Monday, April 19, 2010

The good life

It's always interesting to find more names that exist for things you were already doing. This week I discovered two new ones:

Radical Homemakers
Reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture

Urban Homesteaders
Sustainability, economy, pleasure

I was recently at a party where people were talking about their jobs and what they do for fun outside their jobs (running, music, etc). When asked, I felt kind of dumb answering, "I like keeping house."

But I do enjoy it. I always thought I would make a good 19th-century farmwife, except I didn't want the isolation of living on a farm. But even in a small urban apartment, I find it satisfying to do things myself. Keeping house wouldn't be an occupation if we ordered take-out or bought pre-made food. If we dropped our laundry off from somone else to wash and dry, or even if we used the dryers downstairs. If we hired other people to clean our space. If we bought all our clothes and furniture new instead of adapting things other people don't want. To some people these are all chores, but to me they're (usually) small pleasures.

This week I took a sick day, but wasn't too ill to get stuff done around the house. I moved the furniture, cleaned everything from the baseboards to the inside of the microwave, painted a dresser, made a birdfeeder, baked bread, watched a movie, and planted lettuce and swiss chard in windowboxes. It was the best day ever.

I don't want to quit my job and raise chickens full-time. I think I owe the world better service than that. But I would like to take a day every two weeks or so just to . . . keep house.


ajb said...

Keeping house is a big job, especially if one tries to do it sustainably and frugally. I also enjoy it and feel a similar hesitation in mentioning that I do.

Currently, however, I feel like I am easily pulled in by consumerism and have to struggle to simplify. I enjoy mending clothes, cooking from scratch, and growing/gathering food, but I'll often find myself buying or wanting things I don't necessarily need. I also like to keep lots of things just-in-case, which can cause clutter. Have you wrestled with these problems at all? Do you have any advice?

Alex K-G said...

My mom has always had a similar attitude (if a somewhat different personality) to you regarding doing such things around the house. She's settled on "urban homesteading" as the term she uses for what she does. I'm a big fan of it too. You're great, Julia. I aspire to be more like you.

Julia Wise said...

Allison -

The trick is to appreciate beautiful things without needing to possess them. This is, like, the hardest thing ever. I find it helps to find it another good home. If I find/own things I don't really need, I try to make sure they end up with someone else via craigslist, freecycle, the thrift store, the free table in the basement of our building, etc. That way I know someone is enjoying it.

As for the "just in case" things, as time goes on I get a better feel for what I'm actually likely to use. And in a small space, I have to cull things I don't use. (And things Jeff doesn't use. As far as I know, he currently owns one - one! computer monitor.) When we moved here, I didn't take some things I wanted and took some things we didn't actually need. I've just done a six-month cleaning of the big closet and under the bed and gave away lots of stuff we haven't used since moving here.

Clutter isn't just a small house thing, though. My parents' house is about ten times the size of this apartment, and their clutter problem is waaay worse than ours because they have room to let it accumulate. They'd like to move to the country but are actually trapped in their house because they're afraid of how much hassle it would be to deal with all their stuff.

chicory cottage said...

funny you should mention the radical homemakers; just got the book of that title to read...