So, assuming you’ve been on board for posts one and two of this series on redefining homemaking, let’s get right down to the good stuff — the action needed to support the theories.
The following list is my take on the most fundamental tools necessary for those of us looking to create culture by truer standards while simultaneously improving the state of the world. Its simplicity might surprise you (keep reading, I’ll explain). By offering these tools, I am in no way suggesting that we must have mastered all (or any) of them in order for change to occur, but that we might see them as infinitely valuable and allow them to shape our experiences.
12 Tools For Changing the World
(presupposing freedom of choice and access to education)
What do all these tools have in common? Two things: One, each has more to do with changing ourselves than “the world” and two, every one of them grows most naturally and abundantly when fostered from a young age and rooted in strong homes and communities. Given these tools, what worry would we have for future generations? They’d have the foundation from which to figure it out.
Wait, so no “save the planet” slogans or “end world hunger” initiatives? Not even a mention of social justice?
Yes, no doubt, (many) such endevors are important, too, but they ought to be seen as bandages, not foundational tools. To shed a little light on my reasoning, I’d like to share an experience:
Last winter I had the opportunity to be a part of a stove project in an impoverished Mayan village (in the poorest state in Mexico). The idea was to install vented, efficient wood fire cookstoves in the homes of families most in need, feasibly alleviating a whole host of common problems from respiratory disease to horrific burns. I spent the night with a young family who had more than many in their community; a one-room sleeping shack (separate from their cooking shack), a dilapidated outhouse and a pig. More than hospitable, we were offered a place to sleep on the floor, Nescafé with enough sugar to make it thick, Coca-Cola and hot tortillas made from fresh-ground masa.
Already blown away by all I was taking in, something unexpectedly powerful happened as we were settling in for the night — they turned on a tiny black and white television. In poured commercial after commercial promising firmer skin, happier children and domestic ecstasy for the bargain price of what these people might earn in a week. As the telenovela (soap opera) came on — dramatically depicting the ‘covetable’ lives of the wealthy — I gazed at the faces of my new friends in their beautiful handwoven clothes, breathed the cold night air blowing in between the slats of their wooden walls and hid my tears behind my tiny plastic cup of certain diabetes. I wanted to jump up and warn them, “No! You don’t want this! We’ve got it all wrong!” I wanted to stand in front of that stupid tv (threatening the self-sufficiency and contentment of these already-oppressed people) and say “Look, people in my country are starved for what you have! You raise your kids together and live off the land and practice the arts of your ancestors? Those are riches far more valuable than anything we can buy!”
But then I remembered the young mother who just that morning had shared of her son’s death due simply to the absence of a doctor and the fact that most of the women I’d met didn’t know how to read and that the “foods” we’d been offered were not only malnourishing, but all they could afford, and I sat quietly — forever changed — but utterly speachless.
Slowly, I’ve come to realize why I had nothing to say in that moment — because my purpose there was not to influence their perspectives, but for theirs to influence mine:
Our job as free and thinking people is not to “save the world.” There’s something critical lost in such radical (and egotistical) notions of environmental and social responsibility. Not only do they detract from the virtues of intentional everyday living, but the poorest of poor on this planet are looking to us for examples of better lives. Until we create models worthy of emulating, all “relief efforts” are mere band-aids for the very wounds we are perpetuating, whether inadvertently or not. Until we use our freedom with intention we are simply trading one set of oppressive circumstances for another.
The solution is simple (which is rarely synonymous with easy): Live well in your places.
In the coming months, I’ll be breaking down this list and giving more definition to its individual tools. But first, I need to give this part of my brain a break and focus on making home! You can expect to see lots of projects over the next few weeks. A huge THANK YOU to all who stuck with me from the start of this series. For those who just landed…
Part I: Refine Homemaking, Change the World
Part II: Homemaking Redefined – From Primitive to Antiquated to Intentional
wow, I have so many of those of things in my toolbox already, it’s just that I keep pushing them aside while looking for that magic wand.
You have really made me aware that looking inward and living well here and showing my children that it’s ok to focus on ourselves is ok too.
Thanks for sharing this I think I will ponder this more over the coming days. So much to think about in that one post.
It’s exciting to me that most of us are already doing so many of the things we “should” be doing. I think most of these are, in fact, in line with our instincts and intuition but you’re right – there’s a whole lot to push out of the way in order to be able to see that. Thanks, Kate!
Thank you for this series. I stumbled upon your site mere weeks ago, and you have been speaking directly to my passions and convictions that I have only recently begun to act upon. This is exactly what I needed to hear. Inspiring (to say the absolute least)! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Ashley – Thank YOU. That the truth of my heart speaks to someone else’s is about as sweet as it gets.
Your blog is my new favorite. I love this series and where you are going with it. And I couldn’t agree more about starting at home – my thing is starting with your kids and family life. Things have certainly gotten out of wack in our modern culture but it seems there are a lot of people questioning…
I definitely have a radical vision and dream of what I’d like to make as far as a community/lifestyle. And I’m happy to say that on your list of things today’s homemakers have in common I’m doing pretty well (but I totally agree that those 10 things are defining characteristics of people in general today!)
I’m all over the place here. Just want to add my voice to those who are saying – love your message and your heart. And I especially love the practicality of how you propose to address these issues.
Thank you, Susan! I so appreciate your thoughtful comment and encouragement. And no worries…I’m no stranger to “all over the place!”
Wow! I’ve been eagerly anticipating this list and it exceeded my expectations! I just cannot even begin to explain how much this resonates with me right now! My hubby just joked with me a few weeks ago that we are being “lapped” by the world (technology, gadgets, stuff, etc) and I said “well maybe the finish line is behind us and if that’s the case, we are in the lead” Reminds me of your #5. I just FEEL that our world is ready for this kind of thinking (a bit of a leaning towards feminine strengths, bringing a bit of yin to a world full of lots of yang). And I am working on all these things daily and have been writing about it at my blog Good Girl addressing everything you mentioned from perfectionism to self awareness. So glad that I have found your blog!
Thank you so much, Sarah. I couldn’t agree more…I, too feel we’re entering a huge shift in consciousness, however hokey or new-agey that sounds. I look forward to checking out your blog! SO glad you’re here.
Your writing and thinking is brilliant. Eloquent….inspiring!!
Thank you, Sandi!! What a flattering complement.
Thank you Beth. Your words give me strength to “stay the course”- and just when I was feeling so alone.
Molly – there is no greater reward than comments such as yours. Thank YOU.
Wow. Thanks for this. So thoughtful and thought-provoking. I’m going to print it out and carry it around with me to ponder on (and put in practice!).
My pleasure, Andrea. I probably ought to print it out and carry it around with me, too!!
I am very curious to hear more about your views regarding “job as free and thinking people is not to “save the world.” Why do you think this is radical and egotistical (I’m especially curious about the ego-based part of your analysis)? I’m also very intrigued as to how this ties in with #2 above, which is to accept the circumstances of the moment without judging them. When traveling in places with severe poverty, I’ve always thought that I have to figure out some way to help, some way to change things for them. You are suggesting that we are to take in the “good” parts about their lives and incorporate them into our own so as to balance out some of the imbalances in our own lives? Maybe accepting the circumstances without trying to change them is a way to mitigate the frantic feeling that I get that I must help somehow? I really look forward to hearing your elaborations on all of this in the upcoming future as these are things I have long pondered!
Oh, Nicole. I wondered if someone might pose this question! I have yet to write this post (re: the first part of your comment), as it all still feels a little raw and soon (and hugely complex) but since you asked I feel I should at least touch on it…
Without pointing any fingers, and while recognizing good INTENTIONS, the stove project I was a part of was a real mess. In short, I saw the damage that can be done when even the most giving and kind-hearted people try to solve problems without truly understanding the culture they are “helping.” The thing is, the longer I was there, the more complicated that ONE issue of stoves became. You can read a little about my time there here: https://revolutionfromhome.com/2012/01/the-maya-me-story-1-cookstoves-complexities-and-what-comes-next/, but here is an excerpt in which I listed just a few of the items that needed to be addressed in order for the project to be “successful:” stove design, adoption rates, prioritization within a responsible NGO, the effectiveness of numerical analysis vs. anthropological research, language barriers, dependency vs. self-sufficiency, hierarchy within communities, gender discrimination, the balance of efficiency vs. health, homogenization of culture, and safety vs. practicality. The dialogue must include ecology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, statistics, public health, spirituality and engineering. It’s one that will never have a perfect solution and which demands a total reevaluation for each individual community.
So many of these types of programs take our outside perspectives and superimpose them on lifestyles and thought processes we’ve never even considered. Imagine a group of indigenous people coming into your neighborhood and trying to convert you away from your electric oven because there’s a much better way (but one that they you have to buy from them). And then they install it in your home, it doesn’t work right and now you have a gaping hole in your roof. Oh, and no one comes back to follow up because they moved on to “help” the next group.
It’s clearly a much longer conversation than that (and there are plenty of NGOs doing things more responsibly), but I hope that can begin to shed light on some of my reasoning.
As for the second part of your question, it, too requires a lengthy answer, but yes, I believe that the way we think and feel about whatever circumstances we are faced with has a huge impact on our ability to contribute in a positive or negative way to the improvement of those circumstances. If I am fearful or feeling sorry for or frantically trying to fix something, the end results (as well as the process) will look much different than being invested in something for the long haul, and operating from a place of love and understanding.
You have inspired me to continue this dialogue. I look forward to further hashing through my thoughts. Thank you!!
Much to think about! I’ve done environmental and social work as my “carrer” but I’ve never felt I was contributing as much to “change the world” as I feel I’m doing now. Being at home, raising my deeply sensitive son, questioning everything and working on myself (my values, my attitudes, my feelings).
I’ve lived similar experiences with the impact of TV (soap operas in particular) on remote Amazon villages. It was so crazy and hard to wrap my mind around the contradictions….
Looking forward for the next posts!
Thank you, Lucia. Honestly, the irony floored me to the point that I had to retract a little from my time out there in order to get a handle on all the frustration it brought out in me. Speaking of “deeply sensitive,” I really had no idea how much I would be affected. Thank you for your investment in your family – the fact that your son has a mother who honors his sensitivity will impact his life in ways you may never know. Keep being awesome.
I have just read all three of your posts and really enjoyed them. I struggle all the time with balance. I’m a 12 hour night shift labor and delivery nurse. My husband, who’s degree in Spanish doesn’t take him far in our bad economy, works as a bartender so his paycheck is “labile” at best and I also carry all of our health insurance. While I would love to be a homemaker, it’s just not possible. I live in a small house with mt husband, our two little girls (3yo and 5mo) and 3 dogs. I often feel like our house is too small but just keep reminding myself that it’s cozy and we don’t really NEED something bigger. Not only do I not have time to garden, but I’ve never enjoyed it, making me even less likely to try to find the time for it. As such, I do all that I can to buy groceries at the farmers market from local growers and farmers. I take lots of walks with my girls and dogs in the woods and get back to nature that way. I feel like telling you all this is trying yo justify why I do what I do but it’s actually to tell you that I found what you wrote validating. Thank you.
Elizabeth, I am so glad that you found my series validating, especially given that your family way is one I think MANY people can relate with. I really do believe that homemaking is and should be as individual as each household and that there is no one right model. It sounds to me like you do an amazing job of balancing work, family and intentional living. That’s no easy feat. Hats off to you! (Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’ve met more happy people living in humble dwellings than big fancy houses, hands down.) Thanks so much for your kind words! All the best to you and yours.
Wonderful! I want to forward this to everyone I know.
These three posts have put what I’ve felt into such brilliant, effective language. I thank you! I could go on and tell about my bizarre childhood or raising my two daughters (mostly as a single mom)in this suburb of NYC. Really I want to tell you I grow food, raise chickens, teach canning and food preservation (I have websites.. they are not important here), cook, sew and yet, with all this, I’m thought of as ‘not working’ because I earn a measly amount of money. And I feel sad for the culture, or lack there of, around me.
You have shown me that I AM, in my small way, making a huge difference in this world. THANK YOU!
I just rediscovered your blog and found this series. It’s as if you are writing just for me – although, clearly, you are writing for all of us. It is personal and universal at the same time! Thank you for your fantastic perspective and for helping to lead the charge (and change) by articulating what so many of us are feeling.
I echo MammaLin’s sentiments completely. That was a sorely needed breath of fresh air for me. I attempt to be a follower of Christ but I appreciate that you don’t alienate people of faith. Truthfully, our values should propel us to all of the same conclusions (key word being should of course).
I swear, I’m a fan 🙂
I can relate on so many levels it’s insane.
I love the art by Amy Rice!! Physical and emotional balance helps to live well in our place, we’d do well to support and encourage one another.