Friday, July 17, 2009

Organization Friday~The Importance of Homekeeping

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a real homebody. Yes, I really like homemaking. I like everything about it actually and really enjoy it when things look perfect. Homemaking isn’t very popular, nor is it something that is discussed very often. The closest thing I see women verbalizing is looking for a cleaning schedule or something like that. The problem with homemaking or housekeeping is that it can very boring. Somehow, the repetitive tasks can almost drive you nuts. And I am not sure there is anyone, when given the choice of doing something awesome or making the bed, chooses to make the bed. But I also don’t know anyone, when given the choice between sleeping in a beautiful bedroom, with crisp linens versus a bedroom with an unmade bed and all cluttered up, would chose the latter. But I really like this stuff. I remember one time reading about a finishing school of sorts for caretakers where they taught you how to run a home like a business, making it almost a seamless work of art. This was some twenty years ago and I remember wanting to use one of my week’s vacation to go to this school for the training. Only I wasn’t being paid to run someone else’s home, I just wanted my home to run beautifully, with a place for everything and everything in it’s place.

Apparently, I am sort of alone. I have yet to meet anyone who really gets into it. I try to have these conversations with women about housekeeping, but most don’t really care. Our conversation never really makes it beyond getting the house clean. Most of the discussion evolves around whether or not they have a service to clean their home versus doing it themselves. I even tried joining an internet group for housekeeping ladies, but most of them were struggling to keep up their homes. I want to be part of a group of ladies whose goal is “excellent housekeeping”. I envision we’d have our little internet group and then we’d meet at someone’s home for a proper tea, to discuss our homemaking victories and tips.

Now that my secret it out, it probably won’t surprise you that I checked out a few books on homekeeping at the library, four to be exact. I go on-line and order my books and one in particular caught my attention. I had read an excerpt of, “Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping” on a website and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This book was a real pleasure to read. There are many books out there that give homemaking tips but rarely the one that has “real” tips, meaning tips that really work and not merely tips to fill the pages of a book. It was fashioned around the traditional notes that southern women penned regarding housekeeping and living a beautiful life. Back then, nineteenth-century southern women kept these “receipt books” as they were called, where they included everything from tips on homekeeping to the proper rules of “decent” behavior. I found this fascinating of course.

Mrs. Dunwoody is a fictional character loosely based on the author’s great grandmother and other inspiring women. The book was written to provide the reader with advice and wisdom typical of these receipt books and yet, as you read the book, you begin to have a hard time separating fact from fiction. On the one hand, you find yourself engulfed in Mrs. Dunwoody’s life as if you were right there. Because the wisdom is timeless, many of the tips are useful today. And then of course, I’d remember how my mother did things and how my grandmother did things and that fundamentally, they weren’t that different. Being an orderly person myself, I couldn’t help but compare her daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal tasks on her domestic calendar to my own routines. I was struck by how similar they actually were. Of course, I don’t have a receipt book but I do have a “HOME” manual that I created myself, with “HOME” being an acronym for, “Home Organization Manual for Efficiency”.

What was most striking about this book, was the sense of importance of homekeeping in shaping the lives of our children and everyone in the home. No longer was keeping our home in order just a matter of cleanliness or decoration but the fundamental reason was to create a sort of optimal foundation for our children and everyone in the home to thrive. She says, “Our family members will carry the atmosphere we create in our homes for the rest of our lives.” “Organization has more benefits than mere efficiency, knowing your life is in order reduces strife and anxiety and increases confidence.” She uses various examples of how when we are rushed, we can’t be at our best or when we spend time looking for things that we can’t focus on what’s really important. She goes on to talk about how our family members will carry on the atmosphere that we create in our homes for the rest of their lives. She talks about the importance of order and that without it, none of the occupants in the home can reach their full potential. “When we make conscious decisions about the order in which we shall tend to our dates and our lives, everyone in the home thrives.” Meaning, we can focus on other things when we can find the things we need in our homes and when we have a sense of order and routine. When you understand this concept, the “receipt books”, as they were called, bring a whole new sense of importance to the art of homekeeping. No longer are we just keeping house, but we are really creating an optimum environment for our children and everyone in our house to thrive.

Imagine for a moment, a child getting off to school without order in the home. Without order, the child might not wake up in time. He’d have to search through the laundry for something to wear, because nothing was clean. Then if it was cleaned, it might be wrinkled. Without a proper breakfast, breakfast would be out of a box, if anything at all. Being late, he’d try to grab his backpack, but he wasn’t quite sure where he left it, so he’d frantically search for the backpack, hoping the school bus would still be waiting outside.

Now imagine for a moment, a home that is in order, where excellence in homekeeping is aspired. The boy, would get up on time, having time to get his teeth brushed and get his bed made before school. His Mom would have a healthy breakfast for him which would help him flourish at school, since he could think well, having proper nourishment. His backpack would be ready to go, on the landing pad and his coat would be hung up on the hooks near the door. The day would be off to a great start.

In both situations, the child hasn’t arrived at school. We haven’t even addressed whether or not the child might have some other things going on, such as ADD, which would make his life more challenging. Given these scenarios, one would think we should place a bigger value on order and homekeeping.

In the end, I couldn’t think of a more inspirational book as we prepare our children for the “Back to School” season. As Mrs. Dunwoody said, “We must approach every task as a blessing to be received, never as a chore.” As I changed Dear Son’s sheets for the second time in a day, I kept Mrs. Dunwoody’s words in mind. Making a nice home for the people we love is important.

Note: I am a Professional Organizer and Home Stager. I own my own business called, “Dream Organizers”. My motto is: “Keep it simple. Get organized. Make it beautiful.”


Christina said...

Ah- how I wish I were more organized. My toddler thwarts many of my efforts at a clutter free house :)
Have you read any of Alexander Stoddard's books?- Living a Beautiful Life comes to mind. I think you might enjoy those. Thanks Dream Mom for a lovely blog.

Dream Mom said...

Thanks, Christina. I am familiar with Alexandra Stoddard-I read one of her books many, many years ago however I don't remember the title. I did like her though. She was very popular in the late 80's and 90's and her advice is timeless. I still see a column of hers from time to time in a magazine but maybe I'll check out that book at the library.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading this, I do, but boy do you make me feel like a total loser! (Its not you- what you say is dead on- its me).

Dream Mom said...

Anon 207-Thank you for the compliment.

All of my organization posts are meant to be inspiring, never to make anyone feel bad. One of the rules that I have with all of my clients is that I don't allow negative talk or negative thinking during our sessions. I think all of us, myself included, have times in our life where we look back and think that we could have, or should have done things better or differently. Instead, there is a saying that when we knew better, we did better. Instead of looking back, create a better plan looking forward. Good luck and hang in there. No one gets organized overnight.

For more inspiration, try Mrs. Dunwoody's book. It was really exciting and gave me a new perspective on homekeeping.

Mary said...

Very well said! I find your words both challenging and inspiring. My mother always cleanliness was next to godliness, and I believe what that means is being a good steward of the things that God has given you, appreciating them and keeping them orderly so yo can enjoy them, and share them. I also think it means that we need to have mental clarity, which is a form of cleanliness, at least I think it does. Not that I succeed all the time, but to have the goal of being organized and in control of your life, rather than having it in control of you, is a virtue we could all strive for. As a result, we would have beautiful pictures to post for others to see - not to boast or brag, but to encourage, and keep the energy flowing.

Mary said...

Thanks for the compliment about my photography - I guess it is improving, at least a little! Great idea to put grass in the rose container! I can probably find it at a craft store - or were you thinking "real" grass? Either way, it will be a great look. Leave it to your wonderful designing skills to come up with the right look - you're the best!

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