Monday, November 7, 2011

Keeping House Litany -- Preface

She watches over the affairs of her household -- Proverbs 31:27
Keeping house can be a very mundane activity. It is certainly repetitive, and the kinds of work that it involves are varied enough that few people enjoy all of them equally. But at the very same time, housekeeping is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of Christ as we encounter him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests.  -- Margaret Kim Peterson
In this preface, Margaret Kim Peterson tells about three experiences she had that led to the writing of this book.

1.  Talking to two friends who worked full time outside the home and finding that they had a deep longing to keep house, to have time and margin to do household tasks without trying to fit them into the corners of a busy life.   That made her realize that the desire for a well kept house and time to nurture one's home and family ran deep in at least some women.  

2.   Going to a party where she (the author) found that people were astonished and somewhat disapproving that she "just" kept house and only worked part time, even though she didn't have children.   That made her realize how discredited housekeeping had become in our modern age. 

3.  Being able to help a friend who gave birth to a child very disabled with Down Syndrome, who eventually died.   Since her schedule wasn't as hopelessly crammed as that of most people around her, she was able to bring meals, help her friend get the basics done, and just be there for her and her baby daughter.  That made her realize that "keeping house" extends beyond the boundaries of the home and into the community; it incorporates hospitality and kindness to friends and neighbors.   

Because of these experiences, she started wondering whether the Bible had anything to say about keeping house, and her research and thinking resulted in the book.

While reading I started thinking about what experiences of my own made me interested in reading this book in the first place.  Unlike the author, I don't really naturally enjoy housekeeping -- I like it sometimes, but at other times I find it a burden.     And I don't necessarily feel like it's enough to keep me busy, at least not when I don't have babies or lesson plans to occupy my time as well.

I think I have a hard time with household duties because they are menial and don't pay.    My default way of thinking is that it is a lot of work with very little tangible return.   It is repetitious and it has to be done again and again. 

But when she mentioned that she had studied Scripture and history to find out what it had to say about housework, it pulled me in because it showed she wasn't going to just take for granted that housekeeping was proper women's work -- she was going to dig in and make a case for its dignity and value.

And I know my attitude towards keeping house is not quite right, so I read the book hoping it would help me see things in a better light.

And when she said that she doesn't thinking of cleaning as synonymous with housekeeping -- that to her, keeping house has more to do with providing a home for her loved ones than having a spotless chandelier or whatever, that opened up a new perspective to me.  I always thought housekeeping was basically house cleaning, but here she was saying that keeping house was like being the lady of the household, not so much the scullery maid that has all the dirtiest jobs to do.   That made me think.   Is there something to "keeping house" that's not necessarily identical to just being an immaculate house-cleaner?  Maybe there's hope after all ;-). 

 Finally, I'm blogging about it because I've found that blogging about my housework helps me think about it more positively.   In fact, most of the most substantial improvements I've made in the house have come about because I've blogged through it.   Seems that writing and taking pictures gives me that tangible feedback and sense of accomplishment that I usually don't experience. 

Discussion (optional -- use if you like or just follow your own rabbit trail, by commenting or a link to your blog post)
  1.  What about you?  If you've read the book, why did you pick it up?  
  2. Have past experiences of yours affected how you look at "keeping house"?   
  3. What do you hope to get out of the book during this reading?  
  4. What kind of thing do you hope to change about how you do things now?

As for me, I'm hoping to upgrade my kitchen skills -- I'm in a cooking rut recently.
I also hope to be more proactive about hospitality.  Something I'm praying about. 

I'd love to hear any thoughts or comments.


  1. i do understand about attitude. A conscious effort can bring far more internal reward. Hard to express actually. Finding creativity in our home management role really helps, such as a change in cooking.

  2. The book sounds fascinating! I am a homebody who would love to be the ideal homemaker. Tidy and welcoming is more my goal than picture perfectly clean ... but I'm afraid I'm not achieving either one. Especially the latter. I wonder if my library can get this book.

  3. Willa, I responded on my own blog. I figured I might as well make the announcement to everyone at the same time.

  4. The most striking part of the preface for me was:
    "...a Christian home, properly understood, is never just for one's own family. A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone."

    I am in that minority too - ALL of my friends work at least part-time while I remain unpaid and looked upon as an oddity. Yet it is me who gets called to pick up their sick child from school, or to come over in the middle of the night to stay with children while they take their husband to the hospital, since I don't have work commitments for the next morning. Not that I am a closer friend, but I am available. I would not be available for these and other requests (and my own offered helping) if our family did not place a value on keeping house.

  5. Very interesting! I have no idea where I am in the book. I started reading and forgot to note whether I've finished the Preface and moved on! I'm finding this very inspirational. I am on a kick to simplify and beautify, get rid of as much plastic as possible in my house and get back to doing some real cooking instead of resorting to carry out so much.

    Thanks for starting this reading group. I had never heard of this book before, but I am finding it is wonderful.

  6. My post is up:

    I'll be back to comment more after our homeschooling day is done!

  7. I am so happy when you write about housekeeping, Willa; I think in these matters we are kindred spirits. :) It often feels silly writing so much about cleaning and housekeeping when it's something I really am just not good at and don't particularly enjoy. But, slowly, bit by bit, I do want to and sometimes think I do, see refinement.

    The main thing I want to focus on right now, through this book and through my series on Reasonably Clean House and then Large Family Logistics, is actually *doing* routine cleaning. I've had lots of great plans, but never actually followed through for more than a week. So, it is more the cleaning side of things, but it does help my attitude when I know the basics are being taken care of, that I'm not neglecting my duty.

    At the beginning of this calendar year my husband and I decided we wanted to focus more on extending hospitality. We have, and we have been greatly blessed by it. So I will also be taking a hospitality angle quite a bit in my posts, I think.

  8. Thanks for prompting this read and this discussion. I'm happy to join in...I hope I can keep up!

    Here is my post:

  9. I wish I had that kind of positive attitude toward housework. Instead I tend to view it with resentment. It's something I need to work on.

  10. Here's my post:

  11. Well, even though I'm hopelessly late in joining the party, I'm blogging through this book to. Thanks for the inspiration Willa! My first post on the preface can be found at if you're interested.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!