A place for everything, and everything in its place. Catharine Beecher
She knew the house the way only a person who cleans and arranges it can know a house: the cracks in the floor where dust settles, the texture of tiles and walls, the way light hits a chair or a table. Ann Peters, from House Hold: A Memoir of Place
Simplicity has had a number of overnight guests in succession. It brings such delight to have others join us in this house. Adjustments are made to Simplicity’s spaces so that ease and comfort can be savored by our guests. Rooms are cleaned, bedding freshened, and towels are laid out for use. Books of interest to specific guests are placed in the room for light reading before sleep. Robes hang in sight for permission to use. If the arrival of our guests is to be after sunset, porch lights and bedroom lamps are turned on to offer a cozy welcome. Candles are placed throughout the house to bring the fragrances of the season. A hazelnut maple scent joined us this fall and as we enter the holidays, the smells of fir and clove begin to fill the air.
If the guests are our grandchildren, furniture is moved out of certain rooms to give wide berth for the Pack ‘N Play and air mattresses. Simplicity’s stuffed animals, Ollie Owl and Pete the Penguin and Peaches the Bunny and Molly Moo, come out of the toy box ready to snuggle into children’s arms. Nightlights are inserted into the bedroom and hallway outlets to calm the night fears. The refrigerator and pantry are stocked with company in mind. Yogurt, oat squares, applesauce, and grapes for the grandchildren. Bottles of wine and beer are put on the shelves for the parents and adult guests. A plentiful supply of sour cream, half and half, and a variety of munchies are on hand for active duty. A menu of the meals is alive in my mind, along with the timing of what needs to go in the oven and when.
Just as I perk up in excitement to welcome our guests, it seems that Simplicity does the same. There is a readiness to this house, like a lady in waiting. She smiles with her freshly dusted hardwood floors and tabletops, her steam cleaned kitchen and bathroom floors, her scrubbed sinks and tubs. It is as if she knows that she, too, is hosting. Soon guests will sit in her spaces sharing their lives and stories. She lovingly extends a quiet hospitality for their stay.
After our guests leave, the house slowly finds its way back to its everyday existence. Air mattresses and sleeping bags need to be deflated and rolled up. The washing machine and dryer add their support, one load after another of linens, bedding, and towels. Crumbs from the many meals are vacuumed from under the table, the refrigerator is given a review of what foods remain, garbage is collected and taken out to the garage. The leaves from the stretched dining table are removed, as it returns to its everyday size. Furniture finds its original location. There is a general re-set to house and home.
Yesterday I was motivated to do more, going beyond what was necessary, giving my time and attention to the ordering of drawers, cupboards, bins, and shelves. The top drawer in the kitchen has been in disarray since the vitamins started convening in that location. I checked for expiration dates, tossed the Rolaids that had rolled out of their paper tubing and chucked the bits of paper and debris. I gathered the band aides into a clip and made sure the Chap Sticks were still worthy of use. I filled soap dispensers, cleaned out the gift wrapping box, watered the plants, tossed out used up candles, and organized the drawers that house our sheets and blankets. I did not feel hurried or burdened. These were acts of love insuring that the next use of any and all these bins and boxes and drawers and shelves would be simply divine.
With each task of bringing Simplicity back to our everyday ordinary living, I find I am thoughtful and reflective. These are moments I call house tending. Little acts of care infused with reminders of how and why we create and share this space. There is a gracious spirit in this partnership of human and house. There is also an awareness of how flexible and accommodating this old house can be by its ability to expand and shrink its rooms and the activities they hold. While moving through the many little details before me, I notice that I am smiling. I feel no resentment that my time is given to what others might call laborious housework. I am at peace, very present in each simple task. Perhaps this is a form of meditation for me. These small details of living life and creating home bring me such delight and joy.
I believe I know and understand the sentiments of May Sarton. The house is at peace. Beauty and order have returned, and always she has left behind a drop of balm, such as a phrase; so her work here is a work of art. There is a mystical rite under the material act of cleaning and tidying, for what is done with love is always more than itself and partakes of the celestial orders.
A work of art. A mystical rite. Indeed, there is a drop of balm in the rooms of Simplicity.