In the early years of my motherhood, I had a walking buddy. We’d strap our infants into their strollers and burn off the baby fat while finally fitting some adult conversation into our week. My friend would often talk about her plans to be the most popular home on the block, you know, the one where all the kids come for snacks and to hang out. Her strategy for cultivating a home that was the neighborhood hub included building a two story playhouse in the back yard, stocking up plenty of bulk goodies from Costco, and providing an abundance of entertainment choices in the playroom.
In those days my husband and I were fostering a four-year-old while trying to learn the ropes with our newborn. I didn’t have many aspirations past just making it through any given day, and definitely getting my children to nap each afternoon so I could grab a smidge of sanity. While I admired my friend’s ambitious plans, I didn’t think I could ever see myself cultivating a home like the one she planned. I barely got supper on the table every night.
As life moved along and my boys matured, I started having more leeway in my days. The chaos of the early stages subsided and I started to think more intentionally about motherhood. Over the years I have practiced some habits that have helped me in cultivating a home I love and where others feel welcome. I want to share a few of those here so you can see if they fit for you.
What does Cultivating a Home mean?
When I think of the word “cultivate,” my garden comes to mind. When I work the soil in my garden I remove weeds and I loosen the soil to optimize the retention and penetration of air, water, and nutrients. Cultivating a home is a lot like working the soil in a garden. It’s often the things we do to prepare our home and hearts that make room for growth. Motherhood can so easily become reactive. We spend our days saying things like, “stop it!” or “put that down,” or “no hitting!” Cultivation takes us out of a reacting mindset into a place of deciding what we want and taking action to help foster what we envision in our home and family.
Ever since the darling Marie Kondo came onto our screens, we’ve all been more aware of decluttering, purging and minimalism. Sometimes these practices can feel a bit forced, like one more thing on our to-do list. Anytime a practice becomes a compulsory requirement, we start to feel suffocated. Instead of being freed up by a new habit we end up burdened.
So, let’s simplify, but let’s do it in a way that gives life and fits us right where we are. Think about all the input coming into our lives – inboxes, podcasts, books, blog posts, social media. Let’s pick one or two favorites and unsubscribe or shelve the rest. If you take life in 90-day chunks (planning out three months at a time) you can figure out your main focuses and then cut out most things that are irrelevant for that season. We can’t do it all. Knowing what is most important in any season gives us a filter for simplifying.
One of the best ways to cultivate a home that feels relaxed and comfortable for you and others is to let go of perfectionism. This seems counterintuitive. When we look at places like Magnolia Home, Pottery Barn, and Pinterest, we see examples of perfectly designed homes without a crumb or dog hair in sight. Do I really need to remind us all that no one lives in those homes? Even when someone posts a picture on the social media, they strategically angle the camera and use favorable lighting and filters.
Let’s give ourselves a reality check and a boatload of grace. Life is in session in our homes. We can be far less stressed when we allow our children to make messes and give ourselves permission to not have it all together – at least not all on the same day!
Savoring the Season You Are In
I remember almost praying that certain days would pass by. If only it could turn 5:30pm and my husband would walk in the door; … or, when, oh when, will my child finally fall asleep? Now, many years later, I miss the days of children climbing in my lap for read-alouds, nightly bedtime snuggles, and all the silly phrases that used to come out of their mouths. The time warp of motherhood has taught me to savor.
Tonight as we sat around the kitchen island eating a pie I had baked for Pi(e) day, I closed my eyes to appreciate all the flavors as berries, flaky crust, and vanilla ice cream melded into sweetness on my tongue. My son looked over and said, “Mom, what on earth are you doing?” I answered, “I’m savoring, honey. That’s when you slow down and take in everything that is going on right in that moment. I’m just really focusing on the goodness of this pie and of us being together to enjoy it.” We can do that with motherhood any moment. Simply stop and look around. Soak up the goodness of your family and life as is. Savor.
Focusing on Warmth and Welcome
So many things vie for our attention as moms. We have to choose what we will make central. I’ve decided that relationships trump everything in our home. We’ve been down some very rocky roads with our oldest son. Through all the hills and valleys, one of my main aims has been to keep our heartstrings tied. I can’t control how my children receive the input I give, but I want to look back knowing I’ve done my utmost to sustain a loving relationship.
Beyond keeping our family bonds strong, I have worked intentionally to foster relationships in our community. We reach out to our neighbors, and even though I didn’t plan it all those years ago, our home is often the place where all the kids gather for snacks and hanging out. We make a point of welcoming friends and strangers into our life and our home. By keeping the door open, we sometimes have 16 year olds popping by to sample my latest baked good, or to ask me to dye their hair. We have children here for craft times. Foreign exchange students join us for supper or to stay here for a few nights, and friends come over to share their hearts and pray.
Our home is a place I’ve worked hard to make warm and open. It’s completely imperfect. That’s how I know you can cultivate a home you love too – right where you are – as is.