Last winter, I spent a day and night at Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The Shaker movement has died out, but the village has been restored and turned into a hotel and retreat center. The Shakers placed high value on simplicity and peace, and the village retains that character. There is a stillness there that came from more than the cold winter air.
When I came back home, I thought a lot about what a peaceful home is, and whether I cultivate peace for and in my children. I don't think I do, really. I cultivate peace between people - harmony between the sisters is expected, and I take away toys if they fight over them - but inner stillness? No.
The Shakers believed that inner stillness was supported and encouraged by a simple and orderly environment. I have four children and a messy, cluttered home. There is very little order around here.
In the past year, we've had one or two homeowner emergencies that became bigger than they needed to because I could not attend to them. I was too weighed down with managing the usual chaos of our lives to move with any speed. After a few heartfelt discussions with my husband - whose pack rat tendencies are a disastrous match with my poor housewifery - he agreed that I could start tossing things without getting his permission for every item.
By the end of this year, I want to have a genuinely simple house. No collections of junk, no piles of unworn clothes or dusty exercise equipment. I want a home that allows me to be still. I want a home that allows me to respond to life with hospitality and peace, rather than just manage possessions.