Since this post was written, Josh and I have moved twice: to Pennsylvania and then again to Michigan. But the same principles apply, even now that we’re going on two kids!
Josh had his apartment when we were dating. It’s the same apartment we live in at the writing of this post. Living in a college town means most complexes are noisy: populated by 20-somethings whose late-night priorities always tend toward the loud and obnoxious. But our little place is housed off a country road, in a subdivision, populated mostly by residents over the age of 50. The most noise we endure originates from Canadian geese.
When Josh first got his place, his parents kindly gave him some furniture to set up house: some nightstands, a dining table, a bed, and couch. I love the couch: it isn’t lumpy, black, or ridiculously large. It’s the perfect scale for the living room. The only problem I encountered as a new wife trying to decorate our home was the color: the couch is pink (the picture to the left is of our living room).
You could say it’s a variation on coral, and that would be true. After studying multiple pictures, layouts, and color schemes, I chose to make the couch the focal point of the living room and decorated everything else around it. The little pink couch is one of my favorite features of our home!
You might be thinking: “This is a major variation from Phylicia’s usual writing.” I guess it is. But homemaking in today’s age has received a true Amish shunning, and it’s also something that is close to my heart. It’s like our culture thinks homemaking takes less skill, time, effort, or intelligence than using Excel, attending meetings, or writing contracts. Frankly, work and home are equal in their need for effort, intelligence, and creativity. They simply take place in different spheres.
Homemaking is not delegated solely to stay at home moms. It’s something I started learning as a single woman and now practice as a married one. And when we have kids, I hope these practices will have become habits!
So this brings us to two questions: 1) what does it mean to ‘make a home’? and 2) why is it important?
First, homemaking is creating a loving, restful, rewarding environment for yourself and your family or roommates. Every woman (or man) will create a home specific to her tastes and personality. Homes are individual to each family’s priorities and interests.
Secondly, homemaking is important because it is an expression of selfless love. I take care of my home by keeping it clean, organized, smelling nice, and pleasingly decorated because I want to create a welcoming environment for Mr. M when he comes home. I also know that a calm environment de-stresses myself, which makes me a more pleasant person to be around! Finally, keeping a home clean, organized, and lovely is godly stewardship of the gifts God has given us.
One of my favorite bloggers, Courtney Joseph at Women Living Well, calls this practice “making your home a haven”. She continually encourages wives and moms to light a candle and play soft music in their homes as a ‘sign’ of the peace a home should have. Every time she glimpses her candle flickering, she says a prayer for peace in her family.
I love what Isaiah 32:18 says about this:
“Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places…”
Proverbs 3:33 says God blesses the dwelling of the righteous. No matter how small or humble – and our little two bedroom apartment certainly isn’t huge! – God is present in a home bursting at the seams with evidence of His love.
So today I’m not sharing anything particularly profound. I just wanted to give you a glimpse of the priorities I’ve used to guide the decoration, cleanliness, and overall atmosphere of our home.
A home should be restful, but not lethargic. Our homes are also a place of work: making dinner, cleaning up, schoolwork and even working from home. Energy is one of my top priorities for our home.
Josh and I do not have cable TV for a few reasons, one of which is the lethargy watching TV can often induce. When we get home from work, there is still work to be done at home. We don’t want to come home, flop on the couch, and suddenly realize at 8 PM that no dinner was made, no conversation was had, and nothing is ready for the next day.
I have also delegated all of our work-related items to the office (really a second bedroom, but we don’t have overnight guests enough to necessitate a guest room). The laundry room, storage area, and both of our desks are delegated to this ‘work room’. This keeps the main area of the house as a restful, positive, but energetic environment, free of clutter and distraction. Josh and I also decided never to keep a TV in our bedroom, which we have designated as the most restful place in the house. No electronics besides phones as alarm clocks are permitted in that room.
One of the reasons I love that pink couch is its brightness! You certainly can’t miss its happy little face in the middle of our living room. I chose to decorate the rest of the house in tones of beige and blue with coral accents. It’s a bright, fresh, cheerful color scheme.
When we were looking at apartments, we specifically looked for places with a lot of natural light. Our apartment has no real overhead lighting, so I picked out lamps that were pewter or glass and bought a glass end table. This helps brighten the room, along with the color scheme.
Josh is a darling and often brings flowers home when he gets back from a business trip. Nothing is happier than fresh flowers! In my bi-weekly ‘allowance’ (budgeted amount of money) for personal expenditures, I get an additional bouquet and arrange it for the table.
My own attitude is the single best contributor to the happiness of our home. Josh is naturally a pretty positive person, and I am not. By making a conscious choice to brighten the home both with the colors and decor I choose, but also by choosing to smile and be pleasant, I’m able to create a cheerful atmosphere for both myself and my husband.
I take Courtney’s words to heart and burn candles whenever we are home in the evening. It really sets a calming atmosphere, and also makes the house smell good! I will also play Pandora stations while I cook – my favorite is ‘Ashokan Farewell’ .
At night, I burn a lavender candle in our bedroom. This helps us sleep and provides a nightlight that utilizes the calming effects of lavender (I bought this particular candle at a consignment store for $2; it’s a $22 candle. Most of my decor, clothing, and household items are bought at consignments or Goodwill.).
Not to bash the television, but with peace as a priority, the blaring voices of varied channels are unwelcome in our house. When we do watch something, it’s a movie or show from Amazon Prime. Lately, however, we’ve been designating movies for the weekends and doing a puzzle at night while listening to stand-up comedy by Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, or Tim Hawkins. I delegate time for reading and writing letters at night as part of a wind-down ritual before bed (this is proven to help with sleep).
Let me remind new readers that this might look unreasonable, but both Josh and I work full time, I cook almost every meal we eat (we do not eat out often), I am involved in two volunteer organizations, and we are both finishing degrees. Peace must be planned and fought for. We are strategic about this now because we want to set a precedent that will continue with our children.
As I mentioned earlier, office work, gift wrapping, laundry and storage are designated to a specific room in the house. But the rest of the house does require work! I used to save all my cleaning for the weekend, which bothered me during the week. So my sweet engineer husband made an Excel sheet designating specific rooms of the house for a day of the week, dividing up the chores for that room into ‘his’ and ‘hers’.
I believe cleanliness is very important because stewardship is lacking in today’s age. If you think you can just ‘buy a new one’ you won’t value what you already have. Since Josh and I use a cash model for a our budget, when the cash has been used, you can’t buy anything else. Thus, I take good care of our house by dusting, vacuuming, shaking rugs, cleaning the fans, the floors, inside the fridge and the stove. These are things I don’t plan to give up when we have kids: instead, I’ll do what my mother did and have my kids help me do all these things. These chores only take a few minutes of focused time: time that gives a great return when your house is only a quick ‘pick up’ from presentable at all times.
If I wrote out a list of all the work I do at home, it would be equal to or more than what I do at my full time job. Is it lesser work? No. God gave us homes and we are to make the best of them. How we do that is individual to each woman, and I love that!
By doing your own labor, you essentially pay yourself. This is how Josh I spend less than $200 a month on groceries, $0.02 per load of laundry, and about $150 a year on clothes. I make my own laundry detergent, cook all our meals (and shop several stores for groceries), and buy only secondhand clothes. I also mend the clothes that rip or tear. This takes time, but that time is money I would otherwise be spending. It’s work – but it’s good work! It’s work to keep our family financially prepared for the future,
My final priority is rest. This is hard for me! I have to be very intentional about rest.
Our home is organized to be efficient and easy to manage, which should in turn free up time for me to spend a few hours with Josh or with the Lord. True rest is only achieved when I stop ‘bustling’ and seek the inner peace that gives our home a restful atmosphere.
I achieve this by packing my gym bag, our lunches, and my clothes for the next work day the night before. When we get up at 5 AM the next morning, one of us makes breakfast and we do devotions until leaving for the gym at six. At that early hour we are able to start our day peacefully, then use the gym to jumpstart our momentum.
Josh and I were once mocked for being ‘controlling’ and planning out our every day. We don’t think it’s controlling: we think it’s wise. Certainly there are days when we have to be flexible and plans change! But our priorities keep us unified in our efforts to create a home reflecting God’s love. That’s not just my battle as a wife: it’s his too. We are making a home together.
Homemaking, regardless of your stage of life, is a biblical discipline. It incorporates stewardship, financial responsibility, wisdom, patience, and hard work. It is not a lesser work. In fact, it is a primary work, because it is from the home that husbands, wives, and children spring into society. Who we are at home is who we are. A home of lethargy, chaos, or discord will produce sad, lazy, hurting people. But a home of peace, joy, and energy will produce effective, cheerful, confident people. We get to determine that outcome by the choices we make for our families, selves, and homes.
How do you make your home a haven? I love hearing how other women accomplish this for their families!