, we would have a big mess of books, notebooks, pencils, and papers strewn on the floor, chairs, and table of our school room. Most days I’d find the time before dinner to tidy it all up. But it irked me! Why was I continually picking up after everyone? And then, the days that I didn’t get to tidy up, led to mornings when we were ready to start school, but then had to tidy. Where was the order, propriety, and virtue?!

This was one of those areas that I took to Barnes and Noble with me. I tried to understand our current habits: when school was done, we were done. By the end of the school morning, everyone was tired. We were often getting ready for an afternoon activity and I felt there was no time to pick up. But more than all of that I realized that the system for putting our things away, just wasn’t working! Since I’ve now combined my children into one curriculum and schedule, rather than keeping everyone in separate years, I thought it would be simpler to keep like-notebooks together. We had separate piles for geography notebooks, narration journals, science notebooks, math journals, nature journals, TBG books, and song books. That’s a lot of piles!!! And we would stack these piles on top of each other. You can imagine the mess that ensued, especially when we needed a pile from the bottom of the pile! I had really thought that this way was the simplest, but it led to “ugly ruts in miry places.” I knew I didn’t want four different book baskets cluttering the room, so I went ahead and bought these fabric bins. At $3.45 a piece, they were a good, quick solution. And it has worked. Everyone keeps all of their own notebooks and supplies in their own bin. At the end of the school day, we simply put the bins back on the shelf! We changed our habit and the atmosphere of our school room improved! The atmosphere led to a better school day—we started on time, we wasted less time, we finished easily. Emma, the 5 year-old, declared to everyone that she was “going to organize her bin perfectly” and everyone had to follow suit! Later, she declared she wanted to keep her own glue stick, colored pencils, paints, ruler, and scissors in her bin and everyone had to follow suit! There were even less piles for me to manage. One habit, led to another, led to another. We became clean, orderly, neat, regular, and punctual again.

It reminds me of the proverb, “For Want of a Nail.”

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

 

 

For want of a bin, a habit was lost.

For the want of a habit, the school room was lost.

For want of a school room, atmosphere was lost.

For want of atmosphere, education suffered and a mother was at her wit’s end!

 

Are we Snells the only ones whose days can unravel like this?!