Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club: Cultivating Artful Living

Ordo Amoris Book Club: Edith Schaeffer’s Hidden Art of Homemaking, chapter 2: Hidden Art

In the second chapter, Mrs. Schaeffer defines her term “hidden art”:

I would define ‘Hidden Art’ as the art which is found in the minor areas of life.

We don’t have to be great artists or study great artists to grow in creativity and artistic expression. Mrs. Schaeffer wants to encourage us not to pursue the fine arts, necessarily, but to live in a way that places value on beauty.

One of the things I loved in this chapter was how she puts it in terms of growing rather than arriving or completing. It doesn’t matter where we are now in taste or ability or where we should be or where we have been or where we will be. What matters is whether or not we are growing, developing, cultivating creativity in the way we are living our current, real-life lives.

Instead of discounting our present duties as chains keeping us down and out of the realm of art, we can instead express art in our daily, messy, full lives. Then, instead of feeling shackled, we might just find that we can come fully alive right in the midst of a busy household.

She writes:

I feel it may be helpful to consider some of the possibilities all of us have of really living artistically, but which are often ignored. We are all in danger of thinking, “Some day I will be fulfilled. Some day I shall have the courage to start another life which will develop my talent,” without ever considering the very practical use of that talent today in a way which will enrich other people’s lives, develop the talent, and express the fact of being a creative creature.

mud pies

This also reminded me of a chapter in Rachel Jankovic’s book Fit to Burst, where she develops a similar thought. She got this idea that she wanted to be a mom who made biscuits, piping hot, fresh from the oven, buttery and flaky. But of course making biscuits is messy, one more thing to do, and an easy thing to postpone. However, after postponing and postponing, she suddenly realized that now is her children’s childhood. If she wants to make biscuits for them during their growing up years, that was actually right now and she couldn’t just keep putting it off for a more convenient day. A more convenient day simply doesn’t arrive in the midst of life with littles, and in a large family those oldest ones aren’t going to be little at all when the littlest are [fill-in-the-blank: sleeping through the night, potty trained, able to occupy themselves and stay out of mischief, etc.].

Biscuits might seem like a trivial, silly sort of example, but that’s the sort of simple “hidden art” Mrs. Schaeffer is talking about here. Just something little and lovely that communicates love and attention and beauty.

lego castle

Perhaps it has something to do with my oldest nearing 10, but suddenly what seemed like an impossible eternity of childrearing now has the potential to be half over for nearly half my children (at least I’m at the very beginning with one!). I am not the mom of all littles anymore. I am the middle-stage mom with a spread (cough, in more ways than one). I’ve actually been homeschooling for 5 years now, though it feels that I am still researching before I begin. The days are long but the years are short, they say, and I do remember long days. Now even the days seem short. Exhausting, yes, but also too short.

All my hopes for the sort of atmosphere my children’s home life will have need to get some traction now, not continue to be perfected and refined in my head.

P.S. Can my hidden art be that I make beautiful babies?

beautiful baby

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  1. Yes! Making beautiful babies and beautiful teens and adults is one of the most creative things a mother does! I agree :) It’s important not to put off the little things. The little things (biscuits, Saturday morning pancakes, bedtime stories) are THE things children remember all their lives. We can’t do the ALL, but we should do one or two. Blessings on you in your middle stage. I’m at the end-stage of motherhood, and each year brings re-assessment.

  2. Mystie,
    I think this is excellent. Because it is so easy to dream and plan rather than do, I tried to make it a policy that if I read about something I could do right away, then I put down the book and did it. This helped me read more to the kids and also take nature walks and such. I learned that I had a tendency to plan and not doing and so often doing is not that hard. No need for a grand plan just get up and do it,except of course, make supper.

  3. Mystie, I sure do relate to that bittersweet feeling of our kids growing up too quickly. It seems like yesterday that I was reading “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” to my kids…I blinked…and now my oldest is in high school.

    “Now is our children’s childhood” – I love that!

    1. I’ve read that book with all my children – we enjoyed it so much! I’m off to the library today praying they still have it for me to enjoy again with my youngest ones!

  4. Biscuits are a beautiful illustration. The perfect thing for summing up this chapter. I enjoyed your thoughts today, thank you for sharing!

  5. well, obviously making babies isn’t really a hidden art in your case… it’s a blaring fact! ;)

    i too appreciated your thoughts.
    stop planning and do.

    this is actually a thought i pulled from the second chapter. i wrote:
    No more ‘If only’s’.
    Begin to live artistically.
    Use talents to enrich the lives of other people.

  6. Life, Love and Vintage Housekeeping has a post about something that Joan Didion said in “The Year of Magical Thinking”. The gist of it is that she used homemaking routines and rituals as a way to ward off the bad things in life. I’ve been mulling that one over for a few weeks and I like the thought of it. We can’t prevent bad things from happening, of course. Somehow, it gives more meaning to those daily routines.

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