radical homemakers || the takeaways, pt. 1

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” – Elizabeth Ann Seton

1. Anybody can be (and probably already is) a [radical] homemaker.

In my introductory post, I shared Hayes’ definition of radical homemaker. I admire how simple and comprehensive it is – that is to say, that a wide range of skills suffice in the duties of a homemaker. Good news! You are probably already a homemaker and didn’t even know it 🙂

She explains in detail:

“As for domestic skills, the range of talents held by these households was as varied as the day is long. Many kept gardens, but not all. Some gardened on city rooftops, some on country acres, some in suburban yards. Some were wizards at car and appliance repairs. Others could sew. Some could build and fix houses; some kept livestock. Others crafted furniture, played music or wrote. All could cook. None of them could do everything. No one was completely self-sufficient, an independent island separate from the rest of the world. Thus the universal skills that they all possessed were far more complex than simply knowing how to can green beans or build a root cellar. In order to make it as homemakers, these people had to be wizards at nurturing relationships and working with family and community. They needed an intimate understanding of the life-serving economy, where a paycheck is not always exchanged for all services rendered. They needed to be their own teachers – to pursue their education throughout life, forever learning new ways to do more, create more, give more.

In addition, the happiest among them were successful at setting realistic expectations for themselves. They did not live in impeccably clean houses on manicured estates. They saw their homes as living systems and accepted the flux, flow, dirt and chaos that are a natural part of that. They were masters at redefining pleasure not as something that should be bought in the consumer marketplace, but as something that could be created, no matter how much or how little money they had in their pockets.” (p.17)

2. A simple life doesn’t mean a boring or unfulfilled life

The phrase “simple life” is commonly used today. Just like loads of other people, I use it myself to describe our lifestyle and values. But recently, the phrase has lost meaning to me because it is so overused. I think what once was an intentional, minimal, small way of living has become trendy, sometimes unattainable, and usually too pretty. This is not what simple living means to me and I’ve been struggling with finding a new way to describe our lifestyle. Words like practical, intentional, small, mindful, caring, homemade, slow, and quiet more accurately describe the life we are striving to build.

I receive daily meditation emails from Richard Rohr and a few months ago his meditations focused on Jesus’ Beatitudes. Boy, were there a lot of good takeaways for me from those meditations!

One of the days focused on the beatitude Blessed Are the Gentle. In this meditation, I discovered the meaning of the phrase “simple living” or “living simply.” I believe this to be the true definition of what it means to dedicate yourself to living a life that is simple:

To live simply is to live gently, keeping in mind always the needs of the planet, other creatures, and the generations to come. In doing this we lose nothing, because the interests of the whole naturally include our own. —Eknath Easwaran

How beautiful is that: “…we lose nothing, because the interests of the whole naturally include our own”?

I think that’s exactly the point Hayes challenges us to discover in Radical Homemakers. After all, the focus of radical homemakers is that they honor the four tenants of family, community, social justice, and health of the planet. If we consider our “simple life” from this perspective, then this type of lifestyle is not boring or unfulfilled at all, but rather flourishing, full of purpose, and inclusive.

3. The radical homemaker’s whole life focuses on four tenents

Continuing from above, when we direct our life’s choices to how it might effect others, we also include ourselves. There no longer needs to be a selfish viewpoint to our lives because what effects someone else also effects you.

Hayes: “Our national (now global) economic principles have served only a handful of powerful elites. In the process, it has wrought havoc on our culture, our planet, and on the lives of most who serve it. By rebuilding our home lives according to values of social justice, ecological sustainability, and family and community security, we begin the process of dismantling the extractive economy and creating in its place a life-serving economy that enables us to meet our needs while thriving in harmony with our earth and spirits.” (p.51)

The homemaker’s daily duties should reflect the values that are so important to maintaining and preserving the livelihood of their own selves, their friends and relatives, and the community in which they live (which then becomes the whole of the human race).

4. Historically, a homemaker was not solely a woman or “housewife”

Hayes writes:

“’Housewives’ were women who were married to husbands; husband comes from hus, the older spelling of house, and bonded, as in one who is bonded to a house, rather than to someone else. … While there was a clear division of labor in these thirteenth-century homes, there was not necessarily a clear line drawn between a man’s sphere and a woman’s sphere. Men made cider and mead; women made beer, ale and wine. While the women made and mended clothing made from cloth, the men produced anything made of leather. Both had tasks to fill “the interstices of their days” – women sewed and spun, men chopped wood and fashioned tools and utensils. Both performed jobs that required strength and stamina – men hauled wood; women washed clothes. Both men and women would milk livestock, draw water, weave, and peel apples and potatoes. Much of their work was a team effort. Men would grow flax; women would break it and spin it into linen. Women nursed and cared for the children; men made the cradles, and mowed the hay and sheared fleece to fill the mattress ticking. In contrast to modern times, the household was the source and locus for sustenance and survival. It was not a separate entity to be supported through outside means. …The success of the household relied on the presence of both sexes. Domestic duties were too great to be accomplished by one person.” (p.62)

Whoa. After I read that passage, I was exhausted – to hear about the kinds of work that had to be done within the household and on the land was astonishing. Not many of us today can say that we experience that kind of labor (or even teamwork!) within our homes.

Yet at the same time, how inspiring!

I don’t know about you, but when I read that passage, it makes me want to take a step back from society and just focus on my small home and small life. I want to learn how to do these things – to be more of a producer than a consumer, to provide for my own needs, to be an expert with a skill or craft. I think there is so much more value in being an integral part of my life rather than seeking approval from others or relying on others for every single thing I need. If we are more active in with our families and communities, then we can more successfully sustain our way of life by the use of trades and bargains for the skills or goods we do lack.

Additionally, I thought this brought a refreshing perspective to the way we should be viewing roles within the home. Instead of assigning certain skills or duties to man or woman (and having a lack of support from the other because it isn’t “their job”), ideally we can create more teamwork and presence within our homes and the work that needs to be done inside and out.

(Part 2 to come very soon!)

Warmly,

Ashley

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