All those houses I lived in had two common things. We made do with what we had and they were home. Until we moved to PA, my parents moved about every 2 years from rental to rental until the new house was done, and then we only lived in it two years. When I look at it now, 30 years later, I realize that it is actually a very modest size compared to the norm for Amish homes. It was not extravagant in any way, except that the floors didn’t sag and the drywall was brand new.
Not once do I remember my mom consulting decorating magazines, to figure out how to make it a homelike place. I know she gave it a lot of thought and effort. She was always working on some project. She made her own curtains and throw pillows and even reupholstered our disreputable looking couch that still had a sturdy frame. The afghans were handmade and nobody worried if they “went” with the rest of the decor. They were for keeping us cozy when the cold winds blew, duh. We could use those afghans to make tents over upside down kitchen chairs and stretch them out as much as needed.
The only criteria for replacing a piece of household furniture was that it had to be thoroughly worn out. Think actual holes, broken springs, falling apart. We could do experiments on the table and not worry if something spilled or scratched a little. Nobody panicked when we tore around the house or bounced off the couch. In fact, our Saturday night tradition of playing bear with my dad and roaring around the house is among my fondest childhood memories. Sometimes stuff crashed off the walls, and mom would shake her head kind of helplessly until we wound down.
Oh, Mom was always cleaning windows and shining her cupboard handles and she ran a tight ship in the kitchen, with nourishment appearing at regular intervals. The mashed taters tasted just fine on the old-fashioned Correlle dishes with little green flower borders. We had to change our sheets every week and were not allowed to throw clothes or towels on the floor. Little things did matter, but it wasn’t so much for looks as for comfort or cleanliness. It was unloving to leave shoes right by the door for others to trip over, so we had to put them away.
Once we got invited to a fancy house for dinner. The lady was so kind and gracious, but she had deep plush carpets that were white, and her house really did look like Better Homes and Gardens. I felt anxious about breaking her China or ruining something the whole time we were there. I know it’s because we were little country bumpkins, but we were happy bumpkins.
Let me quickly say that I believe wholeheartedly in home-making. A house is a habitat, and the atmosphere in it matters. The attitude of the one making the home infuses whatever goes on in the house.
- If the air is slovenly and muttery with unhappiness, it wafts around and affects the other inhabitants with its poison.
- If the prevailing desire is for more and nicer stuff, the dissatisfaction permeates the home and nobody ever has enough.
- If the homemaker is always fussing about not getting this dirty and not touching that fragile thing, the tenseness in the home drives the ones away that are supposed to feel at home there.
This is what I learned as I was growing up: Our houses served us. We didn’t serve them.
That long round-about way is just to give you permission, if you need it, to scorn the idea that your home isn’t right unless it is swathed in the latest of styles with a few pots of succulents on every sunny windowsill.
- If your guests feel welcome and happy in your living space, they don’t mind if your carpets are a bit squashed down in high-traffic areas.
- If you are glad of their presence and pour the coffee generously, they could care less that your mugs are all shapes and sizes.
- If there are some cookies in the jar, your children don’t notice if the kitchen counters are made of concrete or granite or cracked formica.
- If the little people are allowed to splash clean in the tub, that matters more than the towels matching the stripes in the shower curtain.
- If you tuck the children in with hugs and kisses, I can guarantee that you won’t ever be accused of neglect because their dresser didn’t match their bed.
Because the story is only a little bit about the stuff and the rest of it is the relationships.
( free photo source:pexel. text:mine.)