Safe

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By Starfoxy

People give us furniture. I’m not entirely sure why, but they do. Because of this most of the furniture we own is used, old, and mismatched (maybe that’s why people give us furniture). We’re super cheap so we don’t see much point in buying new furniture when what we have is fully functional.

Awhile ago a friend from my ward came over to my house on fairly short notice so we could practice a duet together. As she was waiting for me to finish printing out the music she sat down in my lime green rocker and made herself at home. After a few minutes she said, “You know, I really appreciate your house.”

I smiled and asked her what she meant. She went on to explain that she doesn’t have super-nice matching furniture, or artfully painted walls, or family portraits in nice frames on every wall. She sighed, and patted the arm of the rocker and said “yep, I feel right at home here.”

I found the conversation interesting because it was coming after the holidays where there was a string of Relief Society activities held in member’s homes rather than at the church building. Without fail every home we went to was tastefully, and expensively decorated with matching furniture and framed portraits. The conversation with my friend told me that I wasn’t the only one who felt slightly inadequate about the state of my house.

To an large extent, it is a problem of size. The only houses large enough to accommodate the whole Relief Society are going to be big expensive houses, owned by affluent ward members. On the other hand the only ward members willing to volunteer their homes for such gatherings are the ones who feel confident that their homes are fit to be seen. In that way it becomes a self perpetuating problem. Since everything we see looks like a Pottery Barn catalogue, we begin to believe that anything less isn’t good enough.

I want this to stop. So I’ve quit giving my house an extra special cleaning for the visiting teachers (we vacuum for the home teachers, but that’s because they’re allergic to cats). If my house is clean enough for family it’s clean enough for everyone. I’m going to have a weekly activity at my house (humanitarian aid quilts) and I’m not going to kill myself trying to fix the ratty cat-scratched curtains before the first meeting.

I hope women from the ward will come and sit in my lime green rocker (with a missing button cover) and feel a little bit safer letting other people into their lives, and their homes. Maybe then we can all start feeling safer letting one another into our hearts.

Starfoxy

Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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22 Responses

  1. Heather says:

    Hooray! Good for you for not letting lack of Pottery Barn-ness stop you from opening your home. Some of my favorite RS shindigs have been in cozy spaces, sitting on wonderfully lived in chairs. You rock! “Mothers who know” know that a clean house is the sign of a wasted life.

  2. kay says:

    My house is shabby, I would say. There are always othere things to spend the money on, i.e. the children. We invite peole over and I hope they notice my fab baking instead as I do bake marvellous things.

  3. Sharon LDS in Tennessee says:

    Go girl.
    Yahoo.
    Real Life.
    Loved your subject today.
    Great points, truth be told.
    The biggest hearts with the warmest arms and sincerity in my past were the sisters with the least……furniture and decorating wise.
    Only thing that really counts is the “cleaniliness is next to Godliness” part and ‘doing the best you can do’ part.
    God Bless the sofas from D.I. and Goodwill cause sometimes it’s all we can do.

  4. Alisa says:

    I love this idea about being a little more real and at the same time fully living life. Letting go of these unimportant issues of pride and not allowing judgments to affect you is obviously going to help you be of more service to your ward and community – and that seems to be all that really matters.

  5. Angie says:

    I completely agree with the post. Nobody can do everything, so something’s gotta give. Having a beautiful home is a good thing. However, the resources that go into buying, decorating, and keeping up a home are resources that cannot be used elsewhere. I guess it’s a balance we all have to figure out for ourselves.

  6. Kristen says:

    I LOVE that style of chair. They are so darn comfy! After I had my first baby, my husband and I were shopping at DI. I found two of those exact chairs for ten dollars each, which for DI here, is super cheap. But the baby started crying and, being a new parent, for some reason my husband absolutely insisted we leave. He went back after dropping me and the baby off at home and they were gone. I cried for hours! I didn’t care that they were green. They matched, felt great, and seemed like a great fit for nursing. We never found two again and they were always out of our price range at $25. God bless your awesome chair!

  7. Emily U says:

    I love that green chair, too. I’ve never seen one like it, but I think it’s got great style.

    I’m with you on the cleaning up. Being real is just fine. I’d like to host things at my home more, but it really is tiny, too small to even host my book group. If you’ve got the space, use it! I don’t think people will judge our homes nearly as harshly as we think they will.

    Recently I was playing with my son on the floor and noticing how dusty & crusty my kitchen floor was, and felt the self-loathing coming on at how I could let things get in such a state. But then I thought, who the hell is looking at my kitchen floors? Even if I had guests, they aren’t going to be on their hands and knees doing the white glove test. Far better to be playing with him than cleaning around him.

  8. Naismith says:

    It’s not clear to me just what you want to “stop.” I do have a house big enough for ward parties, and I have a cleaning person. Why is that a problem for you? I don’t see how it affects you at all. How can I make things easier for you?

    We bought this house because it is four blocks from church, and we dedicated it to the Lord’s service. When a building was under construction/renovation and we had lots of wards crammed into a single building, our house was used for inservice meetings, etc.

    We didn’t buy our house to impress anyone, but to share it. And with a husband who has been a bishop/high councilor, an office to use for private interviews is a big plus. And of course we have to be ready to house or feed visitors at a moment’s notice.

    I agree we should all be comfortable with what we have. But I don’t think giving up my house would help anyone else. I am mystified at the idea of being “less real” because we have more square feet and a cleaning person. I’d rather provide an honest job for someone and have more time for my own children. Wouldn’t it be a form of reverse snobbery and selfishness for me to insist on living in a less-clean house for the satisfaction of doing it myself?

  9. Naismith says:

    Naismith, I think you missed her point entirely. It wasn’t so much about the size of the house but the pressure we feel to keep up with the Jones, and how it can shut us off from others.

    I do get her point. I think it is important. We should all be comfortable with where we are and what we have, and always visit one another to be with that person, not judge their home. That also applies to people who have maid service. I don’t think I should be ashamed of it in order to make others feel better, somehow. It isn’t a zero sum game; we can each feel good about where we are, without comparing to others or putting them down. Can’t we all feel safe?

    And yes, in some ways you having a huge house with expensive furniture and a paid maid DOES hurt others because it sets up unrealistic expectations in their minds.

    But if it is in THEIR minds, what can I do about it? It’s in THEIR minds.

    It’s not like I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I lugged cloth diapers to the laundramat for the first three babies, because we couldn’t afford disposables or a washer. During those years, I never felt such pressure, and I still invited people over to our mobile home.

    [quote removed by admin].

    I just don’t get this meanness. I have never wanted a big house to show off. I just wanted big enough for our family (5 kids) to spread out and find a nook to read. And indeed, at the time we were looking for a house, I prayed about it and promised the Lord that we would use it in his service. Go ahead and laugh at me, since you seem to enjoy that, but it’s the truth. After such prayers, the price on this particular house dropped and things fell into place to make it happen.

    Also, I have no real desire for maid service. I would much rather have my husband home, and we could do it together. But he is not, and I don’t feel any reason to be stuck with 100% of housework, so we have a maid service. I think church headquarters should supply maid service for every church leader’s spouse, and I am sorry for those who don’t have that option. But I don’t see how others benefit if we give up our service.

    But if you just want to laugh at me, fine. However I may be of service.

  10. mraynes says:

    Naismith, this post was not a personal attack against you. No where did Starfoxy say that members with large home like yours are less faithful or have bad intentions in sharing their homes with ward members. The point she was trying to make is that it is easy for sisters to feel inadequate when their home doesn’t look like yours. And Starfoxy never said that this was yours or anybody else’s problem; she made a personal decision to no longer feel intimidated by big homes and nice furniture.

    By your response to Starfoxy it seems to me that you feel somewhat insecure about how you are viewed by others, maybe Starfoxy’s deeper point could help you feel more confident in this matter. If this isn’t the case, then at least a more civil tone would be appreciated.

  11. kaylana says:

    So true! Thanks for this post. My home is so modge-podge. And I love it; it’s me, and it’s not super cutesy or craftsy and I just love that!

  12. Caroline says:

    Naiah, this is what Starfoxy wants to stop. “Since everything we see looks like a Pottery Barn catalogue, we begin to believe that anything less isn’t good enough.” (It’s the sentence right before the one where she says she wants this to stop.) So it’s the feeling of our homes not being good enough that she’s critiquing, not people with big houses and maids.

    Interesting how you had a negative reaction to Starfoxy’s post. I also have a bi-monthly cleaning lady and a decent sized home, but I didn’t feel attacked by her ideas. I applaud them.

    I also don’t appreciate the meanness in anon’s comment about you twisting your desires to have a large house into doing the Lord’s will. I think anon was probably feeling like you unfairly attacked Starfoxy, and was just attacking back, but I would hope that we can all step away from this judgmentalism and give people the benefit of the doubt.

  13. Caroline says:

    ok, so I totally butchered your name, Naismith. That’s what I get for commenting without double checking the name. sorry.

  14. Dora says:

    Thanks for this post! I think we all want to have a place to call home … whether it’s a large house on a hill, or a small closet in the city … where family and friends can congregate and share and love.

    I’m still in the middle of moving and setting up my newly bought condo. Part of the fun is finding a place fore every little thing, and imagining all the good times I’ll have in the future with my loved ones here. It’s the first time I’ve ever had full license with decorating, and it’s great fun. Some new chairs. Some old bookcases. And getting my books out of storage.

  15. Starfoxy says:

    It’s always when you stop checking a thread for a few hours that the exciting stuff happens.

    Naismith- I think mraynes and Caroline explained pretty well what my intentions were, but I can understand that it may have been unclear, especially if one was coming from a position of feeling defensive about having a nice house. One thing that I try to remember is that all of this sort of stuff is highly relative. Compared to my parents I have an incredibly nice house. Compared to my sister I have a pretty shabby house. But we’re all just doing our best to make a nest for ourselves.

    I’ve opted to moderate anon’s comment because that kind of snark is exactly the sort of judgmental behavior I wrote this post to try and counteract.

    To all else thanks for the positive comments!

  16. jks says:

    I agree with much of what everyone has said. I insist on trying to never be embarrassed about what I have whether I feel I have too much or too little. It is all relative and it doesn’t really matter.
    My one thing that I wonder about is the cleaning. If there is time to clean, it is always a way to show a guest that you care about their comfort. I made my children clean the family room today (vacuum corners and dust and everything) because we are having two birthday parties. I want to instill in them the idea that you care about your guests’ comfort. It doesn’t matter how new your couch is or if your floor is old. It should matter whether they are scared to use your bathroom or find a clean dish to use.
    Cleaning isn’t always the most important thing, but if you have ever been in a home that is uncomfortably dirty you realize that cleaning what you can is courteous. My house is less clean with four kids since it gets dirty much faster now, so my standards are lower, but I still attempt to meet some sort of standard that is attainable based on my other competing priorities.

  17. annegb says:

    “You know, I really appreciate your house” 🙂 what a compliment.

  18. Stella says:

    I just read through this post and all of the comments. I was trying to see where I fit in. My sister has a very large house, she has five kids, she keeps kids and house very immaculate.

    I live in a very small house with one bathroom and two bedrooms, but I love it. It fits me.

    She and I feel equally happy and comfortabel in each others homes. I don’t know if it’s ever even been a question. I would be totally unhappy in her home and in her neighborhood and vice versa. It just goes back to the fact that we are all different and we all want different things.

    Being real is important, but I think I have a ways to go on this. I still worry about having a clean house, having nice things around, and I think I might worry about it too much, but that comes from hundreds of years of women being judged by housemaking abilities. Hopefully we are all getting more and more real.

    I don’t think the actual house in question is the point.

  19. Lime green is my favorite color. How much do you want for your rocker? 🙂

  20. Brandi says:

    Bless you and thank you on behalf of moms of littles with old and second hand furniture.

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