Sunday, February 5, 2012

Keeping House Book Study: Wrap-Up

(vintage kitchen by janet hill)

I've very much enjoyed this study!  (follow the link for the index to all the posts, or else look at my sidebar)  I think the main take-away theme, that housekeeping is daily and both personal and social, but not for those reasons drudging, isolating or menial, was the main thing I want to remember.  Since reading this book, I've tried to look more carefully at the way I, and other people I visit, keep house and what that reflects about their lives and how they think of their responsibilities.

Just in case I have visited you or I ever do visit your house please don't worry that I am looking around with a gimlet eye at stains and clutter and dust bunnies or other possible "frays".   As Mrs Peterson says, we are all a little frayed.  That is why we need each other.

When I visit someone else's house I usually see that way more clearly than I do in my own house -- the love, care and bits of beauty that come out in ordinary flawed homes with ordinary traces of clutter and spills.    This helps me realize how the same things are shown in my home even though I'm often mildly discontented and frustrated with my own surroundings and my own limitations.

This book has helped me detach "care and love and work" from "immaculate perfection and constant striving for the unattainable."    Perhaps in that way it helps that the author is someone who genuinely loves keeping her house, even though she is a well educated  person who could probably have a very successful career.    Her love for the work involved in keeping the house, even while admitting it is repetitious and continual, helps me to see past my occasional "hamster in a wheel" feeling to how keeping house echoes the loving providence of our Father.

The Scripture references especially brought home to me how much God's providence is expressed in terms of nurturing, feeding, providing and preparing food, shelter, and clothing.  

I thought I would go into a part of the last chapter that I didn't really get to last week, and also tie into the subtitle of the book "Litany of Everyday Life". 

Ways that keeping house is like the sacred liturgy:

It is continuing and ongoing:

The routine never ends, though it is not like a wheel where you end up just where you began.   If it is like a wheel it is in the sense of the same elements constantly changing and moving you in the direction you want to go in. 

There are daily, weekly and seasonal changes in emphasis and practice.  

You do different things in the morning in your house than you do in the evening, and different things on Sunday than you do on Friday.  

Some seasons are busier than others.

You can't do everything all the time.   It seems best to focus on different things in different sections of the day, week, season or life.

It can seem overwhelming at first experience, but you move into it by participating.

The book uses the example of someone from a non-liturgical church visiting a more ritualized church for the first time.    I have had this experience since I grew up as an Evangelical and sometimes attended some Lutheran and Episcopalian services before becoming a Catholic.   Getting used to the rubrics took some time.  And certainly it was somewhat the same when I first had a baby, then several young children, then teenagers and babies both, then entered the world of special needs and medical fragility.   I have to say I often wished there was a missal to help me learn the new routines for every new phase of life.    But indeed, the main way to get used to the routine is to jump in and start following along responding to situations as they come up.  That is how a small child learns language and manners, and how to participate in Christian religious life.   Though there are no missals telling us how to be the keepers of our homes, there are certainly lots of books available to guide us and help us think more deeply and effectively about what we are doing.


Thanks everyone who got to the end of this study with me!  I enjoyed reading your thoughtful posts and comments.   If anyone stumbles across this in future and wants to comment, or if anyone is still finishing the book and wants to post or leave a link when you get to the relevant chapters,  please feel free.  

If you don't have your own thoughts to go into this week, I would love to hear where you are planning to go in your house-home related reading after this.    I know many of you try to keep going with a house-related improvement project almost all year around.

From PaperbackSwap  I got a book called The Family Manager Takes Charge which is completely different in tone and emphasis than Keeping House.    It takes the idea of the homemaker as manager of a small business concern and goes from there, including many, many practical ideas on how to make house management easier, more effective and more shared with other family members.   I usually don't get as much from the practical books as I do from the more musing sort, but I think it's a good time to try to upgrade my house management so I thought this one would work for a change of pace.


  1. I have lost traction on reading this book. I'll try to get back to it this week. On top of just getting distracted, I think my 16 yo is reading Two Gentleman of Verona on it for his Shakespeare class, so I am not quite sure where my kindle even is at this point!

    How is your mother doing, Willa?

  2. Willa, are you going to study another book? I loved reading along on this one, but joined in late, plus had already read the book about 2 years ago. I have often pondered the whole idea of home life as liturgy; there are so many truly helpful lessons from the liturgy for us to apply at home. Loved the notion of a "missal" for homemakers! How great would that be? Especially related to your comment about "constant striving for the unattainable". Wasn't that the cause of the Fall, when you think about it? Letting go of that striving is letting go of pride, not an easy task. Amazing what we can learn in the spiritual life just by cleaning house. Oh, and you're welcome to come view my "dust bunnies" anytime! Praying for your mom. Say Hi to your dd for me, please. Sorry for rambling!

  3. Faith,

    I loved your posts so I hope you link when/if you do get around to the rest of the chapters. I ended up buying Kindles for my school-children now that prices are down so it was easier for them to keep their reading on theirs and mine on mine. In fact that is the main homeschool-related expense this year : ) and it was really fun setting up their libraries and buying them inexpensive leather cases in their signature colors : ).

    Caroline, thank you so very much for joining in! When you mention how much housecleaning can teach us about the spiritual life -- that seems so very true and gives me motivation to keep trying to make progress in this area even though I'm not a particularly fast learner!

    I hope to study another book before too long. I always get so much more out of it than by just reading. This was my first actual experience as a leader though I've done "personal" studies on this blog and also been a member in several online discussions. Can you think of any other books that would be worth going through? Chari and I thought of studying a literature one together someday....

  4. I didn't comment-- I don't think-- but I've enjoyed reading along. I read the book several years ago and enjoyed it but didn't have anything to connect it to and wasn't very purposeful in my reading. I wish you'd done this series back then. I love the idea of housework and liturgy and of a missal.

  5. I enjoyed it a lot, Willa! Thanks for hostessing. :)

    I think the idea that stuck with me the most was that housekeeping is "providential care." That takes the stress of never reaching an end goal out of it.

  6. Margaret Kim PetersonFebruary 10, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    Just another note to say how much I've enjoyed revisiting this book of mine through your and others' reflections upon it. It's made me want to hear more of others' musings upon things I've written. So, at the risk of seeming self-promotional--did you know I have another book out? It's called "Are You Waiting for 'The One'?", and it is about love/romance/marriage/singleness/being a grownup in relationship. My husband and I are co-authors of this book, which arose from a class on marriage that we teach together at the college where we are faculty members. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it--it's addressed to Christian young people, to their parents, and to any other folks who want to think about what it means to be in relationship as a Christian person...

    Thanks again,


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!