I don’t like the idea that I am responsible for setting the tone and structure of my home. That’s a whole lot of pressure. I can barely keep up with all of life that is swirling around outside the home, so I tend to view home as the place where I can come to crash and escape. I can let it all hang out and be messy. I can hide. I can go without make up and lounge in my frumpiest pjs and wear mismatched socks because no one is looking. And that is all true. Home is meant to be a safe refuge, a place to fill our tanks and restore our souls.
But as a wife and a mom, I am learning that home is not just about me (what???). It’s no longer a place just to crash after staying out all night with fun friends doing crazy things. With three other people living under our roof, there are a lot of different needs. Everyone, on any given day, is experiencing a wide range of emotion, expectation, longing, hurt, etc. It’s an especially hard day when all four of us are deficient in multiple categories. Yikes.
As our family has embarked on a homeschooling adventure this year, I have been challenged to view the idea of ‘home’ differently. One of my greatest spiritual mentors from afar, Sally Clarkson (check out sallyclarkson.com for encouraging blogposts and a great podcast series on motherhood!), encourages moms to view our home as a blank canvas where we can express beauty through our individual and unique artistic talents. We are to think of ourselves as an artist and our children as our students.
- What kind of art do we want to create?
- What kind of values do we want to inspire?
- What kind of legacy do we want to pass on?
- What do we consider beautiful?
When it comes to the home, I immediately think of the ‘perfect home’ as being spotless, with no piles of laundry or dishes or dirty floors or fingerprints on the windows. And for some mothers, that may very well be the truth. Keeping a spotless house may bring them joy. They may take great delight in order and cleanliness. That’s just not my gift!
So keep in mind, what you paint on your canvas will look different from your friends. I have finally allowed myself to accept my weaknesses. I can’t do everything well. I am not a great decorator, gardener, organizer or deep-cleaner. My house does not look like it’s straight out of Pottery Barn. I have friends that have homes like this and at times, I feel a tiny bit jealous and inadequate. But then, I remind myself: decorating a home like that takes time and money. It means saying no to something else. And honestly, there are other things I delight in doing a lot more. So I say: I’m going to let that go, I’d rather focus on this.
Here are some helpful questions to get you thinking:
- What do I love doing?
- What am I passionate about?
- What things did I love to do as a child?
- What do I wish I had more time for?
- What do my kids love doing?
- What art forms do I naturally gravitate towards (painting, music, art, dance, pottery, food, etc.)
Let those answers be your guiding principles in decorating and establishing the routines of your home.
I love how God has designed every single one of us with unique passions and interests. We all reflect the beauty of our Maker in diverse ways! As mothers, we have the opportunity to pass on our values and our passions to our children by creating a home that reflects what we love and value.
But it’s a mind shift. At least, it was for me. It takes a bit of intentionality and effort to create a home that reflects your values. Otherwise, it’s just a structure holding all your junk that your kids are going to have to sift through when you die. 🙂
I had to stop thinking of what a good home ‘should’ look like and what a good housekeeper ‘should’ do and what is ‘in style’ and instead, start asking: Who did God make ME to be? How can I reflect those gifts in my home? It requires a willingness to recognize and accept your fault, but LEAN INTO YOUR STRENGTHS.
Here is what I have discovered about myself:\
I have a deep love of books. An obsession, really. You name a book and I have probably heard of it. It’s either on my’already read’ or ‘planning to read’ list. Unless it’s really dark or violent. Then, not so much. My idea of a ‘spa day’ is spending hours in a bookstore or public library where I can browse the shelves, pick out several that interest me, then find a comfy chair in a quiet corner and read. For hours. In silence. Without interruption. Heavenly bliss!
So if reading is a passion of mine, how do I reflect that in our home? Well, fill it with books, of course! And since decorating is not my thing, I don’t really want to waste time trying to find a cute way to store all those books. I just want to have them available. Everywhere. So all I did was pull out boxes and baskets I’ve found at garage sales over the years and placed them in practically every room of the house. So that they are highly accessible to everyone. You can’t help but want to pick up a book when you walk into our home! And I try to have comfy chairs and soft blankets around to create fun little reading niches.
Another thing I love is being in nature. Our house is naturally designed in a way that encourages being outdoors, with big picture windows across the entire back wall that overlook enormous oaks sprawling up and out over our back deck. The oaks stretch out into a spacious backyard that is lined with bamboo on 3 sides so that it kind of feels like you are in the forest or the jungle. When you walk into our home, those picture windows immediately draw you in. Most people walk straight through our living room and onto the deck when they come inside. I love that! And of course, I make sure to have plenty of fun things outside, like a trampoline, playscape, garden, outdoor patio seating, soccer balls, trucks, etc. (I would not say they are necessarily clean or well-organized, but they’re there!!!).
As a family, we make an effort to get outside everyday, multiple times a day, if possible. My husband and son mow the grass together while my daughter and I play ‘forest fairies’ in the bamboo. As a kid, some of my fondest memories are of exploring my grandparents’ ranch for hours by myself. I loved just being in nature and talking to God. So I want to create a family that loves being outdoors and appreciates the beauty of God’s creation.
Here are some other things I’d love to set up this year that reflect my passions:
- Writing Corner – Make a station with a set of blank note cards, notepads, stickers and fun colored pens to encourage writing
- Science Center – Set out a cute box to store the kids’ outdoor treasures such as leaves, rocks, feathers, dead bugs, acorns, etc. Place a magnifying glass, a sketchpad and colored pencils beside it. Encourage the kids to study their treasures, make observations, and draw them.
- Theatrical Center – Keep a box or trunk full of fun clothes and disguises. Encourage play-acting. My kids LOVE doing this! We’ve been reading the Boxcar Children and they LOVE acting out the story, pretending they live in a boxcar out in the woods. A second-hand store or thrift shop is a great place to find fun and silly costumes and props for acting. One of the kids’ all-time favorite props has been a colorful collection of Chinese umbrellas that we got from a local Asian market.
- House-Cleaning Tools – This feels a little separate from all the fun things listed above, but I have found that when I ask my kids to ‘help’ mommy get all of the housework done, they may complain at first, but they often end up really getting into it once they start. Vacuuming, dustbuster-ing, blowing off leaves, watering plants, washing the car, and scrubbing floors are all things the kids will spend hours doing, especially if it includes a fun tool!
I hope this post helps spark some fun ideas for how you might incorporate your own artistic flair and passions in your home. I hope that no one reads this and feels pressure by the weight of another ‘to-do’ item or another area where they feel inadequate and overwhelmed (that’s often how I feel when I read another mommy blog or see something on Pinterest!). On the contrary, my hope in writing this is to ENCOURAGE others to view their home as a place of artistic expression and therefore…a place of FREEDOM to be who God made you to be. You can paint whatever you want to on your canvas, whatever you want your children to see everyday when they walk in the door or whenever a guest comes into your room. You are the Picasso of your home. What do you want to paint? What gives you great delight?
If you have any great ideas to share, I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment!
Praying you find fun ways to create a life-giving home this year.