CHALLENGE: The Value of Housekeeping

I must confess that perfectly neat and clean homes intimidate me.

I must confess that I wish my home was perfectly neat and clean. (All the time.)

Today, my home is not perfectly neat or clean. We returned from Guatemala late on Monday night (July 10- I started writing this last week and finished it today), and have been slowly regaining our strength. Today, my home has cobwebs (spiders included, of course) and some moldy food in it.

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When you are responsible for taking care of a home, there are a million things that you feel like you should do. I should organize my pantry. I should always wash dirty dishes right away. I should make our bed every morning. (Okay, that I really should do.) I should have some kind of schedule for those regular tasks that need to be done, instead of just waiting to do them until they absolutely need to be done. (This paragraph probably reveals a great deal to you about my style of housekeeping.)

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I’m learning that when you are constantly thinking about what you should be doing, it is easy to feel guilty and overwhelmed by your home. The truth is that housekeeping is a job that is never done. There are always more things that could be cleaned or organized or improved or made. I’m learning that personality has a direct influence on a person’s style of housekeeping, and this is positive sometimes and negative other times, depending on the situation.

While we were in Guatemala, I was talking with a mom who hasn’t been feeling great lately. Her energy has been very low, and her young daughters have been managing the housework and cooking lately. This mother talked about how it has actually, in a way, been encouraging for her to be in this position. She said that when she is able to do the housework, it just feels like an endless cycle of cooking and cleaning and caring. Because her daughters are young, they don’t always notice those small things that need to be done, and guess what? It turns out that those small things (even though they feel small and endless) do make a difference! It turns out that you notice them when they aren’t being done. They are small things, but they are valuable.

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I am far from a perfect housekeeper. I am not even a perfectionist. So why do I feel this deep urge to have a perfect home? I think that it has a lot to do with comparison. I admit that I struggle with comparing myself to the ladies around me who seem to be such excellent housekeepers.

I am learning this: Where I live is more than just a house to be taken care of. It is a home. And a home is so much more than just what you see.

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I believe that a home is a place to be comfortable. A home is a place to relax, to live, to enjoy, to feel welcome in. I believe that housework should not take priority over relationship. I believe that a home is a place for training yourself to take joy and satisfaction from the menial, to work and to take responsibility and to delight in processes. I believe that a home should be a healthy, sanitary environment. I believe that if my messy home makes it impossible for me to focus on other work that I have to do (or hinders me from things I want to do), then it is time for me to clean. At the same time, I believe that it’s important to acknowledge that taking care of a home is an endless job, and that you cannot let yourself miss out on other opportunities or let other responsibilities suffer because of it. I believe in having nice things, but not always needing more or better or what they have. I believe in simplicity too. I do not believe in having unnecessary things or things that I don’t like. I don’t believe in keeping everything. (Especially not all the papers. Ricky and I lead such a papery life- between the teaching and the college-going.) I believe that the more housework you don’t do, the more it feels like you can’t do. I believe that a home is a place to practice good stewardship. I believe that a home should be an environment conducive to growth, generosity, and healing. I believe that a home is a place for community, for caring, for creating.IMG_9594

I believe that those in charge of the home have the responsibility of setting an example of appreciating beauty and truth- in nature, in art, in other people, in the ordinary things. I believe that a home is a place for cultivating the discipline of gratitude, and uprooting (and tossing far, far away) the sense of entitlement that we so often fall into.

I believe that home is meant to be a gift from God to us. Of course, it has been hopelessly and disgustingly twisted by Satan. Above all, I believe that the home is a place to be in God’s presence and to commune with him. To bask in the beauty of who He is.

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Is this reminding anyone else of the Garden of Eden?

The spaces that we care for (homes, classrooms, offices, cafes, etc.) are important, and the people who dedicate their days to caring for a home (and a family/students/customers) are so very, very necessary and valuable.

Keep caring, even though you won’t do it perfectly.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some dishes that I need to take care of.