Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Keeping House" Read-Along, Chapter 3, "Sheltering a Household"

My notes on chapter 3 of Margaret Kim Peterson's book are, well, just notes. Notes that highlight the few things that stood out to me this time through.  First off, her assertion that:

". . . many of us, I suspect, are demoralized by the task of keeping house in part because we know that our houses, no matter how well-kept, will  never look like the palaces in the dream house publications." - page 44.

Yes. We should careful about where the ideas we come from. What our ideals about homemaking and how did those come to be our ideals? Did we deliberately take them from a trustworthy source - scripture, a good mother, etc. - or did we just absorb the zeitgeist?

And then Peterson comes to what is, to my mind, the most important concept in this chapter:

"Christian tradition . . . has been inclined to see limits as a necessary component of human flourishing." - page 47.

In other words, the fun of life is in the deciding. And then in living within the confines of your decision. No one can love people in general, we must love specific people. You can't follow a general vocation, you must write or pastor or fix computers or what have you. You have to limit yourself, and then flourish within those limits.

And some of these limits are self-imposed limits - there are parts of our life we choose - but as the quotation above implies, a lot of these limits are imposed upon us. And when it comes to the things imposed upon us - most specifically, I think, the law of God - our choice comes in choosing to obey.

But like a young tomato plant encircled by a chicken wire trellis, we thrive within that limiting, strength-lending structure.

Further, on the same point:

"The fact is, there are a lot of lovely and useful things in this world, and our houses and our lives simply do not have room for most of them. We have to learn to say no, and to say no not just to things we don't need or want but also to things we might very well enjoy." - page 56.

One thing I would add is that, when you really internalize this message, you end up having a new kind of fun: the fun of replacing an item that you have really and truly worn out. If you really do use the things you have and use them to the end of their useful life, well, you get to replace them. And that's fun. You get all the fun of choosing and none of the guilt that comes with choosing something you just want and don't really need.

I'm always shocked when I wear out a piece of clothing - I think it's because my children so seldom do (they tend to out-grow, not out-wear) and I deal with their clothes far more than I deal with my own (there being four of them and only one of me), and so my expectations for the life-span of a piece of clothing is set by their clothes and not my own. But I'm not growing anymore, and so I do wear out my clothes eventually, and sometimes I have to buy new ones, not because I want the fun of shopping, but because I need new clothes.

And that, it turns out, is when the shopping is really, truly, fun.

". . . if there are places to put things and it is simple and convenient to put them there, then picking up the house becomes a kind of active meditation, like putting a favorite puzzle together and seeing the familiar picture - the tidy house - appear anew." - page 56.

I totally get this. It's my favorite part of housework.

Read other people's thoughts on this chapter over at The Quotidian Reader.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Willa said...

We have that experience of choosing a new thing when our major appliances break down for good : ). It's always fun to get the new model especially since the new appliances has new features and my family tends to like techy things even though they don't necessarily make the new appliance more long-lived.

I aspire to that kind of active meditation of restoring the house to order, but am not there yet. I don't have a good visual=spatial memory and I often don't remember where things go so it takes a lot of my brain to get things back in their right places.

R said...

God bless you! When my clothes wear out I'm devastated, because I never can seem to find replacements again. :P & I still hate shopping for them, hah! Oh well. Interesting post! Thank you