November 15, 2023

A Return To Homemaking

I feel a need to preface this post by defining my terms. That is, after all, what Mortimer J. Adler says a good author does (How To Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading). To that end, I have several terms that I'd like to clarify as to how I personally use them, to establish context for my post title.

House: a structure built for people to live in, i.e., a human dwelling.

Home: one's personal house; where one lives, keeps their possessions, and maintains their lifestyle.

Household: the collection of items belonging to a house and the persons dwelling there.

Housework: the work of maintaining a home. Includes a collection of chores such as dusting, vacuuming, washing dishes, making beds, doing laundry, etc.

Housekeeping: the skill of overseeing and managing a household.

Homemaking: the art of creating and maintaining an ambiance, i.e. environment and atmosphere within the home that is conducive to the comfort and mental/emotional well being of the people who live there.

All of these are relevant to our life here as homesteaders, but I confess that there hasn't been much actual homemaking going on for quite awhile. Why is that? Well, we bought this place in 2009 as a fixer-upper. We made that choice for two reasons. The first was to have a lower mortgage payment. The second was make it suitable for our chosen lifestyle. And because we chose to do all the repairs, updates, and remodeling ourselves, our house has seemed more like a construction zone than a home these past years, with various rooms taking turns being storage units for whatever other room we are working on.

On the one hand, we've had the benefit of doing things exactly the way we want them. But it's taken a long time because we had so many outdoor projects as well: fence making, outbuilding construction, tree planting, garden establishing, critter keeping, etc. The problem with this is that one gets used to living conditions as they are, as though stacks of packed-up boxes in the dining room are actually a thing. 

This began to change, however, when I wanted to carve out a little space for my sewing machine and creative projects. I was willing to just shove boxes aside to do it, but Dan said "let's finish the room." (That adventure started here.) It was one of the last two rooms to do, and he wanted to take another step forward to finishing the house. So the smaller one finally became my studio/sewing room

The other day I finally got the last of the storage boxes out of the dining room. As I cleared off the hutch, table, chairs, and corners and began to dust and clean, I thought about the table runner on my loom and recalled another one that I made years ago, when I first started weaving. What's the point of pursuing creative arts, I thought, if it isn't reflected in my home? Maybe it's finally time to switch my brain from storage mode to homemaking mode.

When we bought the place, this was the only dining area in the house. It only became a "formal" dining room when we remodeled the kitchen and carved out a little space for a dining nook. Truth be told, I use the dining table a lot; previously for projects before I got my sewing and crafting table, now, for a place to cure produce or to dry and sort garden seeds for saving. So it rarely looks like that photo.

The table runner will forever be memorial in my mind because it was one of the very first projects I produced on my loom. I think someone gave me the yarn, a fuzzy singles (one-ply) hemp yarn that was  nearly impossible to work with because it stuck together and tangled so. Somehow I managed to win and for a beginning weaver's project, I think it turned out really well. And it's perfect for autumn decorating. 

It's amazing how this impacts the atmosphere of the entire house. And it's nice to think that when someone comes to the front door, it offers a backdrop of tidiness and care. At least I'd like to think so. Keeping it tidy is another story! It's amazing how much dust accumulates in a 100-year-old house with wood heat. But it's fun to think of myself as a homemaker again. It's been worth the wait.


Rosalea said...

Beautiful Leigh...the runner, the dining room, the post.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

I can relate so much to your story - "spare bedrooms" being store rooms, constant state of renovating, doing the work ourselves (well, mostly husband, while we both worked full time). I always joke that the house will finally be done the day before we put it on the market to sell! I think that table runner is a perfect Autumn or Thanksgiving touch to your dining room. -Jenn

Ed said...

I often joke with my wife, that just about the time I finally get our home exactly the way I want it from top to bottom, it will be time to start over from the beginning.

But like you, I do enjoy getting a room checked off and finally seeing it at it's full potential while I move onto another area.

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

Beautiful runner. Homemaking is on my mind this week. As I am so busy outside with the coop, I come inside and realize what a hot mess it is as it suffers when I am outside. I am so overwhelmed this week with the holidays, and nothing is in it's place, but we have another leak under the sink. And we went for supplies for the coop last night. Homemaking has been a HUGE struggle this week. I am trying to remain calm with a to-do list, is a hard balance being one person. Beautiful post.

Leigh said...

Thank you Rosalea!

Jenn, one of the things I lament is that our house doesn't have either basement or garage. Those make the best storage units! As it is, the constant shuffle of boxes and stuff is probably one of the few negatives about DIY renovating. Like you, I sometimes wonder if we'll ever get it done! Although I have to say we've made faster progress since Dan retired, so you have that to look forward to!

Ed, yup, it's an amusing joke but it's so true! Dan sometimes says he's tired of projects and just wants to live and enjoy, but oddly, as soon as he finishes one he's eager to figure out the next. :)

Leigh said...

Kristina, it's extremely hard to balance! Really, managing everything inside the house is a full time job to do well. As is everything we do outside the house: garden, building projects, etc. I've often thought that if I had only one area to be responsible for, then it would be perfect. As it is, most things just get a lick and a promise.

Mama Pea said...

I love your definitions of house/home/homemaking/etc. Growing up, all I ever wanted to be was be a "homemaker." Well, I've achieved that (to some degree) but so much has been thrown into the mix with our desire to have a self-sufficient (to some degree) homestead as we continually strive to make our own secure oasis (to some degree) in this out-of-control world. I can so relate to your years of living in spaces "decorated" with packed boxes, uninsulated walls, sawdust, and newborn or sick animals in a warm spot in the kitchen. I think many of us can relate to the warm fuzzies it brings (especially to us females in the relationship) to look upon a sight such as that gorgeous picture of your dining room.

Agent X, not said...

Love this post -
The truth you described is not unique to homesteaders. Thank you for reminding us to enjoy what we have created as we continue to walk the journey.

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, it's nice to know that someone else always wanted to be a homemaker too. :) It's all the other homesteading stuff that make homemaking a bit more challenging, but I doubt any of us would trade it away. Creating a happy and comfortable home is sort of an art form in itself, isn't it?

Agent X, very true! Commitments outside the home are common for everyone nowadays. Maybe that makes the need for a safe home space even more important.

DFW said...

I dislike cleaning, especially dusting because it is neverending in our area in SW GA. So much commercial farming going on in the fields surrounding our house that you can't keep up with the very fine grit like dust that enters every . single . crevice. All . day . long. You would have to dust 2 or more times each day to keep it 'clean'.

I do however, love tidiness. So, no matter how 'dirty' our house is, it is mostly tidy. Well, except when sorting veggies, cleaning out closets, etc. which food & clutter almost always wind up on any clear surface available.

ps. It does eventually get back to being cleaned off which results in a tidy look.

Leigh said...

Deb, that's a good strategy. I agree that tidiness makes a big difference in the overall impression of a room. I've been known to tidy up piles of clutter until I can finally get things put away. :)

Dusting is the biggest reason I've decided I'm not keen on a lot of open shelves! And I've got a lot of them. Dust and those teeny little spiders that manage webby strands everywhere. It's amazing how quickly they reconstruct them after they've been swept away.

Cederq said...

Leigh, I like your definitions, especially Homemaking. We as a society needs to get back to that lofty standard. Have Homemakers. I always felt the woman is the homemaker, she sets the ambience, the rules of the house, for that is her domain. Yes, some may call misogynistic, but it is the roles we abide by normally and I must say we do not live in normal times. We so sorely need to return to it, for this civilization to survive. Men's role is to protect and serve. Protect even against a tyrannical government and actors within it.

Leigh said...

Kevin, I don't think many people understand the power of influence that exists in creating and controlling the whole of the house dwellers' living environment (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects). Nor do they seem to understand the importance of a stable, protective environment for children in their growing-up years. This is where future societies are formed. I don't know if there is a way to return to it.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, on my walks around the neighborhood one can sometimes see into people's living rooms or dining rooms or offices. It is an interesting commentary on how people view their living space - for many, it seems to be either completely personal or "shopped in" minimalist that does not seem like a place one would be comfortable in living. Homemaking (like many things) is an art, not a science.

Leigh said...

TB, considering how much society has changed, and how many successful single adults there are now, I wouldn't be surprised if people don't even think of home in the traditional sense any more.