Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What do our homes say about us? (Part 2)

I've spent time in convents (where religious sisters live) and rectories (where priests live) and in both of these, there are an abundance of reminders to pray. Everything is directed towards God, and a prayerful spirit permeates the atmosphere. There are also, I've found, often leisure activities like movies, books, and games, but everything is very tidily kept, simple, and beautiful. 

I am married and have young kids (a toddler and a baby in the womb), so naturally, our home will look different from that of a religious sister or priest. However, our house is not just the domain of children. It is a place of prayer, the hub of our domestic church. It is the home of my husband and I, and a meeting place for our friends. It is a place for prayer and relaxation in the arms of God, and a place for work and fun. 

In Part 1, I pondered the question of how our faith and spirituality affect our homes. Today, I'd like to discuss how my faith-and the mission of our home-practically impacts my homemaking. As I've thought about this topic, I've come to realize that there are a few particular broad principles that jump out at me. 

1. It needs to be tidy. 
Unfortunately, my kitchen only looks like this about 50% of the time.
I'm working on getting better about the clutter that manages to make it
in the kitchen, though-it's definitely a process!  
Not perfectly clean or magazine-worthy, but tidy. Let's be honest with ourselves: It can be hard to fully relax and pray in a cluttered, messy space. It can be difficult to enjoy playing together if you don't even have a space to hang out because there is stuff all over the place! I've found that if I want to keep a (mostly) tidy home-without spending hours upon hours each week cleaning-I need to declutter. I'm sure I still own more things than I actually "need," and I still need to declutter more, but by getting rid of (giving away what's good and trashing what is long overdue for the dumpster or recycling bin!) a large amount of items over the past year, I have found it much easier to have a peaceful, restful, rather clean space to live in. I do want to clarify that "declutter" does not necessarily mean "get rid of everything." In fact, various items and artwork can add character to the home and can create a welcoming, warm environment. As Danielle Postel-Vinay writes in Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making a Home:
"There is a fine line between keeping a cabinet of curiosities and hoarding piles of trash. You don't want a cluttered entree, but even worse is an empty and sterile one. Meaningful, expressive objects in the entire entree transcend clutter." 
I seek to find this balance; to adorn our environment and make it "homey" and beautiful--but without letting it become cluttered and chaotic. 

2. When people come into my home, they need to be reminded of God.

While yes, people should hopefully encounter God through my actions (something I need to work on!), I hope that they will be reminded of God through the sacred artwork that adorns our home. From most places in our home, a crucifix or picture of Jesus is visible. As we go throughout our day, these images are good reminders that we need to continually place our lives in God's hands. These are also excellent ways to slow down and pray throughout the day-I can stop what I'm doing when I see an image of Jesus and offer up a quick prayer in my heart. Not only do us adults benefit, but even young children do, too. My toddler loves kissing whatever images of Jesus he sees. The other day, our San Damiano crucifix that stands on the bathroom counter was covered in toothpaste because while he was in the process of brushing his teeth, my picked it up to give Jesus a big kiss! 

3. Each member of the family needs to feel like he or she can truly relax. 

As part of loving my family, everyone needs to be represented in our home and know that he or she can enjoy some leisure time. The toddler has his books and toys that we try (not always successfully) to store in a designated box and basket. My husband has his gaming equipment in a designated area. I have my book and craft collections set in specific areas. By simplifying our lives and giving away what we don't use, we have room for what we truly enjoy-and we're able to use these items as we join in fellowship with each other and with friends. 

4. We need to be encouraged in the path of holiness. 

This whole business of not conforming to the standards of the world (Rom 12:2) is not easy. Jesus never promised that being His disciple would be all easy; in fact, several times throughout the Bible, we explicitly read about the struggles that disciples of Christ face, and we see the challenges that the early Christians encountered. As we strive for sanctity amid struggles, I find it encouraging to look at the lives and examples of people who have already gone through this-the saints. 

We have books written by and about saints, which are good to read and draw encouragement from. We also have images and third-class relics of the saints, which remind us to ask for their heavenly intercession. 

There are many different takes on homemaking, and several cultural differences that will come into play wherever  you go. Not only that, but the needs of families will alter throughout the years. I think that the way our home looks now is probably going to differ from it looks in a few years from now. By following broad ideals and principles in regards to our home, I hope that it will continue to be a place of prayer, fun, and fellowship-and even more so as I (hopefully) get better in prayer, showing hospitality, and decorating! 


  1. Love hearing about your approach! And that's a great point about being tidy vs perfectly clean and immaculate. I find some semblance of tidiness important to be able to relax, so that's a good point too. And having sacred art and crucifixes - YES! Love that.

  2. Oh I love this! And I love your whole heart behind this. I LOVE homemaking, but I've felt so in over my head since we moved. This is encouraging to me.

  3. Keeping things tidy is so tough when you have little ones! I struggle with this, but I definitely believe it is valuable. Overall, these are pretty much the same principles I use when decorating and keeping my home.
    I really like your third point about every family member feeling like he or she can relax. This is difficult for me to accomplish because it's easy for kids' stuff (toys, a basket of diapers, etc.) to take over every room! I need to work on this a bit more so I make sure there is comfortable space for adults, too.

    1. Tidiness is hard! Currently, our dining nook floor is covered in things my toddler pulled out earlier from a nearby shelf. It doesn't take long to pick up, thankfully, but it definitely makes it hard to keep a tidy dining nook!
      I've been thinking about that third point for a while. I often see two extremes in either books, articles, or homes that I visit: either most of the home is seen as the domain of the adults (and the kids, therefore, are not allowed to play with their toys in non-bedroom areas), OR the whole house is completely overrun by kids' items. And like you mentioned, it is so easy for kids' stuff to get everywhere! Something that has been working semi-well for us is that certain toys stay in my son's bedroom. The diaper bin also stays in my son's room. He has a basket of books and a box of toys in the living room, but when the toybox isn't in use, we try to make sure the toys are in the box with the lid on, and it's pushed in the corner by the couch. Right now, this system works well, since we have a one-story house that's easy to quickly navigate (it's not like I have to keep running up and down stairs to get a diaper), but I'm guessing we'll probably have to adjust and alter our system once the little baby is born! Oh, and I can't remember if I mentioned this to you before, but after you wrote a post about marriage and the bedroom a while back, I decluttered our bedroom and I am so glad that I did! Now the only clutter in our bedroom is a small pile of items that I haven't donated yet (I really need to do that) and it's so clean and peaceful :) So thank you for writing that post!

    2. I'm glad you were able to declutter your bedroom. I still have work to do in mine! I'm so tired...I'm not getting much done these days (being pregnant and caring for young kids is tough).
      We do have a two-story house, which is the reason for there being diapers in the living room. I go up and down those stairs at least a dozen times each day! It's certainly good exercise, but it gets old!

    3. Oh wow, stairs would be good exercise-if we had a two-story house, I would probably keep diapers (and other items I use lot) on every level. I hope you're able to get some good rest. Being pregnant and caring for one kid has been exhausting for me; I can't imagine how tiring it would be to have two toddlers + pregnancy.

  4. I love this so much! I try to be really mindful about it being a place to relax and feel comfortable, both for my husband and I and guests who come over. Sometimes it's easier than others! :)

  5. I think #3 is very important! Both Angel and I have the kinds of personalities where we can only relax in a neat and uncluttered space...which probably connects to why we naturally lean towards a home that leans on the side of minimalism because we feel more at home in such a space. But we also have to make sure to have enough "stuff"--enough chairs, dishes, etc--that we can welcome others into our home. That's where we're probably a bit weak, although the new couch that we got for Christmas definitely helps us with offering more seating! :)