Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stay Home, Stay Happy - Chapter 8: Ace Your Space

"To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution." -- Samuel Johnson

This chapter talks about "Creating a Soulful home".

My goal: to create a home that is functional (less work for me) and an environment that reflects our values. Don't we all want to have this kind of home?? Specially the "less work for me" part. It's not that easy with kids around. But it can be worked out.

Start with the family table
Because family meals are central to the soul of your home life. Regularly eating together anchors your family and provides many more benefits than most of us think about. We don't have any problem in this area as we eat together on a daily basis, thanks to hubby's tolerable work schedule. The only concern is that our little one tends to dilly-dally when eating. Sometimes it takes him a full hour to finish one small bowl!

It's not hard to imagine that children and teens who share meals regularly with their parents have better overall diets and finer table manners, but did you know that they are also more likely to have bigger vocabularies and better grades, and are less likely to smoke, drink, have sex, get depressed, consider suicide, or have an eating disorder?

Rules to make your table a family table
  1. Starting with a prayer or thanksgiving ritual sets the tone.
  2. No distractions! Turn the TV off; let the phone ring. Make this hour sacred. Unfortunately, with all the technology (tv, smart phones, etc) surrounding us and becoming part of our daily lives, it is quite hard to "cut them off" our circulation. Guilty as charged!
  3. Get the kids in on the food preparations - they are more likely to eat their food if they help.
  4. Keep dinner conversations enjoyable by avoiding topics like "You never clean your room, take out the trash," etc. This is not the time to nag.
  5. Manners matter. This is the opportunity to teach kids important life skills.
  6. Keep the conversation inclusive. Allow every member to contribute. Don't let one person take over the conversation.
  7. Keep it respectful - no laughing at others or teasing allowed.
  8. Forget about the "no politics and religion" rule! This is a time for families to discuss the world around them and to share and instill your family's values. At the same time, allow your kids to have different opinions and to share them without criticism.

Your home should encourage togetherness
After the kitchen, the most important gathering spot in your home is going to be the living room or family room. In the case of most flats in Singapore though, the living room and the dining room is "integrated". There are pros and cons to this kind of set up.

Create an atmosphere in your home where kids are welcome everywhere.

Creating an environment that encourages reading also encourages togetherness. Learn to associate reading with a positive cozy experience.

Include a small altar, where we keep religious symbols, candles, and prayer books.

Create other tangible symbols of what you share together as a family, such as cherished photos and mementos of trips and special occasions.

Creating a designated space that helps your family understand its identity and values brings history and meaning to your gatherings.

Get the most form your space
Anything you can do to save time on housework in your home is time you can spend doing other, more enjoyable activities.

Consolidating activities into one room allows you to eke out together time while you take care of necessary chores.

Try to create a space that kids can happily retreat to when grown-ups need some alone time.

The outside matters too
Don't forget the outdoors when it comes to your home.  You should always find ways to make the outdoors just as inviting a place to be together as indoors so you can enjoy fresh air and family bonding at the same time!

Little things mean a lot
Every home has its own style and rhythm because every mother and her family are so very different. One of the greatest pleasures of being a mom is creating a warm and inviting place for everyone to come home to. We just don't set the scene, we set the tone.

It's up to us to make the home a sanctuary as opposed to a source of friction or stress.

Home as sanctuary
Your home is a sanctuary from the outside world and the place in which the most important things in life unfold. Creating your family's "sanctuary" is an important task that requires thought and love.

Kids are less resistant on the days I have the patience to explain that picking up mess is more than a chore; it's a way to show respect for our home and what we do to make it nice and cozy for them.

Creating a home that feels like a sanctuary from the outside world is especially important for family members who have to spend hours away from it at work or school. 

The lessons in love taught in the home have a greater impact on the world than the things that happen in places of commerce or government. Indeed, those institutions are just that - institutions. It is the people who inhabit those institutions - their character, honesty and the passion that they bring to their work - that can make those agencies forces of good in our world. These virtues are first - and best - learned in the family home, where members learn to love, share, and care for one another.

Am I creating a soulful home? Is my home a sanctuary?

1. When  think of my home, the word that comes to mind is:

a. Love
b. Warmth
c. Chaos
d. Fun

2. On a typical evening after the kids go to bed you will find me:

a. reading in my favourite chair. I love the quiet.
b. fast asleep. I'm exhausted.
c. alone, watching mind-numbing TV to forget about the laundry and housework that's piling up.
d. hanging our with my hubby, talking and watching our favorite show.

3. When I reflect on my day in the evening, I feel:

a. proud of what I accomplished
b. tired, but grateful
c. resentful. I'm tired of being tired.
d. happy to be alive!

4. On a scale of 1 to 4, I would rate my home's function and beauty as:

a. (4) I've worked hard and found clever ways to make my house organized and charming.
b. (2) I wish my spouse and I agreed on the importance of aesthetics in a home so we would follow through with more of the changes I think it needs.
c. (1) I hate my house, and that's why I don't like having company.
d. (3) It's not perfect, but I'm making improvements and have a long-term plan.

If you answered mostly a, b and d, then your home is your sanctuary or it is on its way to becoming the place you want it to be for you and your family. If you answered mostly c, you need to consider the psychological and family benefits of a home that meets your family's needs and makes your day easier. You are home most of the day and deserve a space that works for you and makes you proud.

I can safely say that I have somehow made our home somewhat of a functional and semi-comfy place to be. Of course, there will be times of chaos especially after the kids play around during the weekend leaving board games and toys on the floor, or when my paper files are not in the proper places. But in general, I have a space that works for me during the day - with my computer cum work table in the living room where everything else is accessible. It's not my "dream work station" yet, but it's getting there. 

Everything is a work in progress. We add bits and pieces of us as a family to our living room every time. New toys on display in the glass panels. New photos from our family holidays. Medals or trophies received by the kids adorn their respective rooms. Memories are created as mementos add up.

So what's your home atmosphere like?

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