Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring on the Modern Homestead

With temperatures in the 70s today, it is time to think about preparing for spring! Whether you live out in the country, in a town, suburb, or urban center, you can begin a return with me to the homesteading approach to living. I already have flowers budding and blooming in my yard! The robins, doves, and other birds have returned, and before you know it, the time will come to plant your garden. So for now, make a list of projects you want to accomplish this spring. Using either a notebook or individual note cards, write the name of each project at the top, and then a list of steps and materials needed to complete it. And ladies, it is fine to make lists for your husbands, too!

Meticulous cleaning is an obvious spring endeavor, but I want you to go deeper this year. It is hard to keep a cluttered house in reasonable order. So throw open the doors and windows, and start looking around. Do one room at a time. The bedroom should be a sanctuary, so always keep this room clean, dusted, vacuumed, and uncluttered. A peaceful room encourages peaceful sleep, and a messy room does just the opposite. Also set up at least one outdoor living area which is a sanctuary. This can be a screened (or not screened) porch, a patio, a bench in the yard next to a birdbath, the stoop at the top of your apartment steps, or a tree house. You need areas to which you can retreat while sorting out the rest of your spaces.

We will enlist the help of The Wabi Sabi House, by Robyn Griggs Lawrence, in order to visualize our pared down homesteads. Colors are earthy, the outdoors connects with the inner dwellings, natural materials are used, sound is reduced, life flows with the seasons, beauty is imperfect, and tranquility prevails. Oh, and there is a noticeable absence of stuff. Decorations are sparse but make a statement and are not mass produced. Nor is the interior stark. Handmade and vintage objects, unique treasures associated with cherished memories, and well-worn, well-loved artifacts abound. The home is homey and is a respite from the clamor of the outside world. Nothing is allowed that doesn't have meaning, usefulness, and/or beauty (and preferably contains all three!).

Some say that we can't return to a past era and way of life, as the protagonist played by Owen Wilson in the movie, Midnight in Paris wished fervently to do. I can relate to him. I have always felt that I belong to another time. A more romantic, more glamourous,  more magical, or more innocent time. Yes, we live in the here and now. You could replace your car with a horse and buggy, but you probably won't. Still, you could check your email less often, say, only once a day. Limit television viewing to 5 hours a week, or turn it off for a whole month (gasp!). For the love of God, at least unplug your children. Cell phones should not go to school and should be handed over at bedtime. A TV should never be in a child's bedroom (or yours either), and neither should a computer or video games.

I'm going to give you food for thought and track my own progress this spring. Let's see if we can, after all, turn back the clock just a smidgen to the days when humans were vitally connected to the earth, when kids played in the backyard using their imaginations, clothes were hung on the line, and women baked their own bread. Let's just experiment. Change our habits. Reinvent ourselves, our families, our lives! Let's wake up from our malaise and breathe the new air. A little at a time, one day at a time, here on the modern homestead.