Book Review: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

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Cover image of the Hidden Art of Homemaking. One of my favorite books of all time is Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking. It is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to add beauty to his or her life. There are chapters addressing many areas of life that welcome creative expression: music, painting, writing, interior decorating, flower arrangements, clothing, and my favorites: food and creative recreation.

One thing I’m learning about Mrs. Schaeffer is that her word choice doesn’t always signify what we in the 21st century might initially think. For instance, by homemaking, she does not mean only the things that a home economics major would be learning and teaching. This term is not relegated to merely housewifery.

If you are at all familiar with the Schaeffers you will know that they founded a Christian study center called L’Abri, in Switzerland. A part of life at L’Abri was community living, making a home for those around you. That is what I see exemplified in the book. You don’t have to have a large home, be married, and have children to apply the great ideas in this book. Mrs. Schaeffer has specifically written to include everyone, no matter his season of life.

Since she uses words that have multiple meanings and applications, I was tempted to skip several chapters. For example, the book was written in 1971, and so when I saw the chapter entitled, “Integration,” I assumed she meant racial integration and I figured what she was going to say was outdated. However, the integration she addresses spans age, class, race, gender, and economic lines. It was very refreshing and encouraging.

The last chapter, “Environment,” was another that I almost skipped. Again, I thought it would be outdated information, since environmental awareness has evolved so much in 30+ years. I am so glad I didn’t bypass that chapter! While the global environment of nature is certainly important, this is not her focus.

Here is a passage that both encouraged and convicted me:

It makes an enormous difference if someone creates an environment for you to live in. One person sleeps half the day, gets up looking like a half-dead duck, drags around with eyelids scarcely open, slurping coffee and leaving a mess all over the newly polished sink, leaves the bed unmade and a week of clothing in a heap or the bed, heaves a sigh and moans about what a drag life is, then prepares to sit and philosophize while you work. What is the effect of this on you? Surely, you begin to feel tired, discouraged, irritated, frustrated and hopeless. Your own energy begins to ebb away….And so one wasted, ugly life infects another.

A second person gets up when the alarm goes off, or soon after, puts water on for the tea or coffee and helps to get breakfast, takes a bath and dresses so cheerily that you feel the sun must be shining and have to look again to realize the sky is till grey, makes his bed and clears things up so that you feel the urge to get to work soon, tidies the living room so that it looks better than it had been left the night before, and talks with an awareness and enthusiasm that gives you inspiration…. Both have pitched into work before the hoped-for starting time, feeling a surge of accomplishment and energy that seems to multiply the time instead of wasting it.

This all resonated with me because I can be both of these people. It feels SO MUCH better to be the latter. The reality is that I have a great effect on the lives of those around me. I can be an instrument of encouraging either creative accomplishments or dismal drudgery.

As a MOM, you are making a home, you are effecting your environment, you are responsible for integrating differing ages, personalities. This book will inspire and encourage you. First chance you get, read this book!

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  1. Thank you so much for this review. This book has been on my list for awhile and now I am even more excited to read it!

  2. I have heard so much about this book! I especially loved the passage that you shared. It’s on my TBR list, maybe I can find it at our new library!