This is an interesting phenomenon:
Bring order and warmth and beauty to your environment.
Use that order to bring order to your inner world.
Integrate your emotions, thoughts and actions as much as possible for peace.
We see this idea over and over again in Waldorf parenting and education. If a little person is having a hard time at snack in a Waldorf Kindergarten, one of the first things a Waldorf Kindergarten teacher may do would be to straighten up the placemat, napkin, chair, glass, silverware around the child. I believe there is a description of this in the book, “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge”, for those of you who may have that book.
Bring order and beauty to the child, and let that sink into giving the child order within.
In the book, “Awakening Beauty the Dr. Hauschka Way” by Susan West Kurz with Tom Monte, the author writes: “Another simple way to experience your inner rhythms and to bring order to them is to create order in your environment. Often when I feel my life is getting out of control, I organize my office, clean a room in my house, or arrange a drawer or my jewelry box. It sounds mundane, but the act of creating order around me puts me in touch with the order within me. It also helps me avoid trying to control everyone else around me.” This book was recently given to me as a gift from a dear friend, and it really is a wonderfully nurturing book about the spiritual and physical foundations of beauty.
Order to create harmony.
I truly believe if you can tame your physical environment by paring down, and then add a healthy dose of rhythm on top of that, along with your own inner prayer life, you are well on your way toward creating a home life that is healthy.
With small children, less is more. The environment should have less. Children are very small, they are impulses and whims and giant sensory organs with no filters. Think small, simple, beautiful.
Rhythm for small children also needs to have space and time to breathe. Some families come to me and say they have no rhythm, but they really do. Those “things” you see on the beautiful blogs, the art and the creating and such, are not necessarily the hallmark of rhythm when your oldest is five and under. The hallmark there is bodily care, warming foods, warming touch and singing, practical work. When your oldest children are in the grades and your younger ones are kindergarten aged, you will have much more of a centered rhythm and space and time to bring those other elements that one may associate with a Waldorf School. Home is not school. Home is a warm, peaceful and nurturing place.
You might be asking where to start with the physical environment. If you truly find your environment out of control and need to start somewhere, please speak with your spouse or partner, your family members and plan several weekend afternoons when you have help with your small children. There is nothing so difficult as cleaning out things and watching your piles be carried all over the house by a band of small children.
I think children’s rooms should be havens for rest and sleep. There is not need for many toys or books in the bedrooms. The kitchen and dining area should be places of organization – how many glasses do you really need? how many plates? how many gadgets? Do you take your recyling and composting out promptly or do you have things hanging all over your kitchen waiting to go somewhere else?
Then look at your play areas and homeschooling areas. Are things in baskets? How many toys do you really need out at one time? How many books do you need? How much in the way of art supplies and such? And how are these things organized – can your four year old pull up and chair and get down the stapler or glue or paint when you are not around? Think ahead in the environment so as to avert disasters!
What is warm in your home? What warming colors are there? What things of natural beauty are there? Are there plants and flowers? Some things that are well-loved and worn? Those, to me, are beautiful. Do you have religious objects that are inviting and comforting and calming? Lovely.
To me, for small children, think about 14 outfits with outerwear for the elements. Books? About 6 for each season, rotated on the equinox and solstice dates for the beginning of each season. Toys? Not many, and those that are available; open ended. Think practical work – does your child have the tools to help you with that? “Gross motor toys” – bikes, scooters, jump ropes, are important.
Pare down and bring soothing order to your home and your family life.