Domestic Inspiration

When my first child was born, I was still in the Coast Guard and got to experience the role of “working mother” (although we know of course that all mothers are working mothers). It was hard being away from my baby all day, and even with my husband’s help it was hard to find time to do anything but the bare necessities around the house. Then, when I got pregnant with baby #2, my nesting instinct kicked in to overdrive. I really wanted to stay home with those kids, make real dinners, clean the house, decorate for holidays, bake bread, and all those other domestic things. Thankfully, my husband was willing and able to support us, and my Coast Guard career ended shortly after my second son was born.

I’m so grateful that I had the chance to stay home with my kids because I know that there are a lot of families who can’t afford this option. I also know there are a lot of families who don’t want that option! That’s OK; maybe it’s a personality type thing. But for those families who don’t have at least one person (whether Dad, Grandma, Auntie, Mom or whoever) taking on the daily details of home and family, that means someone is still doing it after work, or that various jobs are being hired out (daycare, dinners via take-out, maid service, yard service, etc.), or unfortunately, it could mean that nothing is being done at all.

The Women’s Rights Movement did a wonderful job freeing women from traditional expectations that kept them from fulfilling their true potential, but along the way, domesticity got a bad name. When asked at parties, “What do you do?”, no one wanted to answer “Oh – I’m a housewife,” because the querent would immediately smile politely and say, “Good for you!” while their eyes looked around for someone else to talk to. It would be much better to say, “I grow mushrooms and worm compost in the basement,” or “I up-cycle menswear into designer slipcovers,” or even “I bake bread.”

It’s true that a lot of work around the house can be repetitive, grungy, and boring – usually the jobs that everyone hates the most – like matching socks, changing diapers, scrubbing the shower tiles, and filing the household paperwork. There will always be work that just has to get done, but I’m so happy to see a growing movement of women and men who are rescuing the reputation of housework and elevating it to a creative artform, as well as recognizing the true value of household economics within society. You’ve probably noticed the shift. There are thousands of blogs dedicated to cooking, health, decorating, household tips, do-it-yourselfers, green cleaning, gardening, food preservation, homesteading, frugality, parenting, homeschooling, and all the other possible manifestations of house work. And just look at how many boards on Pinterest are dedicated to these topics!

Homemaking is really about lifestyle, no matter what kind of lifestyle that may be. The way to elevate homemaking from drudgery to artform is to keep asking just one question: “How can I do this better?” When things become routine and boring in any job, the solution is usually a challenge to become more efficient, more elegant, more personal, more creative, more valuable . . . more something.

I was reminded of this recently while reading one of my new favorite sites: Wisteria and Sunshine. The author, Lesley, was describing, with pictures, her recent refrigerator makeover, and my world shifted. No really. Since my kids turned into teens, and I started working on the book and software and everything else, my nesting instinct had disappeared. It seemed like the only reason to keep up with housework was to avoid embarrassment when people came over. I usually make an effort to cook healthy meals, but everything else has been in a holding pattern, waiting for someone to care. Then I saw Lesley’s refrigerator, which wasn’t just clean (I hate cleaning the refrigerator), but thoughtfully planned out with a place for everything, arranged in the most attractive way possible. She had her cheese displayed in a glass domed tray instead of stuffed in plastic baggies wherever they would fit. Her apples and oranges were ready to grab in a special glass fruit drawer. Her nuts and grains were tidy in their own drawer. Veggies were removed from their plastic bags, laid neatly on tea towels inside the crisper. It was a revelation! Suddenly I was inspired to finally clean my refrigerator, because it wasn’t just the same old routine of purge, dump and wipe, but a challenge to make my refrigerator (and food storage) work better than it ever has before.

It’s a small thing, I know. But small things make a difference, and many small things make a big difference. I’m starting to look around my house with renewed interest. My kids are not babies anymore, but it’s still nice to live in a space that feels comforting.

Could you use some creative motivation? Here’s a few sites that I particularly like, although I’m sure I will discover more favorites: Passionate Homemaking, The Pioneer Woman, Cherry Menlove, Flylady, Alice Cantrell, and Wisteria and Sunshine. I think Pinterest is a particularly good way to find someone with the same style as you, and with any luck, that person will have a blog to gift you with inspiration!

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2 Responses

  1. I can definitely use some creative inspiration! I am so with you on this topic. Whenever I do housework I grumble because I feel like I should be doing something more productive, like working on my novel. Yet I hate when the house is messy and disorganized. I’m going to take a look at the fridge makeover, but one caveat: as a recovering perfectionist one has to be careful about looking at other’s “beautiful projects” and “amazing makeovers” less you get back on that road of trying to be perfect. (I blog about this on my author website.) Thanks!

    • Jamie McMillin says:

      The refrigerator makeover went surprisingly well, although everything got out of place when the boys came home from college. Now it is all organized again, but I’d rather have the boys back 🙂
      I agree that you have to be careful about holding yourself up to someone else’s standards. If we are tempted to try another person’s amazing project, maybe a good technique would be to decide ahead of time how ours will be different. That way, the only goal that matters is our own goal.