A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your SoulA Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Own. Recommended by Willa & DeputyHeadmistress. In case my Tri-City friends are interested, the Mid-Columbia Library has ordered a copy.


A “Rule of Life” is a concept the author took from medieval monastics. I found it interesting that it incorporated many concepts popular in current self-help categories, yet she never mentioned the modern words for the concepts. She kept her book very grounded in historic practice and highly religious (I do not mean that to be negative) perspective. In common, secular parlance, what she recommends is having a mission statement, a job description, a plan with goals, a delineation of roles and responsibilities, a household notebook (control journal in FlyLady terms), and a schedule. Her discussion of these concepts without even a hint that they are related to modern productivity techniques, but instead grounded in some of the church’s earliest attempts at holy living put a new spin on concepts I thought I was entirely familiar with.<br/><br/>A good portion of this book is autobiographical. However, her relation of her history is woven into her detailing her “Rule” in ways that illustrate her meaning and demonstrate how she moved from point B to A. Thus, the material is presented in a very personal manner. It is no dry instruction manual. She tells you what she did and why, for the most part leaving you to determine the proper application to your own situation. The author is Catholic, and it certainly comes through strongly in her writing, but it is not a Catholicism that will put off most Protestants. The story of her conversion is enough for any Baptist, and she talks much more of Jesus and the Holy Spirit than saints or objects.

I think where the Catholicism came out the most (besides how she speaks of the eucharist) is in how she obligated her conscience in the matter. I’m still chewing on that concept, trying not to toss it out, unthinkingly, mumbling “legalist,” but obviously a Protestant is not going to be on board with regarding anything a counselor or mentor says as morally binding as if from the mouth of God. Still, I tend to use the anti-legalist argument to get out of doing what I know I should do, even if it’s not technically “a sin” if I don’t — or is it? I reread Elisabeth Elliot’s Discipline: The Glad Surrender after finishing this book to get another angle on that issue, and it confirmed the possibility that not doing your duty when you ought to is wrong, that the way of growth is through submitting to duty. And, then, there is always, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

In all, I enjoyed the autobiographical element, as it made what she was saying more clear and understandable and allowed her to state what she did and how and why without being bossy or dictatorial about what you should do. The style reminded me a little of Kathleen Norris’ Acedia and Me.

Comparison with MOTH

Another popular “get your life and home in order” book that I have enjoyed is Managers of Their Homes. The two books are not incompatible at all. In fact, I would say they are highly compatible systems, but the two authors come at it with such different personalities that it might look or sound quite different at first blush. Interestingly, it was hearing a presentation on MOTH during a homeschool conference she attended while her life was in chaos and she was floundering that started Mrs. Pierlot down the road of taking dominion of her domain. Basically, she heard about how to do a schedule, and she realized that no matter how much she thought she hated schedules, anything was worth a try at that point in her life. In one week the peace and order that came convinced her that she needed to continue. And she did continue to carry on that principle of order into every area of her life.

Mrs. Pierlot’s Rule is much more all-encompassing than Mrs. Maxwell’s schedule. Mrs. Pierlot wants to lead you through a whole-life examination, ensuring your life is in balance, whereas Mrs. Maxwell encourages you to think about it and pray about it, but doesn’t hold your hand through it. MOTH is a nitty-gritty book about details of how to put together and implement a workable schedule. MROL is much more broad and as philosophical as it is practical. MROL motivates you to put your life in order and live in an orderly fashion through a sense of duty and a call to holiness. MOTH motivates you to get on a schedule as a time-stewardship issue.

Those who prefer a story and a philosophical approach will enjoy MROL, whereas those who just want to be told what to do will prefer MOTH. However, those who have tender consciences, who are easily guilt-motivated, might feel pressured and burdened by Mrs. Pierlot’s approach, even though she only explains why she felt morally obligated to follow her schedule and doesn’t necessarily lay that same obligation on her readers.

Comparison with GTD

It was interesting reading this book while writing the Getting Things Done for Homemakers and Homeschoolers series. I do think that Allen is correct in stating that his system is merely a way to be consistent with common sense methods. When certain methods pop up in several completely unrelated books by authors of very different backgrounds, approaches, and personalities, there must be something transcendent about the practicalities.

Mrs. Pierlot encourages you to write everything — everything! — down, to make lists of routines with everything written on them, keep a running list of repairs or improvements for each room, have a special “review” time (hers is twice monthly, is called a Mother’s Retreat, and she uses it to refresh herself more than to get her system back on track). Although the two are very, very different books, there isn’t any contradiction between them, except the obvious religious v. secular mindset.


I really, really enjoyed this book, and it will certainly be one that I refer back to when I need a pick-me-up in this area. Since I already have been working at implementing both MOTH and GTD, my actual practice isn’t as impacted, but my motivation for discipline and not just having the systems but really working them has increased dramatically.

One Comment

  1. I love the new look and title of your blog!

    This was an excellent review of the book. I had read the book more than once, yet never noticed that her strategy was so conceptually similar to modern management principles. Yet I suppose it’s not so strange, since I am constantly noticing Ignatian and Benedictine principles in modern psychology books.

    About the possible “legalism” … I can see why you say that, and indeed, there was some criticism of this book in Catholic circles for similar reasons. I like the way you worked it out, and my take when I read the book was that coming from a sort of rebellious, almost nihilistic personal history, she had to sort of go in the other direction before she could balance out.

    I also remember criticisms of the book because it burdened sensitive consciences, as you mentioned, because of its idealism and “whole life” approach. I took at as so much a personal journey that I actually found it easier to take than MOTH, which to me had just a hint of “my way is God’s way” that perhaps I am oversensitive to.

    BTW I read GTD several years ago and really liked it, too.

    Blessings on your new blog as it gets off the ground!

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