… on housekeeping and peacekeeping (and divorce, beauty and love)

Jenny Arndt Living

good housekeepingI have this book that my grandmother gave me, it was given to her when she got married and ironically she has given it to me as I embark on the adventure of divorce. Good Housekeeping’s Guide for the Young Homemaker. I devoured it in one sitting. Every morsel of it holds meaning for me. I need this. I need a book dedicated to household management. I need all the help I can get.

The thing is I am a homemaker and I am a housekeeper. I am also a lovemaker and a peacekeeper. These roles define who I am and are inextricably linked.

I weave the threads of daily life together to create a magic carpet upon which my family rides through this crazy world. I am the maker of the home. While I do many other things, this is where my energy goes. My attention absorbed by the details of keeping house.

homeWe are all homemakers – one way or another trying to create a sense of security and stability in a world where nothing stays the same for very long. I think we are all desperately trying to find this sense of home in a real and tangible way. It is the place to which we return. The bridge that connects our inner world to the outer world. A soft place to land and a physical space where we can center and return to ourselves.

I have become single-minded in figuring this out. I want my home to be peaceful. I need my home to be peaceful. I left my marriage to ensure that I have peace within my home. I created utter chaos in the name of peace.

Someone asked me recently, ‘How do you pick up the pieces after a divorce?’ You don’t. You gather new pieces. You search for beauty in every corner and crevice of life and you extract it to create something new. Everyday I hunt for beauty. I have become a beauty-hunter. It hides in the little details: books on a shelf, a bowl of lemons, the morning light in our kitchen, clean lavender scented sheets, a brightly coloured lego tower, a platter of fresh vegetables, little toes running down the hall… the list goes on – probably forever.

I promise if you keep searching for everything beautiful in this world.

You will eventually become it.

tyler kent white

And so with the beautiful mundane I make our home. Never has the role of homemaker been more critical for myself, or for my children. They are searching for their home – it has been taken away from them. By me.

I know this deeply. My 6 year old son says to me regularly ‘Mommy, how could you do this? I want to go back home. Why are you so mean?’ He also holds me tightly while he sleeps and touches my face tenderly with his hands making me promise never to leave him. He is looking for solid ground. We all are.

beautyI am working it out daily now that my world has become so unfamiliar. When I come home I want to feel safe and sure, inspired and supported. I want to feel like me.

What I have come to realize this past year is that the making of a home doesn’t just happen. It takes intent. It takes focus, discipline, organization and a lot of love. Organization and discipline don’t come so easily to me. And now I am one. A single parent. Alone in this task of keeping house. Of course I am not really alone. I have a village, a collection of beautiful people that bolster me. But in my home I am one, it is just me. I don’t have another person there to share, to bounce things off of, to ask for help. It is lonely and empowering all at once.

My children look to me everyday – Are we okay? And the answer has to be yes. And that is the role of a homemaker. Yes we are okay and yes here you are safe and loved. When you walk through that door you can throw all of your stuff onto the ground and cry or laugh and adjust and figure shit out so that when you face the world tomorrow you are ready and strong.

And within all of the beauty of ordinary life there are the details of daily life – the laundry, the food, the shopping, the money, the toilets … We may or may not deal with them well but they don’t go away.

Someone once told me that I wasn’t detail-oriented. I believed them for awhile but now I am learning that it isn’t true. I just pay attention to different details.

Does everyone feel safe?
Does everyone feel heard?
Is there love? Is there beauty? Are we having fun?

laundryI am working on the other details, learning to tend to them just as lovingly and with just as much attention. Creating order out of chaos I am learning to love systems. I now have a system for everything: buying food, making beds, folding laundry, managing money… I am building a framework, a grid of sorts and then within that solid structure of order we can be our messy selves, have fun and make love.

So with my grandmothers Housekeeping Guide from 1950, an insatiable desire for beauty and the courage to follow my heart I go forward on this adventure of making a home. I would like to believe that if I can create peace in my little corner it will carry far beyond and out into the big wide world.


Jenny Arndt… on housekeeping and peacekeeping (and divorce, beauty and love)