Heart of the home ~ Introduction & Big Picture

I miss blogging about schedules and household organization. The last post I wrote like this was published three years ago.

Organization and home management are two of my superpowers and I really enjoy planning and implementing systems. But I haven't been able to write much about these things for a few years because of:

  • the investment of many writing and living hours into our Appalachian Trail project (a huge change in routine and structure)
  • the burnout and breakdown that followed
  • the midlife crisis

Hiking, breakdown, crisis - all revealed a great deal about me, to me (and my family). Including re-affirming how much of a systems, management, and structure person I truly am.

The blogs I read these days don't talk too much about household schedules and routines. My blog reading tastes have shifted over the years from how-to's and DIY's to essay and memoir, so that partly explains the absence of the practical details in what I'm reading. But I wonder if this type of blogging, "this is how I do it", is now passe.

Talking about our household routines and the kind of homemaker I am feels a little vulnerable.

Over the past few years I have struggled with my self-worth in this area. Like a lot of women I wrestle with the demons of "too much" and "not enough". I am too much this and not enough that. Too much structure, not enough spontaneity, that kind of thing.

A tension exists for me in loving and accepting who I am, on one hand, and on the other, working on areas of weakness. But after a long season of pushing against and through weak areas, and feeling not stronger for the experience, but broken, I've planted myself on the loving and accepting side of this tension. And how I manage our home is a big part of that.

I thrive in a well-run home, and I'm the one who runs it around here. Home management and home making has supported my healing and recovery and is foundational to my overall health and wellbeing.

I'm the heart of our home.

I don't mean that in an idolatrous, "life revolves around me", kind of way. I say I'm the heart of our home because my main job is to love and care for my family by cultivating an environment that builds strong relationships, first and foremost. The heartbeat of our home is these relationships, and my primary job is to nurture and tend those.

I'm guessing many moms can identify with this mission, but the way we go about doing this can be vastly different. Home cooked meals, gardening, and clean floors are not the end aim, nor are they necessarily the means.

I love an organized, clean home and predictable household routines. Those are my means. I love well in those spaces. Which is not to say I don't love my family if life falls out of those parameters but we all have zones in which we really thrive, and that's mine.

I am at ease within structure.

Making systems, following them, tweaking them, and getting stressed out when I can't systemize something - this is just who I am.

Acknowledging and remembering to be Renee (borrowing from Gretchen Rubin here) has been a very affirming practice for me in the past few months. Of course I had to do a bit of soul-searching and coming back to center to find Renee, but I found her, puttering happily in her home, making order.

I love reading the details of other people's lives. I'm a detail person and highly practical, and I'm interested not just in what people do, but how they do it.

I started writing this post a couple weeks ago and it turned into five thousand words so I'm going to break it up.

Today, you get the introduction, the part you just read, and the Big Picture of our life these days.

In the following days you'll get:

Big Picture - what life looks like

  • Damien is the "income-earning" parent/partner. I'm the "manage home life and oversee kids" parent/partner. This has been the arrangement for most of our marriage, except for 2011-2014 when we were trying to merge these roles together and share both jobs. I'm starting to work on an income earning project and I have some writing on the go that may "become something", but my pace in that department is slow and steady.
  • Damien is self-employed and though he technically "works-from-home", he works both at home and at his favorite cafes. He "commutes" by bike, on foot or public transit.
  • We homeschool our three teenagers, two of whom are in high school. Most of their projects, studies and school work is done independent of my involvement. I am the curriculum master-mind. I gather and find resources. I create a home environment and schedule to support learning. And I listen and guide. Most of the "instruction" is outsourced. Damien is the primary go-to and support person for Celine's studies, by virtue of expertise and personality.
  • We live in Montreal. Location really does factor a lot into what your daily schedule looks like (commutes, shopping, access to nature, etc. )
  • We're members of a homeschool co-op this year that meets Mondays and Fridays. This is the first significant group learning situation our family has participated in, outside of occasional sports and extracurricular classes through the years. Two scheduled days out of the house is a big change for our family. A welcome change for the kids, but it was still an adjustment for all of us.
  • We live in an ~1,000 sq ft. apartment. We're not responsible for any maintenance and we don't have to spend a lot of time cleaning our house, and we've done a lot of downsizing so the space, though small-ish, doesn't feel cramped.
  • As we always have been, we're a one car family.

It feels a little strange to stop here but I must because the next section, Weekly Schedule is quite wordy and deserves its own post.

That's up next.

Filed Under

Part of Series

« Lip Balm made easy
A homeschool and family life schedule with three teenagers »
  • Jen

    Jen on Feb. 22, 2016, 10:07 p.m.

    Really looking forward to the rest of this series, especially your thoughts on Better than Before! Ever since I read it I've been thinking about how to implement some of Rubin's strategies in our homeschool.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 23, 2016, 12:35 a.m.

      Me too! That's exactly why I'm reading it. I want to understand my learners better and help meet them where they are at - as Upholders, Obligers, Questioners and Rebels (I don't think we have anyone like that) to help them form solid life habits and academic habits. 



  • Kate

    Kate on Feb. 22, 2016, 11:40 p.m.

    I love this type of post too.  And Renee, I have to say that how you describe yourself, is so similar to me.  In fact, you helped me put into words so much about my personality and home life.  Keep on keeping on!  I love your rawness and vulerability and how you have a lot of rich life experience to share.  That rich experience doesn't come easily and never underestimate how much we help each other by revealing that our lives aren't and haven't been perfect.  Take good care and I look forward to the next post.   


  • Tomoko

    Tomoko on Feb. 22, 2016, 11:51 p.m.

    I am very excited to read this series! I notice that I, too, function better when I have a routine and I am organized myday, and in a clean, uncluttered home at the start of the day! I am also interested to read about how you organize/manage things/stuff at home with three homescholling teenagers in a relatively small space (1000 sq ft?). We are a family of 4 (two kids under 7) plus one on the way. We are moving to 1200 sq ft townhome from a 1800 sq ft home next month. I would like to start fresh in a clear and clean space. 


  • Michelle

    Michelle on Feb. 22, 2016, 11:52 p.m.

    I'm very excited about this little series form you.  I have always appreciated your approach to home and schedules.  Thanks for being willing to share what works for you. 


  • Lisa

    Lisa on Feb. 23, 2016, 12:03 a.m.

    Well I for one sure love reading about this stuff. We can all relate to home life, I think, and I still consider myself a homemaker first and foremost--even though I now "work for money" (from home) too. And I especially love hearing about your apartment life because we're downsizing to an apartment in the next year, probably for a few years, too. I'm actually excited about it! I haven't lived in an apartment more than a year of my life, and that was split into 9 months of a college year, and one semester of Seminary/grad school. I'm not sure how much I'll love it with a family, like I did as a single person, but I'm willing to try. I'm looking forward to the other 4000 or so words!





    • renee

      renee on Feb. 23, 2016, 12:38 a.m.

      Yay! I love apartment living for this season of our life (except for some issues with the basement neighbors which I won't go into now). The only thing I really don't like is that we don't have private space for two guests, singles take over Laurent's room and he is very easy going about that, always has been. But we're trying to work on solutions for that. 


  • Nancy

    Nancy on Feb. 23, 2016, 2:43 a.m.

    I don't know about passe but I love these kinds of posts. And I also loved Better than Before. Looking forward to reading your take on it. 


  • Rachel

    Rachel on Feb. 23, 2016, 4:03 a.m.

    I also love these kinds of posts! And I echo other commenters who've said that you express beautifully how I'm often feeling :) I am just starting my "raising children" phase of life, with a 2 1/2 year old and 6 month old, but I am really interested in the "how" of other people's routines, schedules, and home life rhythms.  For years I worked a full time job outside the home, then after marriage and our first child, I've been in the "homemaker" role and it has been an adjustment!  A welcome one in many ways, but I am still "finding my feet" in terms of setting and managing our family's schedule, and developing my game plan for best nourishing the relationships that really do form the centre of a family.  Thank you for your posts, Renee - they always resonate with me and you inspire me to reach a little higher in my work as a homemaker :) Plus, you have so much practical wisdom to share (I've just been delving into Meal Sized Salads this past week, although I bought it quite awhile ago!)

     I also look forward to your review of Better Than Before - I really enjoyed it :)


  • Cari Stone

    Cari Stone on Feb. 23, 2016, 4:38 a.m.

    Always love your content Renee. Thank you for taking the time to share it openly with others.



  • Jessie

    Jessie on Feb. 23, 2016, 5:10 p.m.

       ooh Renee I'm so excited to read this series! I love reading the nitty gritty of how other homeschooling moms are getting it done. :-)  thank you for sharing.. I always love where you come from in your writing. 

      We've also got 3 kids, 5 years and under, and have been through multiple overseas moves and resulting emotional stress on my part because of breakdown of order and routine.  I just finished Rubin's book also and am finding how to better order our home environment to help me and my family thrive as we pack up and move yet again. 




  • flyinjuju

    flyinjuju on Feb. 23, 2016, 9:10 p.m.

    Hi Renee,

    I agree with so many others, that you articulated how I am, but I have never been able to put it into words. We just moved into our home on Friday and I am highly aware of how quickly I need to be organized and settled. It is like a drug to me. I feel so much better once I am back in a rhythm.

    As always, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing from your heart!



  • Marcia from OrganisingQueen

    Marcia from OrganisingQueen on Feb. 24, 2016, 1:41 p.m.

    I loveeeeee these kinds of posts, and as a fellow ESTJ, I also think it's my superpower to run my home well.

    Have just read and enjoyed your weekly routines post too. I should do one of mine too as part of my March blogging.




  • Alexandra

    Alexandra on Feb. 27, 2016, 12:44 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoying reading your blog posts and am also finding I am changing in what I enjoy reading in other blogs. I am looking forward to this series. 


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