The hearth of our fireplace is shaped like a bench. On this six foot wide platform, most days you will find a line of laundry baskets filled with the clean clothes we wear most often.
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I call them the Usual Suspects.
Can’t find your pink tights? Baseball pants? White cardigan? Baby bed mattress pad?
Look to the usual suspects and, much like the identity of Keyser Söze, it is often the last one you’d suspect.
My wife sees these baskets in a more sinister light.
They stand as her accusers.
In vigilant and stolid repose, they wait to ruin good moods, morning quiet time, movie nights, and feelings of accomplishment.
They are always ready to make the case that she has not done enough today.
Yes, she prepared 16 meals today, did dishes, made 15 trips to take kids to potty, bandaged two scraped knees and salved a wounded ego… but she didn’t make time to deal with the sardonic hampers.
I view the hampers as a mild annoyance. They are certainly not so great a problem to interrupt playing with the kids, reading a book, or watching ESPN (or really any other activity I enjoy).
For her they are a sign that she is floundering in the crashing waves of homemaking, mothering, and ministry.
Recently I got to see the hampers from a different perspective.
I mentioned to the mother of a friend, a woman who over the years has become a dear friend in her own right, that when we returned from a trip we would be greeted by Mt. Saint Laundry. She asked if she could speak frankly with us. (I always want to say “No, please plaster me with flattering lies.”)
She made the following points:
1. Your home should exist for function – not beauty.
Whether you live in a home you own, a property your rent, or an apartment above the sacristy, your home should be functional for your life.
Muddy shoes aren’t a great thing to greet people by the front door, but if that is the place that functions best for your family, then that is the best place for them.
Yeah, there have to be limits, but don’t arrange your home to please people who rarely see it at the expense of its usefulness to your family.
2. Your home reflects your priorities more than it reflects your character.
An avid reader is likely to have shelves filled with books. They may have half a dozen open on tables around the house.
If you have children, then there are going to be toys in their orbit.
They are likely to be in the yard, their bedrooms, the living room, the car, and the bathtub. It isn’t necessary to hide them in canvas bins or storage ottomans any more than you should hide your books or your china.
You have children for a season of life.
Make them get toys off the floor so you can mop and vacuum on occasion, but don’t be cowed into believing that having kids without evidence of them in your home is normal or desirable.
Leaving a couple of toys out doesn’t show neglect or laziness, but acceptance of the season your life is in and the weather that comes along with it.
3. Your home should create intimacy not display perfection.
Perfection is phony.
Yeah, we love to see it in magazines and on television.
When Joanna Gaines asks “Do you want to see your fixer upper?” The cry of every human heart is “YES!!”, but the home they show is unoccupied.
Their little celebration with friends and family isn’t weeks later. It’s minutes later.
No one’s home is always (or ever) camera ready. So don’t pretend that yours is.
Instead, let people come into your home and your life with the knowledge that neither is perfect.
Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine is a fantastic piece about inviting people into your real life, even when it’s not perfect. It is also filled with all the delicious recipes she uses when she entertains.
It was said once, that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world that he didn’t exist.
I would suggest that right behind that trick is convincing people that they need to be perfect.
The only perfection we need or will ever have is given to us by Jesus.
His grace is sufficient to erase our sins.
It ought to erase our guilt as well so that we can experience true joy in the everyday living of our lives.