No Misspent Life for Me

English: Gordon Road Last minute shopping on C...

English: Gordon Road Last minute shopping on Christmas Eve in Gordon Road (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“….live creatively with collections, clutter, work, kids, pets, art, etc…
and stop worrying about everything being perfectly in its place.”
–Mary Randolph Carter

I have a new favourite book. Be forewarned–usually the book I am currently reading is my new favourite book. Not all books fit into this category though. I am quite discerning, as I am sure you are when it comes to the time we are willing to spend with a book. Reading is one of my favourite pastimes, but I do not just read anything (as I did in my youth—nothing was beyond my interest then, from cereal boxes to my father’s Mechanics Illustrated.)

My new favourite book backs up one of my prejudices—which is not a requirement of everything I read, but it is gratifying and pleasant to read something written by a fellow compatriot. The book’s title is based on my philosophy of life: “A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life.” It just so happens I have a little quilted sign with that same sentiment hanging over the door to my upstairs. What I did not know is that the saying is derived from the words of Dame Rose Macaulay who was born in 1851. She said, “At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.”

The author of “A Perfectly Kept House…”, Mary Randolph Carter does not have a little sign with those infamous words, but instead they are inscribed on muddied doormats at the entrance to her home and that of each of her immediate family. The mats were found one “Christmas Eve on a panicky last-minute shopping spree.” Spied in a pile of holiday rubble at a big discount store, she and her family pounced on them, deciding they were a perfect gift to give one another. The words became their family motto.

Now, before you jump to any conclusions, neither I nor the author are hoarders. She expressed it well when she said that her family home was “lived in but not unkept”. (Okay, so sometimes mine is unkept—but it is most certainly “lived in”.)
An excerpt from the book will give you an idea of its philosophy put to work. Under the banner of “The Best Welcome of All” are these words: “The best welcomes are waiting just inside the door. Nothing beats a warm hug and personal greeting from a friend, a child, or an excited barking dog for getting a visit, a dinner, or a party off to a good start. Don’t worry about the last-minute preparations or making sure everything is absolutely in its place. You can light the candles, put the hors d’oeuvres out, pick up whatever it is you’re worried about after you’ve warmly welcoming your guests.”

The author differentiates between the terms house and home–a home is what you make of a house once you put your personal stamp on it. She quotes a photographer who made his living taking pictures of “quite perfect homes” for a magazine. He happened upon a kitchen that was “unlike any room he had ever been assigned…” as “it was a kitchen to be used, not to impress. It told me everything that I didn’t already know about these people—their charm, their informality, their intense passion, a life lived without pretence or sham.”

Now that is a life worth living—charming, informal, and passionate.