Monday, November 10, 2008

Doing my homework...

On my companion blog, "Project Home Economics: A One Year Course," I suggested an exercise: Think about a home -- other than your own -- where you feel (felt) welcomed and comfortable. What was it about that home that felt so beckoning? Do you or did you have a woman in your life (other than your own mother) who loved her family and kept her home in such a way that it inspired you? If so, what do you see in her that made her a special keeper of her home?

So often, I've admired a home without realizing the effort of the homemaker to make it inviting. Or, if I did recognize the effort, I wanted the same effect without all of the labor she put into it.
Yet, when I really think about what makes a home welcoming and commit myself to working towards that goal, it inspires me. Having a positive example in your mind, as well as a positive role model, focuses your mental and physical energy toward reaching your own goals.

One of my favorite homes was an old farm house belonging to two late relatives of mine. It stood at the top of a long, sloping rise. There was a large pond at the bottom of the rise, where cattle used to water. I used to love to sit in the porch swing and rock and look down at the pond. The house, which I think was antebellum, was furnished with antiques. Yet, I don't remember there being anything special about the way the home was decorated. It was just a simple, old rural American house. These particular relatives were not ones to keep up with styles or trends. They were just happy to live a simple farming life. I think the things that made their house special to me were a feeling of quiet and peace, as well as my relatives' warm, kind, happy way of making me feel special.

Another house I loved was a labor of love on the part of the husband and the wife. The wife was an excellent seamstress, and she made her own curtains, bedspreads, and cushions. She also added to her home through cross-stitch. I loved one bedroom in that house, because it was decorated in warm peaches and blues -- which is right up my alley. The qualities I saw in this homemaker were her industry, her organization, her creativity and thriftiness, and her love for her home. She also had a knack for setting every object in her home just so, so that you really felt that everything in her home had a place and that everything in her home was in its proper place. She was constantly working about her home. I also loved the sun room, which was done in warm pinks and greens and had -- you guessed it -- a wicker porch-type swing in it.

Another home keeper I remember used to "read cookbooks like other people read novels", she always said. She cooked wonderful meals that always had some nice touches. She was so organized ahead of time that you never realized how much work went into those meals. She was also warm and welcoming. She visited the sick or other people who were shut in and took them little gifts.

Finally, another home keeper I admire really involved herself in helping her husband's career. She loved and did kind things for the people who worked for him. She made a wonderful, restful feeling home. I am quite sure that she worked hard at it, yet, again, you never felt that she was frantically bustling about. She was welcoming, kind, and calm.

Now, three of these home keepers that I'm talking about had already raised their children or, in one case, had not been able to have children when I knew them. Yet, from hearing their stories, I know that they had made a wonderful home for their children, as well.

That reminds me of homes in which the sound of happy children playing is delightful. In such homes, you see a few toys here and there, but, unless it gets out of hand, it adds to the cheerful feeling of home.

So, what did I learn from a study of my favorite homes?

a) This is just my personal taste: Though I don't like clutter that is out of control, my style is not minimalist or modern. I like houses that have a "homey" feeling to them.
b) Having a place for everything and putting everything in its place really does pay off in creating a peaceful, restful home atmosphere. Plus, you can find things when you need them.
c) I want to work hard behind the scenes, but to be welcoming and relaxed around family and friends. People first, things second. This requires a lot of work, much of which may go unnoticed, but it's worth it.

How about you? Tell us about a home you enjoy or an inspiring home keeper in your life.


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