When I recently wrote about my current daily routine, Erin asked a great question in the comments:
"I don't feel like I'm a natural homemaker and tidier but am a stay at home mom/homeschooler. Is there any books, readings, etc for further inspiration on homemaking/tidying? I'm not a collector but have a hard time motivating myself and end up becoming frustrated when the house becomes cluttered."
This is something I’d love to talk about today (or any day!). I do have some favorite books, and a few websites, that inspire me to stay motivated at home.
Like Erin, I am not a collector (at all), but I am definitely not a minimalist either. I can appreciate the concept of minimalism, but sparsely decorated spaces are not for me - I’m a maker of cozy. If I don’t collect things, and I don’t live with very few things, than what on earth is my home filled with? Being a do it yourself type person comes with an array of tools and supplies that I’m not sure can be avoided entirely. We cook from scratch, sew, knit, garden, preserve food, read a lot, decorate with the seasons, homeschool, work from home, etc. Our home is a place of production! If I don’t stay on top of things, it would be utter chaos in no time. And to be sure, there are busy times in life when exactly that happens. When it does, we take a day or a full weekend (as we recently did... deep cleaning and organizing before the holiday season feels so good), make a list, pull ourselves together and get it done. By the way, if you make a long list of chores on a major cleaning day/weekend, do a bunch of the short chores first. A list can look long and overwhelming, but when you really break it down, many of the chores only take 5-15 minutes (organizing under the kitchen sink, for instance), and it helps to stay motivated for the bigger jobs (cleaning the gutters) when several things are crossed off the list.
I’m getting away from myself, here. Erin did not ask for the details of how I do things, she just wanted to know how I stay inspired - particularly by way of books or websites/blogs. First I’ll share those recommendations, and then I’ll share a few natural cleaning recipes from our home. Not only are they useful (and the natural aromas very inspiring!), but they also make good gift ideas if you’re looking for such a thing.
The books that I seem to reach for over and over are:
1. Home Comforts - This tome is not a quick read. Actually, of the titles on my list, it is probably the least inspiring to me. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that Erin’s question was specifically about “inspiration.” This book has occupied an important place on my bookshelf so it is worth mentioning here. Home Comforts, The Art & Science of Keeping House, is such an unbelievably practical housekeeping guide that what it lacks in the Pinterest-y sort of swoon that I am inspired by, it makes up for in sheer detail and volume. (Am I one of the few that is still inspired by Pinterest and blogs that share beauty? I know we all have dust bunnies... looking at blogs full of dust bunnies is great and all, but it doesn’t really motivate me to clean up my own. Dust bunnies are no more “real life” than cozy moments of beauty.)
The author discusses all of the different elements of running a household, and gives specific instruction on how to perform each task. It’s very helpful in that regard, and I do reach for it on certain occasions, but it is not the kind of book that’s going to inspire me to spruce up my craft space or organize my pantry with baskets and cute labels.
2. Radical Homemakers - This is the book that reminds me why we do what we do. It affirms my belief that a well-tended, well-loved home (which has nothing to do with looking like a page in the Pottery Barn catalog), is good for families, which is good for communities, which is good for the world. Talk about a ripple effect! Radical Homemakers reminds me that even though my husband and I both work full time, we know our home runs more smoothly, and we are a happier, healthier family when someone focuses on keeping and managing the home as their priority. We are not in a current life season where that is possible for our family, but we strongly believe that if both adults are busy wage-earning all day, zero adults are able to devote their full attention toward home. So we are constantly redefining who does what around here, depending on the season and workload we are each experiencing. Communication is key. At the moment, it’s 6:30 in the morning and my husband is running the vacuum before he leaves for work, while I’m spending a few minutes on this blog post before I head out for some grocery supplies to use in my work. Who the heck vacuums at 6:30 in the morning? Well, if that’s the time you have available, then that’s when you do it.
Radical Homemakers recognizes that homemaking roles look very different today than they did 60+ years ago. Moreover, it speaks of ideas and solutions to keeping home, in new and ever-changing times.
The author, Shannon Hayes, empowers the reader to “reclaim domesticity from a consumer culture.” She illustrates how this is done through stories of the many radical homemakers that she visited and interviewed for the book. One thing is for sure, this is not your 1950s homemaking book. This is a book that encourages a household of production over consumption, where families work together to create a new kind of domestic bliss for a new world, a new economy. A domestic culture that does not force a person into predetermined roles based on gender, but rather taps into individual strengths and talents, and puts those to work for the greater good of the household, and ultimately the family.
3. Down to Earth - I’ve been reading Rhonda’s blog for years, and she has continued to teach and inspire people around the world to go about their days with purpose and simplicity. This book feels like the essence of her blog without the screen, so you can hold it in your hands to peruse with a cup of tea and a notebook by your side. Filled with the same kind of wisdom, tutorials and recipes that Rhonda’s blog holds, but without the need to fire up your screen to take it all in. Down to Earth is also beautifully designed, which makes it an extremely enjoyable book to read. Are all of the recipes and ideas a perfect fit for our family? No, of course not, but that is not how inspiration works. There is such a spirit of encouragement and you-can-do-it in Rhonda’s writings. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of anyone out there today who consistently does it better!
4. Make Your Place - This is a sweet little book that is filled with basic cleaning supply recipes, some first aid and body care type recipe, and even a section with gardening advice and information. The design of the book is reminiscent of the style Mollie Katzen uses in her early Moosewood books - handwritten font, cute drawings throughout. There are so many great ideas in Make Your Place for natural housekeeping recipes, it is definitely a favorite place of “how-to” inspiration for me.
5. The Private World of Tasha Tudor - This is my happy place. It isn't a homemaking book per se, but when I am feeling overwhelmed or simply lackluster in the housekeeping department, this book and a cup of hot tea provide the perfect place to center. It helps me to remember that it’s not about tackling an entire room of the house, but that it’s the little corners - a basket of seasonal books, an assortment of cute mugs with tea close by, a jar of flowers, art and craft supplies at the ready, or a stack of freshly folded hand towels in the powder room - that make a home.
6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - I have not read this book, but I think it is worth including on this list as it seems to be THE book everyone is talking about this year. Marie Kondo has developed a process for decluttering your home that people seem to feel is incredibly empowering and useful. I will likely read this someday (even though I am not striving to be a minimalist), until then, what I've gathered so far is that her process takes you through every space and object of your home as you ask yourself "does this item bring me joy?" when deciding if it should stay or go. It seems like a small and obvious thing, but based on the popular reaction to this book, I'd say that many people needed to hear that simple question.
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It’s important to remember that these books could serve as great manuals, but there is no reason to be so rigid. For me, they mostly serve as inspiration, which is exactly what Erin was asking about. When I’m in a rut and need some encouragement, I’ll make some tea, light a candle, and find a cozy spot for twenty minutes with one of the above titles. I always feel better after - and motivated.
A few blogs that I like to visit for inspiration:
Fimby - Renee is a good friend, so I’m a little biased, but she is such an inspiration to me when it comes to managing and creating a well-run home. She is a true home manager (I tend to be a home putterer), so I love seeing how her mind works. Because even though my own driftless/artistic thought process has its place, sometimes you just need to grab the 3-ring binder and organize your thoughts and plans. Renee does that beautifully (although she's gone mostly paperless in recent years, so not too many binders these days).
On Bradstreet - You know that overused expression "so and so is my spirit animal?" Well, Amy is my spirit animal regarding all things home. She does it so well. Check out this post and this one too for insight regarding how Amy considers the ways in which her home is used, and the spaces she creates to support those uses. And while you’re visiting her blog, be sure to visit her Yuletide category. I promise you will get lost in the beauty there.
Down to Earth - I mentioned her book, and now I'll mention her blog. Both are wonderful and have their rightful place in your homemaking inspiration file. For all the reasons I love Rhonda's book, I love her blog. Actually, there are even more reasons to love her blog because the archives go on an on; she has been writing it for a number of years now.
Do you have a favorite blog that inspires you at home? Please share it with us in the comments! I know I'm forgetting so many as I write this.
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I’ve never met a June Cleaver, and I’m certainly not one. I just like making a home that my family enjoys being in. It’s a never ending cycle of fluffing and sweeping and purging and rearranging. I guess that's why words like homemaking or housekeeping are used. There is continuous action and tending involved. We don’t call it homedone or housefinished! I love the process of nurturing our home, just as I love to nurture the people that dwell inside of it. The two go hand in hand.
Before I go, I'd like to leave you with a few natural cleaning recipes that we use in our home. I thought they would be a practical addition to this post as well as inspiring a gift giving idea.
1 tsp castile soap (or natural dish soap)
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups warm water
1/4 tsp lavender essential oil
1/4 tsp lemongrass essential oil
6 drops tea tree essential oil
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Use on any surface other than glass and wood. Shake before use.
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup water
few drops natural dish soap
10 drops grapefruit essential oil
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray on glass surface and wipe off - not with paper towels! Use newspaper or lint free cloth. Shake before use.
1 cup olive oil, or other organic oil of your choice
10-15 drops lemon essential oil
3 drops patchouli essential oil
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray onto clean cloth and dust wood furniture. Shake before use.
Download :: N a t u r a l C l e a n i n g R e c i p e s (click to print)
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I guess that just about does it for me. But what about you? What are your places to visit on the web, or books to read, that inspire you at home? We'd love to hear your thoughts!