Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Home and Garden: Comfort, Beauty and Order

Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don't need to escape from. ~~Seth Godin

Here On Bradstreet, we don't follow many rules, but aim to live by principles instead, whether it's regarding learning, gardening or the home. We're not very attuned to shouldn'ts or can'ts and we're naturally inclined to shape our home and life to suit how we learn and live. Though we're aware of certain gardening rules or decorating don'ts, for instance, like with anything else, we take the good and leave the rest and shape what we've kept to suit us. Often this is out of necessity--we live within our means, even if the sofa has seen better days. We reuse and repurpose, furnish with junk shop or Ikea finds. Our garden has grown over the last nine summers through plugs from friends and family, Freecycled plants, lots of transplanting and budget-friendly purchases from Fedco Seeds. As our children grow, we've adapted to meet our family's changing needs, whether this meant swapping rooms, making space for them to play and learn or repainting to accommodate new interests and tastes. As always, our goal is to do this as sustainably as possible, with comfort in mind and with an eye to purpose. Our home and garden is lived in. We're here, every day, learning together, cooking and eating, gathering, gardening, project-ing, playing and creating. It won't do to have everything tucked away, and it's not possible in this old, mostly-closetless house, sans garage or livable cellar, with a small garden. And because of this, we live by some guiding principles. Here are some examples from our own home and garden:

* As William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be
useful, or believe to be beautiful”.

Sunshine warms a livingroom corner.
pretty corner

Useful and beautiful arbor, clothesline and recycled chair.
garden corner

* Embrace the old ideas that everything in it's place and a place for everything
and that many hands make light work. Also, keep like with like.

Our shoes by the front door.
order of course

Games within easy reach, grouped together.

Like grouped with like. Table linens and American pottery.
like things

* Give thought to how you live and use your home and garden. Plan accordingly.

Sunscreen by our back door helps us remember to put some on or take it with us before heading to the beach.
sunscreen by the back door

Baking and cooking, it's all at our fingertips.
out = ready to use

Wii game supplies, easy to get to and put away.
wii supplies

Easy to get to garden tools.
garden gear

* Ensure that your home and garden meet the needs of all who reside there.

Space for swords, lightsabers and Nerf toys.
nerf, sword and light saber basket

A corner for good health.
good health and dish towels

Plan for pets.
the furred family

Space for projects.
room for projects

Room for bikes.
room for bikes

Working from home.
happy hall

* Keep a welcoming home and garden. Consider the ages, abilities and other needs
of your family and guests.

For our young visitors.
for our young visitors

Lots and lots of tea.
tea goes here

Beach gear.
beach gear

The outdoor shower.
inside the outdoor shower

* Provide inspiration in books, art, music, color and texture. Provide ample

A space for both reminders and inspiration. And a favorite funky lamp.
to remind and inspire

Lots to read. Grab a blanket and pillow and settle in.
never too many pillows

* Grow native plants, welcome beneficial insects and birds and provide wildlife
habitat in your garden. Consider texture, color and scent, as you would in the
home. The smallest container garden can encompass these principles.

Wildlife habitat.
stormy light in the garden

Organic heirloom potatoes and pole beans.
potatoes and beans

Sharp shinned hawk visitor.
sharp shinned hawk

Birdhouses and roses, good for birds and bees.

* A home and garden is a refuge and nest, but the Earth is the only planet we've
got. Live sustainably as possible.

Drying rack.
tidy corner

Using a clothesline.
Bench Monday :: Clothesline

Recycling center.

Cloth napkins at the ready.
cloth napkins at the ready

Cloth shopping bags by the front door.
comforts of home

By practicing these simple principles for home and garden, we can more easily meet the needs of everyone. Additionally, because everything has a place and can always be both found and returned to that place, we don't spend time on frustrating tasks like looking for keys, purses, phones, tools, equipment, toys or projects. And if someone should forget where a thing might be, it's easy to locate because most often it's with something similar (like with like). This has the added benefit of empowering the kids and fosters independence, because they now know where things are and where they return to, and they are naturally inclined to help keep a comfortable order in the home. Also, everyone is shown respect and care as everyone has a space and place for their things. I don't personally have an interest in Nerf guns, but my son does, and since he has a lot and I don't want to trip on them and he doesn't want to misplace them, I provided a space for them. Further, though our children might have outgrown blocks, we have some out for little ones who visit. I also keep a shelf of board and young reader books. The outdoor shower has a handheld shower and low grab bars, as well as tear-free shampoo for little ones. Often it's simple things that can be done to help a guest feel at ease in your home. (Universal Design for our homes is something that we all should be thinking about more, also.)

By keeping an organic, cottage garden, we are nourishing ourselves, the wildlife, our neighborhood and community and our very spirits. Outside is a creative space, full of inspiration, texture, scent and beauty. It's also a constant reminder that we want to sustain that environment, which means choosing to do without, reuse and repurpose and recycle, to manage better, and think about our choices as a family. As we gather for meals outside at the oversize picnic table Alex made, we are serenaded by birdsong, the rustle of the trees. The scents are of roses and brine. If we want, it's easy enough to grab our sandals and beach chair and walk down to the shore. Who needs vacation?


  1. I LOVE this post. It came at a perfect time for me. My house feels unbalanced and I am not sure if we will get a vacation this summer. We just installed a pool so our goal it to spend lots of time at home and enjoy our home. We are new to homeschooling and bringing two children back into our home all day long means adjusting the way we plan, cooperate and participate in every home activity. I know I am going to come back to this post again and again as I take your quote and suggestions to heart!

  2. Beautiful home and garden, and well said. Words to live by.

    You would be my perfect neighbors. :)

  3. You combine warmth, wisdom, practicality, inspiration and beauty. I am overwhelmed.

  4. Inspiring...
    Who would need a vacation from a home as yours?

    (we also have a big basket of swords and play guns:)

  5. Okay, I am completely inspired! Right now I am on a year-long purging mission, with a goal of getting to the place where I can begin to organize and beautify. Great words of advice and beautiful photos.

  6. totally agreeing with all of the above.....we are struggling with stuff and finding homes for it.....i love the idea of not having to hide stuff, if we use it alot it should be accessible! thanks for the inspiration and home to dream of having!

  7. Amy, this is lovely! Your home seems like such a warm and inviting place. And I love how you've organized everything - so inspiring!

  8. Deepest thanks to everyone for the very appreciated comments. You are all so kind! I'm off now to help the kids do their biannual purge of too small and unloved items in their rooms. Also--the local paper (such as it is) is interviewing me tomorrow about our garden. Thanks again for the comment-love and support! xo Amy

  9. Amy: There is so much wisdom in this post, and there are so many great photos to illustrate the ideas and principles, that I am humbled and overwhelmed and inspired all at once. I LOVE the outdoor shower curtain. I will be coming back to read this post again and have sent it on to friends and family. Thank you so much.

  10. Thanks very much for your kind comment, Sarah. I am also happy to have found your blog and I connect with so much you have written. Shhh, don't tell, but that outdoor shower curtain is actually a 45"x 45" tablecloth. I keep meaning to sew something new, but simply haven't. Again, thank you so much for saying hello!

  11. My family recently moved into our first real live house and my main goal has been to set up a more nurturing environment for every family member. Your home has given me a multitude of ideas on how I can do that. Thank you. :)

  12. Loved this post Amy! Very inspirational and lovely ~

  13. Very helpful! We homeschool, my husband works from home, I have a teen and a nine year old who both play musical instruments, my daughter and I both craft (knit, spin, sew, felt, embroider) so there are instruments, crafts supplies, homeschooling books and supplies and my mister's work space ALL in the same house that keeps all the other regular family stuff (games, toys, video games, cd's, etc..) and we live in an old Victorian- that means very little closet space and no storage space. I think I'm going to read this a few more times for help and inspiration and then try and get my place together. Thanks so much!

  14. Must have read this post about a dozen times now. I keep coming back for that lovely home-feeling. Thanks for inspiring me to make a warm home for my family!

    Warm greetings from the Netherlands



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