It seems easy to think of my Barn House as a sanctuary. Because of its location, a few miles out of town and tucked back from the road, you do feel like you've found a little unfashionable oasis in this busy world. But don't let that fool you. Cable TV, High Speed Internet, video games and the stresses of life are all still readily knocking at our door, just like it was when we lived in suburbia. The only real difference is that it is a lot quieter.
For almost 20 years, we lived in your typical suburban neighborhood. At our last residence, our neighbors' houses were so close to us we could almost lean out our windows and shake hands with them. We could see into each others' back yards, and our front door was maybe 25 feet from a busy street. Our front yard was a small patch of green grass.
And yet somehow we found ways to make it a home sanctuary. While we longed to move to Montana, or at LEAST to the piney woods of east Texas, the years went by and we had to make do with what we had. It wasn't perfect, but it did seem like we owned a little slice of peace in our cookie-cutter world.
I've thought back to those days and realized that we still do most of the same things now that we did then.
We didn't move to a sanctuary,we brought sanctuary with us.
Here are some simple ways we made our suburban home a sanctuary:
1. Start at the front door. A pot of flowers and a swept front porch says "Welcome." Not just to visitors, but to your family. Some years we didn't have the time or money to put in a big show of annual flower beds, but a few blooms in a pot is always the first thing that says "I care about this place" to anyone who comes through the door.
2. Make a grand entance. Our last house had a PITIFUL entryway. You opened the front door and would nearly run into the steps upstairs. Our lovely Barn House has a sliding door that opens into the kitchen--so tacky. But regardless of our lack of a grand entryway, I ask myself: "What is the first thing my family (or visitors) will see when they come it?" The clutter of mail, shoes, toys, and in our case, dirty dishes? Take a few minutes each day to tidy that up. Be vigilant about the "Drop Zones" and have everyone put their backpacks and papers where they belong.
3. Turn down the noise level. At one point, our neighbors played their music so loudly, it vibrated the pictures on our walls. So pleasant. We had to confront that issue and it nearly came to blows. Our other neighbor's dog barked incessantly. Incessantly, I tell you. That confrontation didn't go well either. But the things we could control, the TV, radio, stereo, children's voices, we worked on. I always felt that kids didn't need to be yelling in the house. Not at me, not at each other, not for fun. Take it outside, kids, or face the consequences.
4. Have some good smells coming from the kitchen. Hey, the Pillsbury crescent rolls smell almost as good as home made, so that counts, too. Even fishsticks and tater tots taste better when eaten together.
5. Guard your family time. My sister Katherine has a great post about this. Our kids used to think we were mean and unrealistic about requiring family time, but I think it paid great rewards. As my husband, Tom, likes to say, "This isn't a way-station, where you just change clothes for the next event. You gotta live here, too." So what if your kids say there's nothing to do here. So what if you're bored. Boredom is good.
6. Create a sense of Order. OK, this is a whole post in and of itself. I will post a complete thought on this on Friday, so stay tuned for that. For today, I will mention Minimum Maintenance. Minimum Maintenance is simply recognizing that a there is a minimum amount of effort that needs to go into each day to make it work. It is a morning (or evening) run through of the house, picking up and straightening. I spend NO MORE than 5 minutes per room, (15 minutes in the kitchen). This isn't a heavy-duty cleaning process, but it is enough to make me feel on top of my day. I've said before how much a timer has helped me, and I encourage you to see how much you can accomplish in 5 little minutes!7. Have a sense of fun. Life can get to be awfully heavy with responsibilities and stresses. Give your children the gift of joy as you look for things to enjoy and treasure each day. In our city life, we played in the backyard, made forts in the living room, and ate cookies whenever possible. We didn't have wide open spaces to run around in, but we had each other and we made some great memories. Regardless of where your sanctuary is, it is really all about the people who live there. I come back to my theory that Peace, Order and Beauty is the three-legged stool that Sanctuary rests on. Ask yourself: in which of these areas can I improve how my home operates day-to-day? My challenge has always been the clutter that threatens any peace and beauty that's going on. Maybe you are there, too. I know I will never be as organized as Laura the Org Junkie, but on Friday I will share more on what has worked for a struggler like me.