3 January 2014

The secret life of a happy homemaker

Written in 2009

Don't let them fool you, there is joy to be found at home. If you listen to the people who don't know that, you'll be thinking that being at home, and the chores to be done there, are demeaning, demanding and disgusting. If you read magazines, they'll tell you all about how to do this and that, they'll give you lists of "the best 10 holidays ..." and tell you 20 different ways to serve a chicken leg, but they never write about the satisfaction of homemaking, or the joy to be found by making your home a safe and cosy haven for all who live there. That is my job. ;- )

I used to be one of those people who looked down on housework as something to be avoided at its best, and demeaning at its worst. But when I came to live a simpler and gentler life, I discovered along the way that doing the work needed in my home, slowed me down and made me think about my daily work in a different way. The work remade me.

Instead of whizzing through the housework as fast as I could, I slowed myself to do each job well. That slowness allowed me to think about the task as it was being done and how that task connected to the others that followed. I realised then that all those connected tasks made our home what it is - and that it could either be the comfortable and nurturing place I wanted to live in, or a chaotic jumble of disconnected and generally unfinished chores that didn't encourage anyone to relax and put their feet up. I wonder now if having that chaotic home caused me to go out shopping for things to fill our home - I think I might have been looking for comfort in the shops instead of hand making it at home. That's what we've been encouraged to believe - that if we need something we will find it in a shop somewhere. We are taught at a young age that we buy happiness.

I'm wiser now, I know now that my happiness is made with what I already have at home. There are no special requirements needed; rearranging, keeping everything clean, changing with the seasons and making odds and ends, gives me more satisfaction than shopping ever did.

So how is happiness and joy found in the normal course of the everyday? Shhhh, it's a secret, but I'll let you in on it. It's found by slowing down, focusing on what you're doing, taking pride in a job well done, and repeating that on a daily basis. When you get into the rhythm of your home and work towards making every square inch of it comfortable, the work itself gives the reward because you make your home exactly what you want it to be. Housework isn't difficult, and remove all thoughts from your head about it being completed every day. Every woman knows that housework never ends, so take your time. Slow down and do it well, stop thinking about getting on to the next task, just do what you're doing, then take a short break. Don't make it tougher than it is. Look at your work when you've finished and think about how that space works for you, could it be changed? Could you rearrange things to make it better? Is it just right? Good! Then tell yourself you've done a good job and feel happy that you did it. It is okay to be proud of your work, despite what anyone tells you.

Working slowly through your work will slow you down too. If you stop rushing, so will your brain and heart. Slow down and enjoy what you do, well, most of it, I doubt too many people enjoy cleaning the toilet or washing nappies. But even those things are part of us, so carry out those chores as best you can and enjoy the ones you like.

I don't have children to look after now, but I used to and I know that my routine now would have suited that time of my life very well. Now I do my every day chores slowly throughout the day - I make the bed, sweep the floor, bake bread, tidy up and cook, and alongside those everyday chores are others that are peppered through the hours. They make the day interesting because they are different every day. All of the photos here today were taken in my home during the course of one day. On this particular day, I cut open THE pineapple - the one that has been growing for two years in the back yard, and we tasted the finest, juiciest, sweetest pineapple ever. Brussel sprouts, two packs bought at Aldi at a very good price, were blanched divided up into four meals and added to the freezer. A handsome worker in the backyard removed an unstable frangipani and allowed co-workers to scratch in the bare soil, hoping for some fat grubs to eat. Tea was taken on the front verandah. The sewing room was tidied and a tablecloth made with fabric from the stash.

It's nothing special, is it? But it makes me feel good and it satisfies me. Making your home a place that sustains you and your family is one of the most important jobs you can do. Times are tough, there are all sorts of things going on in the world that are difficult to understand, but if you make your home a place that comforts, a place where you can relax and be your true self, a place where your children feel safe and warm, a place where you show your family the joy of living simply, then you are doing a really significant and essential job that takes the hard edge off the outside world. So when you shake open the sheets to make up that clean bed, when you set the table with knives and forks, water glasses and a flower in a cup, when your beef stew and dumplings is slowly bubbling away welcoming your family as they come home with the smell of home cooking, when you sit with your tea, when you sweep the floor, when you sew or knit or cook, I hope you find happiness in your home, because I know it's there. You might not have discovered the mother lode yet, you might just be picking up fragments every so often, but keep at it and you will be rewarded.

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