This is how I remember my mom--always baking and wearing a cute apron as she worked. But if I dig a bit further back in my memory I can almost hear her sigh and moan, "this house is filthy!" And I know I watched her scrub floors on her hands and knees, probably hundreds of times. But that's not what I remember about the woman who was so good at turning a "house" into a "home" . . .
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It's an ordinary thing--a bright orange plastic tub. But it has been revolutionizing my life this week. Of course I'm being a bit dramatic when I say that this orange tub is revolutionary, but even small things like this really do feel like ideas of sheer genius to me as I fight the chaos that is always on the verge of overwhelming my small, closet-less, 3rd story apartment.
I was like an awestruck child when we stopped at the corner store for milk and bread and found the tower of shiny plastic tubs sparkling in a rainbow of colors. I mean, these are regular old storage containers readily available at any Walmart or Target, but we don't have any stores like that in our urban neighborhood. Ok, the superstores of IKEA and OBI (German version of the Home Depot) are only a 20 minute drive, but these are MAMMOTH superstores and expensive and overwhelming--not places like ALDI where you just run in to grab the daily essentials. And when an item like my plastic tub appears in ALDI, I promise you that I am not the only one who squeals with glee and snatches up one in every color.
My rainbow-colored tubs are now working hard to help keep the toys and the laundry situation under control. These containers are to be commended for a job well-done. But the tub that is going above and beyond this week is the orange one tucked neatly into the narrow space in the cabinet under my kitchen sink. While I still cannot seem to get a handle on keeping a kitchen tidy while feeding my bottomless-pit toddlers and cleaning without the help of a dishwasher . . . I have finally discovered the art of concealment. I realized that if I clear all of the dirty dishes away and hide, ahem, I mean, "store" them under the sink, it is easier to keep the counters scrubbed and crumb-free. Then the kitchen doesn't look so cluttered. And less clutter, for me, means less stress! Of course, I still have to wash the dishes . . . eventually. But small steps at a time are better than none, right?
Now, because my relationship with my living space often seems to reflect things going on in my heart, I feel the need to analyze what "hiding my dirty dishes" might mean. Well, it's not about wanting the kitchen to look perfect. No, I'm over working for perfection in my living space. Now I just work to do what I can, a little at a time. It's about keeping that weight off my shoulders--the weight of failure that I sometimes feel when my inadequacies as a homemaker are staring me in the face. It's about accentuating the positive in this kitchen that is not my all-time-favorite of kitchens and a far-cry from the modestly renovated kitchen I was blessed to have in Colorado . . . but it has beautiful light in the morning and a cute little window that overlooks neat German gardens, playgrounds, and trees.
I know that perfection cannot happen in my home, and I don't want it to. What is better than being a perfect decorator or a perfect housekeeper is simply enjoying the evidence that this home is truly lived in--dolls carefully tucked between couch cushions for their afternoon naps; imprints of my daughters' crayon scribbles mingling with the code of cryptic characters already worn into the wood of our second-hand kitchen table; sweet, childish hand prints smudging freshly painted walls and dancing in late-afternoon light like shadow puppets on our big picture window. No, I'll never be perfect at "keeping house." But I will do the little bit that I can to appreciate this "house" that "keeps" my family warm under it's roof. And I will do it with joy, remembering that my role is simply to make a home and set the stage for the living that happens here.