Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Home Binder

from the book 'Little House in the Big Woods'
After this was done, Ma began the work that belonged to that day. Each day had its own proper work. Ma used to say: 
"Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday."
                    ---Laura Ingalls Wilder
                    'Little House in the Big Woods'  

Over the past few years, I have become fascinated with the topic of home binders. Plug the term in any search engine, and you will see homemaker after homemaker displaying the lovingly constructed notebook she has made to keep her housekeeping, menu-planning, appointments and other tasks all neatly categorized and arranged. I can't get enough of  hearing these lovely ladies share how each day has its own special tasks, strung on the week like differently colored beads. The binders are as individual as their creators, but in general they are an interesting blend of the practical and the fanciful, printed with pastel computer fonts, quaint little graphics of home blessings and curlicue flowers. Some are laminated so they can be written on, others are quite luxurious and look a bit like an office planner. I believe Martha Stewart's company now makes their own version, which really shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

These videos are oddly fascinating, and yes, comforting to me.Their popularity says that I am not alone in my love of an organized home. Again and again, I am reminded how varied in style and function home-making can be. Some women manage homes that are working towards self-sufficiency; their home binders contain elaborate inventories of their home-canned goods and the meats packaged in their freezers. Others are the opposite end of the scale--glitzy society ladies who focus on lavish holiday preparation, complete with perfect gifts for everyone in the PTA and differently themed Christmas trees. Others are the matriarchs of large families and meticulously record clothing sizes of their growing children, so they are always ready if they come upon a good second-hand deal of jeans or T-shirts. Others have the year mapped out in Bible study lessons, or a home-schooling curriculum, while still others construct ledgers to budget tightly and eliminate credit card debt. And almost all of them contain my very favorite part--the cleaning and maintenance schedule. These ladies rotate every task you could think of, from cleaning the oven to organizing the attic, with a precision that would make any CEO sit up straighter. 

My humble little planner, which I use every day.
I am of German ancestry, and one of the mottoes I always heard growing up was, "If you're going to do it, do it well." And that's what these videos demonstrate--how much it takes to really run a home to its ultimate, and how many widely different skills are involved. There's a whole heck of a lot of self-discipline, attention to detail, time-management and well--stubborn devotion--that goes into taking care of the relentless physical needs of other human beings. There is a reason why nurses, chefs, accountants, chauffeurs, professional house-cleaners and the like are paid quite well for what they do, and one could even argue that they should be paid more. A homemaker touches on all of these areas, to name a few.

'Woman at Desk Writing', Albert Chavallier Tayler,
Since the tsunami of feminism, housework has been viewed in one of two ways. One camp seems to see it as non-work-- as something that can be squeezed in haphazardly once a year, and that's really all that's necessary. These are the folks who frantically throw everything in a closet when company comes, and hope the door won't burst open. They are also the ones who seem so mystified when rush hour hits yet again, and there is nothing in the fridge for dinner--or they stare dumb-founded at the tower of dirty underwear that seems to have materialized from nowhere.

The other camp thinks that housework is work, but it is work made for idiots--or chimpanzees. These are the folks who will wash a dish here, or pick up a few things off the floor there, but they do it as if it is a life insult, glowering at their bad luck and, looking for anything or anyone to free them from their shackles. They loathe what they are doing, don't think it matters at all, and even thinks it devalues them as a person. These are the ones who scream at the kids and the spouse to pick up after themselves, even though no one, including the screamer, is doing any picking up. They can't figure out why work that seems so basic, so menial, is so hard to keep under control. They don't realize that ALL work requires skill, and that is where very smart people are not being very smart.

I believe that both camps live in a perpetual state of anxiety and exhaustion, no matter how much they proclaim that 'they like things just the way they are.' It's sad, because they think that organization and maintenance are synonyms for perfection or outside judgement, like an unknown someone inspecting their coffee table with a white glove. Repeat: this is not about perfection. In reality, home care is just another way to care for oneself, and the standards that you set are just that, YOUR standards. There is no shame, despite what feminism tries to tell us, in making our homes a top priority. Remember the hair color commercial that says, "you're worth it." Well, having a home that nourishes your soul is every bit as important as any cosmetic.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know that any project, no matter what it is, can not expect to go well without care, respect and planning.  If we abandoned those principles in our outside employment, we would be fired in a heartbeat. Everything from a wedding to a weekend fishing trip requires planning--and yet somehow, the care of our homes is something that for many has become slapdash or simply ignored.

Having solid home routines and even a home binder conveys self-respect. It is a statement of self-worth, that says that we deserve to live in a home that is not only neat and pleasant, but also run in such a way that there is no need for rush or guilt. Chores can be organized and broken down in such a way that they, although a constant in our lives, are easier to complete. Ironically enough, the more 'business-like' we are about tackling our homes' demands, the more 'haven-like' they will actually become.

I've done the 'hurry, scurry before company comes' dance many a time, and I've certainly wished myself anywhere but over the kitchen sink, AGAIN. This explosion of dirty dishes is a daily challenge, in fact this picture was taken just this morning. But I will clean it up with gratitude, grateful for the blessing of another homemade meal, and the satisfaction of yet again creating order out of chaos.
After preparing oatmeal cookies and enchiladas for dinner.
Not a clear counter in sight.

But over the years, I've come to realize that a funny thing happened when I began to respect my home and the work entailed to maintain it.  Respect is really sloppy stuff, and it managed to splash all over my four walls and even onto me. The more I planned my work, the more I saw what I got done and the more clearer my goals became. And the more I had a place to rest and to dream.   

This post is getting rather long, so I'll show you my system, learned through trial and error over many decades, in part two.

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