Friday, May 31, 2013

The Hidden Art of Homemaking - Chapter 5

Chapter 5 - Interior Decorating

Once again, Mrs. Schaeffer writes an interesting chapter with all kinds of side-lines. I suppose this style may bother some people but I enjoy her almost "stream-of consciousness" writing. It's interesting to see where she goes but always comes back to the main idea of the chapter.

The title of this chapter is "Interior Decorating". Now I have to say up-front - I am not a great decorator. I have a few ideas and I know what I like when I see it but I'm not great at coming up with ideas. And then I have to go shopping and find something that matches my inner vision at a price I can afford. Rarely do I find just what I'm looking for. Actually, I'm looking for every day dishes right now with luncheon sized side plates and cereal bowls that aren't big enough for serving! So far, I have struck out but hopefully sometime soon I'll find what I like. (Add to my pickiness about the look is also a desire to find something not made in China!)

However, Mrs. Schaeffer is not saying to copy the designs in House Beautiful, but instead to find what expresses your own personality, creativity and individuality. I think there is a danger in these days of show homes and a plethora of home decorating magazines, not to mention Pinterest, to feel that the only way to decorate a house is to make it all like a magazine look. Instead, have it reflect what you are interested in and your family life. In our family, we decorate in books. :-) And that reflects who we are as a family. Having been married for almost 24 years, we also have many items that have a special significance to us.* I'm sitting in my living room and everything on the walls has a story behind it. That's special. We visited friends a couple of weeks ago and I loved seeing her new house with her collection of tea pots and vases. Now I know what to look for when I'm shopping for a gift for her because her house reflects her interests and her personality.

One of her main points in this chapter is to live in the here and now, not in the future. Don't wait until you can afford the perfect house with the perfect furniture to start making your surroundings beautiful. She finishes the chapter with an admonition to a single person to start making a home now, not waiting until marriage. This is a good reminder that not only does this make your life more pleasant now, it also expresses one's personality and encourages creativity, which can only lead to personal growth.

"Your home expresses you to other people, and they cannot see or feel your daydreams of what you expect to make in that misty future, when all the circumstances are what you think they must be before you will find it worthwhile to start. You have started, whether you recognize that fact or not." (p. 76)
Mrs. Schaeffer also takes some bunny trails off into furniture building, furniture restoration and helping older people beautify their surroundings when they are unable to do it themselves. She gives an interesting recipe for restoring wooden furniture.

This book was written in 1971, and she says in this chapter, "Ecology is of vital importance in our moment of history." (p. 67) She ties it to our Christian stewardship of the earth.

I have often thought, and expressed to my husband, that Christians should, first of all, be the most "green" people we know and second, if one lives in a modest fashion and is a careful steward, one will be ecologically friendly.+ We don't buy a lot of new things (because we can't afford them), we shop at thrift stores and the like and we try to buy used when possible. All this is friendly to the earth and it helps us too. When I am threatened by discontentment, which is usually tied to what I've seen in a store or online, it's good to be reminded of that which is truly important.

I am reminded again of the importance of surrounding ourselves with beauty. I have plans to put up some photos along our stairway and this is a good reminder that I need to make my plan and put them up.


Excuse the clutter, but I wanted to show some of the special items that mean a lot to us. Pictures on the left were taken by our daughter, Emily. I need to reframe them but I love having them up. The quilt was a gift for our family after Emily's death and means a lot to us. The large landscape scene was a wedding gift from a special couple, books dominate the corner and the mirror on the far right was a gift that says "Stauffer - Bless this house with Love and Laughter".

* For years, any time someone admired something in our house, we would say "wedding present".
We've moved beyond that now. We still have lots of special items that were given to us when we married but now we have other special gifts on display too. Which brings me to another thought, which will probably veer close to a rant.

I've noticed that there is an increasing tendency on the part of couples getting married (and couples having babies too) to ask for either very specific gifts or to say that they prefer gift cards. Of course, this all started with gift registries. Certainly, gift registries have their place and sometimes gifts of money or gift cards can be very helpful or even necessary, depending on the circumstances. (I'm thinking of a couple who are moving farther away. Or even some cash is helpful for the honeymoon. We were shocked to be given, way back in 1989, about $900 in cash for wedding gifts. We bought a camera for the honeymoon and were able to enjoy our honeymoon much more because we had money to pay for it! So cash isn't always bad. But we also didn't ask for it - it was a surprise blessing from God).

However, I think that couples are cutting themselves off from a very great blessing by wanting to choose all their own gifts. For example, you may not realize what you need in the kitchen until someone older and more experienced gives you a tool or an appliance. Or you may wish to buy only "practical" items when actually in the future, those impractical items that are beautiful will be what lasts and what makes your house a home. When we got married, a couple, who we didn't even know that well, gave us a tea pot in the Royal Albert China pattern that we liked. In case you don't know, china tea pots are expensive and I would never have spent the money on one, even if I had thought about buying it. But that tea pot is still in the cupboard and still gets used regularly and it is a thing of beauty that I am thankful for. I think the main point I am trying to get at is to allow others to bless you and not try to control everything on your own because you will cut yourself off from blessings that you don't even expect. As one older friend of ours will say, "Don't take away my joy of giving!"

+ This is probably an urban legend but a good message nonetheless.

The Green Thing

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

That’s right, they didn’t have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they actually were "recycled."

But they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she’s right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power did the drying. Kids often got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for them. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right, they didn’t have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a plastic bottle or cup every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying new pens, and they replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from a satellite 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But they didn't have the green thing back then!


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