The single most important thing that we strive to do as moms is to make a comfortable, loving home for our families.
And while that may seem like an easy enough thing to do (or simple enough sentence to write), homemaking is a complicated matter, made up of many different activities that are carried out with intent to make a family’s lives easier, cozier and happier.
What is a home?
My thinking on the topic of homemaking has been greatly influenced by Sally Clarkson. The definition of home in her book The Mission of Motherhood sums it up perfectly:
Home—it’s such a beautiful word! It’s the center of our lives, the place that holds us with invisible strings of love within its walls. Home is the place where the delectable smells and tastes of “my favorite food” linger; where the comfort and beauty of “my room” and “my bed” can be enjoyed; where “my dreams” are inspired and begin to grow; where bedtime routines, prayers and blessings give comfort; where the intimacy of deep relationships—unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, encouragement, unselfishness, laughter and memories—is shared with people who have made us a priority in their lives. It’s where appetites for favorite music, movies, books, games, art, and traditions are shaped from infancy on up.
Doesn’t that seem like the perfect picture of what a home should be?
The question then is, “How do we create this kind of home?”
Let’s take a look at how we can work toward bringing this ideal home about, focusing on the 5 points that Sally describes: food, the rooms of our home, routines, family relationships and family traditions.
Cooking for your family
On average, human beings eat at least three times a day, which means that we are usually preparing 21 meals per week…and that doesn’t even include snacks or desserts!
Whew, that’s a lot of food to purchase, store, prepare, and clean up after! It makes me tired just thinking about it 😉
But the time we invest as mothers into preparing food for our family will reap great rewards, not only in the physical nourishment of our husband and children, but in their social and emotional development as well.
Why do family meals matter?
According to the Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, family meal times not only help with keeping childhood obesity at bay, but it also contributes to the building up of children’s self-esteem, teaching the how-to’s of food-related chores, as well as table manners.
The conversations we have at the kitchen table help our kids believe that we consider them to be very important to us, as we show interest in their thoughts, feelings and actions.
Family therapist Anne Fishel of Harvard Medical School, writing in the The Washington Post, says that meal time can also help young children develop language skills, and also give older children an opportunity grow intellectually, as demonstrated by the higher grades they tend to earn.
Researchers also tend to see a lower rate of drug and alcohol use and depression in kids that eat regularly with their families. And when they dine at home, kids tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and micronutrients, and fewer fried foods or sodas.
It is statistics like these that make us want to cook for our families, yet many of us still feel overwhelmed at the thought of purchasing for and preparing 21 meals every single week.
Meal prep is undoubtedly a lot of work, but there is something that can make it easier: meal planning.
How to make cooking easier: Menu Planning
Menu or meal planning may sound like a lot of work in itself, but after you do it a few times, it becomes a very quick task, and one that will save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run.
Essentially, once a week (or however often you prefer), just sit down for 5 to 10 minutes and make a list of all the meals that you want to prepare for the week. You can just do a list of dinners, or if you are super organized, you can make a list of all 21 meals.
After you have your list made, go through the recipe for each meal and write down what ingredients you need in order to make that meal that you don’t already have in your pantry or refrigerator. This will become your grocery shopping list.
When your list is done, you are ready to tackle the shopping. Purchase what is on your list, come home and put everything away in the kitchen.
Now you’re all ready for the week…no wondering what’s for dinner at the last minute because you have your meal plan, as well as all the ingredients to make that dinner.
Learn more about how to meal plan and watch how I do it each week!
Not sure what to put on that meal plan each week? I’ve got lots of family dinner ideas for you!
Making your house a home
The next subject to tackle in our quest to make a happy home is making our house comfortable and welcoming.
Essentially, we want to focus on making the five senses—smell, sound, sight, touch and taste—happy when our family and friends enter our home. According to psychologist Michelle Roya Rad, writing for HuffPost, we can do this in several ways: declutter and organize the house, maintain clean, pleasant-smelling rooms, decorate with color, use positive words while avoiding yelling, show affection, and have fun dinner times.
While we’ve already discussed having regular family meals, and cover showing affection and using positive words further down the page, let’s now discuss how to declutter, get organized, clean the house, and decorate it for our enjoyment.
Declutter your home
Above all else, to be comfortable, a home has to be relatively clutter-free and clean.
When there are toys all over the place, or unfolded laundry piled up on the bed, it’s rather hard to relax and enjoy your home.
If the bathtub is dirty, nobody can take a warm, soothing bath, or if there isn’t a clean coffee mug in the cupboard, it’s hard to enjoy a nice cup of coffee.
These are just a few reasons why staying on top of cleaning and decluttering chores can help make your home more cozy and comfortable.
But before you can really give your home a good cleaning, or get it organized, you need to clear out all the clutter.
Clutter is so insidious because it tends to multiply if not checked. It can also contribute to feelings of anxiety, and steals a lot of your time, because you have to move it around or deal with it in some way or another.
Any donations of unwanted or unneeded items that you can make to local charities can also help others, which is a win-win.
Cleaning the house
After you remove any clutter from around your home, you’ll want to tackle cleaning.
Unfortunately, cleaning is something that has to be done all the time, which is especially true if you have very young children 😉
But cleaning doesn’t only make your home look and smell nice…there are health benefits as well! Cleaning a home can help reduce symptoms in those with allergy and asthma conditions, and it helps to eliminate germs and pests like bugs and mice.
It’s helpful to set up a cleaning routine based on your preferences, and stick to it, making sure to clean each room on a regular basis.
If you aren’t sure how to clean something (don’t worry, we all have to learn somewhere!), check out my guide on How to Clean a House.
How to Organize Your Home
With clutter gone, and the rooms of your house clean, it’s time to move to organizing what belongings you have left.
A few good organizing tips…especially for those of you with young children that have a lot of toys to organize…will help you go a long way. My series on How to Organize Your Home will help you figure out a plan for each room of your house.
Decorating to make your home attractive
Lastly, what really makes a home cozy and comfortable are the beautiful items that are used to decorate it.
Decorating your home doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should conform to your tastes and season of life. For example, if you have young toddlers, it’s probably not a good idea to set out an expensive ceramic figurine in the center of your coffee table. 😉
Paint the walls a beautiful color, place throw pillows and blankets onto the family room sofa, hang lovely pictures on the walls…making the seating areas comfortable and giving your family something pretty to look at. Make your kids’ bedrooms fun and cozy too, with their favorite colors and soft bedding.
In essence, you want to make your home so pleasing that your family wants to spend as much time there as possible.
A plan causes homemaking to be easier
With so much on our plates…cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, decluttering, decorating, not to mention child care, being a homemaker can get overwhelming rather quickly.
But if you create a plan or routine for dealing with each of these tasks, they suddenly become less mind-boggling.
Knowing what I have to do and when I have to do it removes a lot of anxiety from my plate, which means I can enjoy my family even more.
Learning to make a household routine
Just like with making a meal plan, you can make plans for how and when to work on specific homemaking tasks. When you implement these routines regularly, your household flows much more smoothly, you always have clean clothes on hand, meals made and dishes done.
For example, you might want to make a cleaning routine, where you outline what areas of the house you are going to clean on specific days of the week. You might work on cleaning the bathrooms on Mondays, the floors on Tuesday, and so on.
Alternatively, you could reserve a couple of hours on Fridays for cleaning the entire house, so that you can have your other days free.
The same can be done with laundry. Do you have a large family that goes through clothes quickly? You might have to do laundry daily. If your family is smaller, you might get away with doing laundry only once or twice a week. However often you decide to wash clothes, if you do it regularly, you’ll know that your family will never run out of clean things to wear.
Routines are good for your children too
Not only do routines help you to use your time wisely in accomplishing your household tasks, but they are beneficial for your kids as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that routines help to make family life less chaotic, and that “children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent.”
In addition to creating homemaking routines, think about making routines for each section of the day. For example, you might have a breakfast routine in which you cook and serve breakfast at 8 a.m., then wash the dishes, and clean the kitchen while the children make their beds, brush their teeth and get dressed.
The same can be done for nap time, dinner time, and bed time. Regular routines help set the family’s expectations as to what is to be done, and frees you from making decisions all day long.
Investing in Family Relationships
Homemaking isn’t just about keeping a clean home and putting dinner on the table at night. It’s about creating a warm, nurturing environment that our kids can thrive in.
Even if you did not come from this kind of home, you can still make one for your own husband and children.
It’s really all about investing time, attention and affection into your family’s lives.
How to create a nurturing home environment
The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at Vanderbilt University says that, “all children grow and thrive in the context of close and dependable relationships that provide love and nurturance, security, and responsive interactions.”
Meal times, as we discussed above, are just one way to improve the parent child relationship.
Another way to start creating a loving space in your home is by using positive, loving words with your family.
Using words that are encouraging and giving regular, authentic praise to your children will help them grow closer to you.
Avoid criticizing and shouting as well, as these can contribute to an anxious, unfriendly home environment.
You can also show affection to your children through touch, like back rubs, snuggling together on the couch, and holding hands.
As Virginia Satir, a well-known family therapist, said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival, we need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” So make sure that you are hugging your family members often!
Turning off technology in order to be fully present with your kids, and listening to and empathizing with them will also go a long way to developing a closer parent child relationship.
Essentially, you can think of your child as a piggy bank–making deposits into the bank looks like play, praise, listening and hugs; withdrawals look like nagging, criticism and making demands. You want to make lots more deposits and avoid withdrawals.
The importance of family traditions
Finally, making your house a home involves the creation of family traditions.
What are family traditions? According to Dr. Abigail Brenner, “traditions are those special times that bring families together, allowing us to express unity as a family and create bonds that last a lifetime.”
Celebrating special days…and even the ordinary days…with our loved ones can help to further strengthen the family relationship, so we should do our best to create those traditions.
These can be daily or weekly practices, such as Friday Pizza Night, on which you always make homemade pizza for dinner, or Family Movie Night, where you get together with popcorn and hot cocoa and watch a favorite movie together. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy; they just have to signal something that you do together.
Certain traditions can also help shape the idea of who you are as a family. If your family enjoys serving others at church or in the community, your children will grow up knowing that “we are a family that helps others”. It can also be “we are a family that loves to read” or “we are a family that loves to hike”. This identity can also help your children’s self-esteem, as they are an important part of a group.
Ideas for family traditions that you can start with your own family
Starting a family custom doesn’t have to really take that much planning; sometimes, they start with absolutely no planning at all!
Our Friday Pizza Nights started by accident; I tried a new recipe for homemade pizza and the kids loved it so much that they started asking for it all the time. I decided to make it every Friday because it was an easy meal to prepare at the end of the week when I was usually tired. Now it’s become a tradition, and there’s rebellion if they don’t have their pizza 😉
Begin by thinking about some of the activities that you like to do and how you could create a tradition out of it. Like crafting? Make up a monthly craft night and let your kids make seasonal crafts. Like the outdoors? Plan a family walk after dinner on weeknights. After a bit of brainstorming, you’ll have lots of ideas!
But, just in case you can’t come up with any ideas, you can get inspired with this list of 100 fun family traditions.
With all these tasks tucked into our homemaker’s pockets…creating a happy atmosphere, setting up routines and systems, making regular, tasty meals, keeping up with cleaning and organizing, and designing beautiful rooms…we have all the tools necessary to create that happy and loving home for our family that we always dreamed of.