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!

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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

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.

Freedom in the Rules

Amy and I have been chatting a lot about schedules recently.  Largely, as she has already noted, we have both recently moved to new towns and as such we went from having scheduled obligations to having a largely blank calendar.  Now, I’ve had many a day where I lamented signing my kids up for even the best of activities because it has meant getting all four kids into a car and perhaps I didn’t have dinner quite ready and so I could already see the pending chaos that would ensue when we arrived back through that same door hungry, tired, and (likely) with all sorts of stuff that may or may not find its rightful home right away.  I would have thoughts of, “Doesn’t Charlotte say our afternoons should be available for handicrafts, poetry, tea time, good music, reading, and other fruitful leisure?” while creating pictures in my mind of children who would be painting en plein air and enjoying Mozart if only THIS ACTIVITY didn’t hinder them.  It seems silly written out, but I assure you, I have thought this.

Well, after moving 5 times in 15 months and having almost no kids’ activities scheduled during that time, allow me to tell you, it was nothing like my utopian vision of my homeschool. All too often, I would set up a temporary schedule but because the only thing keeping us from veering off schedule was our own discipline (or lack thereof), it was all too easy to change the schedule when even the smallest issue would come up.  There were no hard and fast stops in the day where we had to go, and so we could drag things out, dawdle, or substitute for other items in the schedule without regard to how much time they took.  We didn’t have a rhythm to the day, or enough good habits formed, and it left us feeling like we had both fallen behind and couldn’t figure out where our time went.  Less schoolwork got done, there was more bickering, less quiet, and general unease.  This was not the freedom I had envisioned. 

It reminded me of an extremely good example I had once heard about the need for rules and order. The premise was that if you are going to play baseball, you need the rules.  If each person was to play their own version of baseball, it wouldn’t really be baseball at all.  People would be free to run the bases backward or ignore the foul line.  That would have many consequences: 1. No one would every be very good at baseball, because there would be nothing by which to measure success, 2. No one would enjoy watching it, because they wouldn’t know what was going on or if things were going well or not for their team, 3. Squabbling, disagreement, and general anarchy would ensue with no rules and no authority there to decide if rules were being properly followed.  With the rules of baseball clearly set out and publicly known, we can know when the game is played well, enjoy the game, and know when a play has stepped outside of the boundaries of proper baseball.  It is the rules that create freedom, and not a lack of rules.

Now that we are in a place we plan to be for a while, I am attempting to rebuild enough structure to create checkpoints in the day, while leaving enough time for contemplation, boredom, leisure, and play for every member for the family.  Let me tell you, this is no small task.  I’m sure you’ve tried it, or at least thought about trying it, and it seemed intimidating.  I’ll be sharing some of my attempts, and their varying levels of success here as Amy and I start up a scheduling series of posts.  I will say, that in my first years of homeschooling, I have found some tools to be extremely helpful in my previous plans and schedules, so I thought I would share them here:

  1. Nicole shares a wealth of knowledge and study of CM’s programmes at her site.  I can’t recommend highly enough reading through her posts on planning a schedule for your homeschool.
  2. Pam is also a wonderful resource, and her eBook, The Confident Homeschooler was the key to my wasting a lot less time by creating procedure lists.  This meant that when I was starting a new book, or skill (like dictation, narration, etc), I would plan out what my plan was for that short lesson.  I could then follow the steps until it became a good habit for me and my student.  I can’t tell you how genius this is because all too often I would write down the book, and the time allotted, but when we go to it, I would forget that I had meant to bring out a certain journal or wouldn’t have the materials needed for a written narration, or forget a step altogether such as scaffolding the previous lesson.  Having a list helped me immensely.
  3. A bullet journal.  I use this one because I like that the pages come already numbered, but many people prefer a Moleskine or some other notebook.  I’m not artsy, my pages are not Pinterest-worthy, but I love having all of my lists, brain dumps, random thoughts, appointments, ideas, goals, etc all written down in one place.  I can plan future months, assess previous ones, see if I am following up appropriately, or making progress on goals all in one book.  Cute pens are key for me.
  4. Excel. I used this throughout my working days before I stayed home with the kids and old habits die hard.  I love it for creating neat checklists for the kids, schedules, and chore charts.

And that is really it.  I don’t want to clutter up my time with too many tools, so I stick with trusted sites and items that have stood the test of time.  What are your go-to tools for creating a schedule and a rhythm to your days?
 

Atmosphere in Our Home: Going Outdoors

“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without. Besides, the gain of an hour or two in the open air, there is this to be considered: meals taken al fresco are usually joyous… All the time, too, the children are storing up memories of a happy childhood. Fifty years hence they will see the shadows of the boughs making patterns on the white tablecloth; and sunshine, children’s laughter, hum of bees, and scent of flowers are being bottled up for after refreshment.” -Charlotte Mason, Vol. 2, p. 43

Our home extends outdoors each time we look out a window or step out our door and so the atmosphere of outdoor spaces is worth considering.  This is an area that can feel somewhat daunting, but needn’t be so.

Consider first, what words you would like to use to describe your outdoor space.  Would you like a calm, restful space to read and wander?  An adventurous space for romping, muddy play, and climbing trees?  A natural wonderland alive with bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, and pond life?

Next, think about the your outdoor spaces – do you have a few window boxes or a small deck space or acreage?  Is is usually hot and dry? Humid and temperate? Cool, with hard freezes?  Unlike our indoor spaces, where you can fill a room with a seashell motif even if you live nowhere near the coast, the outdoors demand our obedience to the realities of our climate.  Learn a bit about what is native to your area, so it is easier to grow and you are more likely to have success in your endeavors.

Then, start with something small and delightful.  Do you want birds singing at the window?

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This is pretty much why I got bird feeders.

Then get some feeders and start welcoming in some native bird species.  I’ve had great luck with finches, chickadees, cardinals, and hummingbirds!  What lives near you?

Do you want a place to gather for meals out of doors?  It can be as simple as finding a favorite quilt to use for afternoon snacks in the yard or as elaborate as finding just the right table and chairs for your deck space. Do what makes sense for your family and budget, but make sure you find it a delight to spend time there.

Is having a cozy spot to knit, have a glass of wine, or tell stories around a fire your first priority for your outdoor space?  It can be as easy as digging a hole and surrounding it with rocks, or as complicated as going to the local hardware store and finding just the right thing.  Just make sure to not to start fires near dry grasses or too close to home!

What about the winter time?  Many of us assume we should be outside less in winter because it is colder, but in some areas of the country it is the most beautiful time of the year.  In areas with snowstorms, it might be fun to arrange for building a mountain of snow in the yard somewhere as a personal sledding hill.  Better yet, do it in the front yard and entice the neighbor kids out of their homes!  Putting out suet bricks for cold weather birds is also a lovely way to have a flash of red (cardinals) amongst the white scenery.  Or, maybe maple sugaring is up your alley?  I’ve even had my eye on the idea of a backyard ice rink… but it isn’t cold enough where I live.

The idea of spreading the atmosphere of your home outdoors can be as simple as washing your windows to see the outdoors better, or as complicated as calling a landscape architect to make a master plan for your property.  I encourage you to do something this fall that will make next spring more pleasant for your space and that will cause you to desire to step outdoors more often.