The House is for People

We recently had lunch at the home of a friend. When we entered she told us that we didn't need to take off our shoes, because her floor wasn't very clean. She said this matter-of-factly, without a hint of embarrassment or apology. When we still removed them because we felt awkward about wearing shoes inside, she suggested that we don houseslippers. We did, and she immediately gave us a tour of her house, making us feel at home. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch while our kids and her 5-year-old son played inside and out in the expansive yard.

The house and grounds boasted two cats, three kittens, one dog, a pen of chickens, and two flocks of geese, including a bunch of goslings. After we finished eating, our hostess showed us her chickens and collected ten eggs to send home with us, then she walked us to her vegetable garden, where she harvested some radishes and green onions for us. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, and we didn't mind her dirty floors one bit. As we were leaving, she said something that has stuck in my mind.We were about to have our kids clean up the toys that they had been playing with, and she stopped us, saying that her son would be playing with them anyway, so why bother to pick them up? Then she explained that she wasn't a very good housekeeper because her husband always says, "The house is for people, not people for the house."

Indeed.

I'm still mulling over those words and gleaning wisdom from them. What is the point of a spotless house if the housekeeper is so preoccupied with keeping it that way that she creates an unpleasant atmosphere for the people who live in the house, losing her temper over juice spilled on the floor instead of reassuring the child who spilled it? What is the point of a sparkling guest bathroom if the hostess is so flustered from last-minute cleaning that she can't relax with her guests and make them feel truly welcomed?

The house is for people, not people for the house. 

I think I'll make it my new housekeeping motto.


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8 thoughts on “The House is for People

  1. In the same vein,
    My Dad crewel embroidered a saying for me when your cousin, Larkin, was born.

    “Cleaning and scrubbing
    can wait till tomorrow,
    For babies grow up
    we’ve learned to our sorrow.
    So quiet down cobwebs,
    Dust go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby
    And babies don’t keep.”

    • I LOVE that poem! A dear friend and mentor shared it with me long before I had kids (back when I was single), and I have remembered it all these years. That lady also had her priorities right. Once I saw her youngest child spill his drink on the kitchen floor, and she instantly grabbed him, pulled him into a bear hug, and said, “Oh! I love you more than my clean floor!”

      • Very precious. I’ve actually seen you do that Sharon, I don’t remember the exact situation but I remember thinking ‘what a mum’. I was very surprised at that response because it didn’t grow up in that kind of environment but the picture of it has never left me since then.

        • Wow! I don’t remember doing that, but I’m glad to hear that you observed it. I fall so short of my ideal in parenting and every day find myself crawling back to God asking for more patience, more wisdom, more love—and lots more of His grace—just to make it through.

    • Yes! I agree. I so admire her effortless hospitality–down-to-earth and welcoming, because she wasn’t overly concerned about presentation. She was focused on the people.

  2. I mostly agree, but I think your house should be cleaned on some sort of reasonable schedule. Especially bathrooms and kitchens! Being relaxed about a messy house where there are little ones playing is a wonderful practice, does make everyone feel at home and welcome. Better to have happy children and a somewhat unkempt home. Cleanliness however should at least be kept at a happy medium. Things don’t have to be spotless, but I’ve been in dirty homes and felt very uncomfortable. I don’t think eating food prepared in a dirty kitchen is very healthy, nor should anyone have to use a dirty bathroom.

    • Hi, and thanks for commenting! I completely agree with you. There needs to be a happy medium between perfectionism in housekeeping and allowing unhealthy levels of grime to accumulate. (Eeeew!) I’ve been in at least one home that was so dirty that I was nervous about eating the food that was served to me. Out of courtesy, I did, but I sure prayed a lot while doing so! I’m a stickler for clean kitchen countertops and toilets, and I’ve learned some shortcuts for keeping them that way that really help me these days! I plan to write about them soon here.

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