Monday, November 17, 2008

Week II -- Day I -- Making a House into A Home

Hooray! I've got my home office workspace in order again (pictures to come), I've got my "Active To Do" file waiting for me to do some office work, and I've got my purse re-organized. It feels so good to have re-vamped my home management center, and I'm so thankful to God for giving me the time and the energy. I'm also thankful for all of you who are following along with me, as your accountability is helping me take my home keeping skills higher. Thank you.:)

How's it going for every one else? The next logical thing to talk about would be our calendar or home management notebook. I'm going to save that for December, however, so that we can start next year with our calendar in hand.

I figure that everyone's into holiday shopping, cooking, and crafts right now, so we may put off doing some more complicated craft projects -- such as advanced knitting and quilting -- until January. It's always nice to have a creative project going when the holidays are over and the really cold weather of winter hits. (Since I live in Tennessee, some of you in colder parts of the world may laugh at my definition of really cold weather.)

So, for this week, let's talk about this fundamental basic: Making a house a home. We'll try to work in some Christmas crafts as well. Julieann's working on an article for us about the attitude of the homemaker. Those who read her blog know that this is one lady who's so happy to love her family and her home.

Now, on to making a house a home:

Assignment #1 for your Homemaking Book -- Think about it, write about it!

Ask each person in your family what makes a house feel like a home to them. If you are married, be sure to start with dear hubby. While there are some universal things that most people respond to, there are differences in what makes a house feel like a home to one person and what makes it feel like a home to another.

Assignment #2: Choose one of the following: a) Study John 14:2 and Bible references to heaven, the home that Jesus is preparing for us. b) Study every verse in Proverbs related to the home c) Study about the widow and her husband who hosted Elisha (II Kings 4:8-10) and verses about Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who hosted Jesus.

Pray for God's will to be done in your home and to know God's desire for your home.

If you are a child, teen, or young adult still living in your parents' home, ask yourself what you can do to contribute to making your house feel like a home. Also, ask yourself what you can do to make your personal space feel homey. If you learn to keep your personal space neat and homey now, it will help you when you have an apartment or home of your own to manage later on.

If you are single or widowed and live alone, do not think that this does not apply to you. Your physical and mental health will benefit if you keep your living space neat and homey. Also, you will feel more inclined to have friends and family members over if you know you have created a homey space. Even a shared room in a nursing home can have homey touches.

Take a "tour" of your home. Bring your home keeping book and a pen or pencil with you. Jot down things you feel happy about and things that need to be done. Start with just the outside for today. As Ann Ward who wrote Training our Daughters to be Keepers at Home says, "A neat, well-cared for yard, garden, walkway, and home area speaks of good stewardship and organization. It says someone cares."

Does the front door need repainting? Do the door handles, knobs, and kick plates need polishing or replacing. What season is it in your area? Do you need to do some work to prepare for a change of weather? (We're still experiencing a long, sort of summer fall, but we've also just had our first good frost. So, I have some perennial plants to cut back and some annuals to take out.) If you're already in deep snow by now, there may be only so much you can do at the moment. But, take an inventory anyway and remember it for when you can get to it. People in the Southern hemisphere may be transitioning from winter and spring to summer, so they may be planting flowers. Others live where there is little variation in season. Tailor your outdoor plan to where you live.

What about outside lighting? Step outside of your home at night and approach your house as if you were a family member coming home after dark or a guest coming over for dinner in the dark. Does your house have a soft light that feels welcoming? One beautiful look is a soft lamp inside seen shining out through sheer curtains. You don't have to run the electricity bill up. In these days, it's best not to leave every light in the house burning so as not to use up resources and money. However, one small welcoming lamp in the entry way is nice on occasions. A large candle might work as well.

Also think about outside lighting for safety reasons. Thieves work under the cover of darkness. Burgers are much less likely to approach an area with at least a little outside lighting than they are a dark place.

How are your outside door mats. Do they need cleaning or replacing? Mine clean up with a good rinsing from the hose.

What about outdoor lawn furniture? Does that need to be cleaned, put away, covered with plastic, or -- if you live down under -- brought out of storage and freshened up?

How is your mailbox?

Do you have any dreams for the front of your house and lawn?

How are gutters? What about porches or decks? Does your driveway need to be sealed? Do you have a mental or written checklist of what exterior home maintenance needs to be done for your house? Are you aware of seasonal things that need to be done for the exterior. Your dear hubby or father or son may take care of this type of maintenance. If so, be sure and express gratitude. Also, be aware of what is done in case you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to ask or hire someone to do it. My hero is working hard to clean and seal our deck, and I am so appreciative! He's saving us a ton of money by doing it himself, rather than hiring someone to do it.

Do you plan to do any decorations for Thanksgiving? Christmas? Any other winter holiday? Do you have something up already?

Don't overwhelm yourself. Don't feel that you need to take care of all of these things at once. We are just making a master list that can be worked on as you have time, money, favorable weather, and energy. Even small changes in your home's exterior and yard can do much to brighten your home and make it welcoming. If you have several children at home, organize an outside work time on a mild day and let them help you make the house look neat and welcoming.

If you built your house or found your dream house on the market for the right price, you are probably happy with the exterior style of your house. On the other hand, you may have had to settle for what you could afford or what was available at the time, and the exterior may not be your favorite style. It's best not to fret about that. Concentrate instead on what you can do to make the house look welcoming. Window boxes, a climbing rose, potted plants on a stoop, and new window shutters are some examples of things you can add to soften the front of a plain looking house. Be grateful for what you have and do the best you can with it, and you'll be snug and happy in your current nest.

In the book Gone with the Wind, Tara -- Scarlett's family home -- was not a pretty house. It was a farm house that had been added on to, and it had awkward lines. But, Scarlett's mother made it look pretty by the way she arranged plants around it.

I live near an area of old ranchers, and I love driving or walking through that neighborhood to see all of the creative little things that people have done to individualize their houses. Some of actually rebuilt the fronts, but others have done wonders with inexpensive, yet charming, touches. These houses probably looked very much the same when they were built decades ago, but, over time, they have each taken on their individual character. You can speed up the process of giving a home that loved-for and lived-in feeling by adding a few cosmetic or landscaping touches to your exterior.

While we're on the subject of yards, houses, etc., notice other people's houses and exteriors -- not in a critical way -- but in order to gain ideas that you might use. Or, read home and gardening magazines at the library and take some notes.

Your yard and exterior don't have to be fancy. Sometimes, simple is actually prettier. The key is for it to look neat and welcoming and neither run down nor forbidding.

Some brand new neighborhoods can be a bit bleak, as the landscaping is still bare in many years, and neighbors may move in and out so frequently and stay so busy that you may feel somewhat isolated. If you live in such an area, try this: make a chart of the streets in your neighborhood. Take note when someone new moves in. If you hear that someone has a baby, also take note. Bake goods and take them to these people. Invite people for dinner. Don't give up if people are busy and it takes a while to get them over; plan a month ahead if you have to.Wrap them well in case no one is home and you have to drop them off. Be the woman (or family) who prays about every street and every house. Do what you can to love your neighbors and make your neighborhood feel like a community. This will, in turn, bless you by making your home feel more like a home.

My friend did this in her neighborhood. Once, when the woman across the street from her was concerned about another family's crisis situation, she asked my friend what this family needed. When my friend told her, she said, "I knew you'd know." My friend lived in the only rental house in this established neighborhood of long term neighbors. Yet, it was her love and thoughtfulness that became the unifying thread in the neighborhood. You never know how great the influence of one persistently kindhearted person will be, even if that person faces some rejections along the way.

This idea will also work for those who live out in the country and whose neighbors may be spread out over several miles. For generations, the same families lived in the same rural area, and everyone knew everyone. That's how my parents grew up. Today, however, even rural areas are experiencing people moving in and moving out. Do what you can to foster a community feeling.

Also, while we're talking about a welcoming exterior, what type of welcome do you give your family members when they come home. Consider especially your dear hubbby, if you are married. While it is not always practical, try to have noisy work done before your family members come to the house. This means doing your laundry and running your dishwasher in the morning or in the evening, after supper. Again, this is not always practical, but if you can manage to have a quiet household when family members come in from the day, it's soothing to them.

Check your appearance a few moments before you think your husband is going to come in. People make fun of this tip, which was often mentioned in old-fashioned home economics books and ladies' magazines, but it's a good one to follow. Men are very visually oriented. It is soothing to them to arrive home to a woman who has put herself in order. (Lest we get down on men for this, don't you like it when your dear hubby looks neat, too?). Giving a little thought to your appearance says to your husband that you care for him. Don't worry if you are no longer as young as you once were or if a few wrinkles and white hairs have set in. Just take pains to be neat and fresh.

While your children are very young, teach them to wash hands and comb hair before coming to the dinner table. The whole family benefits if everyone brings a neat and clean appearance to the meal. Remember, we're not talking about fancy or glamorous. We're just talking about showing basic consideration for others in how we present ourselves.

Do you stop your work to greet each family member who comes in? Do you have a hug and a kiss for each one? What about having a filling snack on hand, if the timing is appropriate, or the smell of something delightful cooking in the oven? Those little things mean so much to our husbands and children! Other little things you can do are to have a scented candle burning (especially on those winter evenings when dark comes so early), to have some soft music playing, or to have the main family area picked up and in order. Find out what makes your family members feel welcomed.

Teach children to greet parents and siblings, as well. If you are a child or teen at home, what can you do to help each person feel special when they come home? Have you given Mom a hug and a kiss today?

What do you do to make yourself feel welcomed when you come home? What about keeping fresh flowers by a favorite chair your Bible or a good novel open on a nearby table? How about leaving out a tea bag and your favorite cup? What makes you feel as if your house is a home?

Extra resources:

Your entryway/foyer

DIY: exterior improvement section
winter home maintenance
summer home maintenance
A widow talks about homemaking

Also check your local extension service/garden club/university garden pages for information about your areas lawn and gardens.

Remember: We're trying to go from kindergarten to earning our Ph.D. in home keeping in just one year, so we're posting a lot of material. Just work at your own pace and choose what works for you. My plan -- Lord willing -- is to leave this up for a few years after we finish so that you can refer back to it as you have time. The purpose of studying home keeping is to increase our satisfaction in our homes, not to stress us out. So, work at your own pace and according to your own interests. Make of this course what works for you!!



Wenonah4th said...

I'd be happy to write something for you about moving, etc. We have not lived on base anywhere, so I don't have direct insights to that (although some of my friends whose husbands are of comparable rank might help. However I can probably provide something useful. Let me know when you want me to do so.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Katie:

I left a reply on your blog. I think you'd have lots to share.

Wenonah4th said...


Alas, we're in an apartment so there's not much outdoors right now! But I think you might have prompted me to see what kind of wreath or cornucopia I could put up on the door.

Ridenour Family said...

My mom and I just had a conversation on the tips about welcoming your husband home, and how many modern-day women circulate emails with the textbook material, thinking it is the most hideous, hilarious thing! We discussed the benefits of this mentality, and feel that our relationship could certainly benefit from these practices! Thank you for touching on this, as well as many more wonderful points! I'm trying to keep up! (:

Buffy said...

This looks like being an interesting blog. I'll be coming back to check out your future posts.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Katie:

I'm sure your door decoration will be lovely.

Hi Ridenour:

Yes, I've seen the posts that make fun of greeting your husband and especially make fun of preparing your appearance before he comes home. But, no one ever thinks of the other side of it. If, by chance, my husband is at home, and I come in from somewhere, I love it when he greets me. And, we all enjoy being around someone who pays a little attention to their grooming. Greeting everyone who enters your home -- especially your husband -- is not only part of making a welcoming home, it's common courtesy. I'm glad you and your mother are talking about this.

Hi Buffy,

I'm always glad to see you! Well, hear from you? Find you in my corner of the blog-o-sphere?

Gururaj said...

Really, these are the things which differentiate a home from a house
Sydney plumber

Pauline said...

Hello again. I have only finished assignment one and two of this post but I thought I would link to it here before I add another "O) When I think about the front of my home. Thank you for a lovely and thought provoking post on making a house a home!


Pauline said...

Hi Elizabeth... me again! I have two other posts pertaining to your post. I found it very thought provoking- an area that I haven't spent enough time on before I don't think.

Thank you!


Mrs. U said...

Hi Elizabeth!!!
What a wonderful post!! And there are MANY things in this post that could easily be longer posts in themselves!!!

I love reading your blog. I always come across encouraged and challenged!!

I would love to write about this post (particularly the part about being neighborly) on my blog. Would that be alright? If I don't hear from you and I do post, PLEASE let me know if you would like me to take it down.

Also, I am SO thankful you plan to leave this blog up BUT what would you think about making this into a book? I think it would be WONDERFUL and I know that I would DEFINITELY purchase it! Just a thought. :)

Mrs. U

Pauline said...

Hi again Elizabeth

Well, I have finally finished the work I wanted to in the front yard and I am really pleased with the result! This is my final link to this project. Sorry there are so many "O) And I think what Mrs U. said was spot on!

Thank you again and again