Starting From Scratch: Building a Happy Home

Starting From Scratch: Building a Happy Home

by Charlotte Siems

Before having children, many women worry about what kind of mother they will be. Nothing unusual about that, but a difficult childhood instilled in me a fear that I wouldn’t know how to have a normal family home life. I worried about how I would handle discipline or how I would treat possible future children. On the other hand, that same childhood experience made me determined to create a marriage and home that was stable, warm and peaceful.

Early in my mothering career I attended a parenting conference and heard Dr. Herbert Ratner make the following statement: “The 20 years between 20 and 40 (years of age) are just as long as the 20 years between 40 and 60. What you do in the first 20 years determines how happy you will be in the second 20 years.” That idea stuck with me. I determined to live life with the end in mind.

Not knowing how to have a happy home, I set out to learn how. Here are a few things I figured out:

Books don’t magically solve problems. Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re doing something because we read about it and agree with it. Close the book and do what it says.

Surround yourself with what is true and lovely. Protect yourself from ugly input. Don’t live in a bleak, cluttered environment. Bring beauty, warmth, and neatness to all of your life. Be very careful what you allow to enter your mind and eyes. Constant exposure to beautiful ideas and noble goals will transform your thought life.

We all know that thoughts determine actions, don’t we?

Do the things you don’t want to do. Do them cheerfully and well. Edith Schaeffer wrote, “Somebody has to get up early, stay up late, do more than the others, if the human garden is to be a thing of beauty.” At first glance it doesn’t seem fair, but there are hidden and precious rewards for dying to self and serving. Stomping and self-pity cancel the reward points.

Choose your hard things. Do your laundry and put it away. That’s hard. Get ready to go somewhere and realize no one has clean clothes to wear. That’s hard. You pick.

Take the time. Yes, I know you’re busy. Throw a meal on the table and get on to the next thing. No time for a tablecloth and candles and flowers. You’ll do that when you have time. But before you know it, the weeks, the months and the years pass, and the children leave home and you never had time.

Lest you think I’ve sailed through life with clean laundry and beautiful meal tables, I assure you these lessons were hard earned. Many times I felt inadequate to the task. It was like trying to pour water from a dry bucket. Giving your children what you didn’t have as a child is not easy. Creating a happy home life from scratch will take everything you’ve got and even that won’t be enough.

That’s why I’m so glad that the Bible says the strength and power of Christ pitches a tent over me and dwells upon me. His favor and loving-kindness supply what I don’t have. He will gladly do that for you, too, for He knows all about love and building beautiful homes.

It turns out that giving your family what you didn’t receive, gives it back to you.



  1. Beautifully written, Charlotte! Sacrificial love, the love that lays down our own lives for others, is said to heal every dysfunction in our soul. So even in the act of giving and pouring ourselves into others, we are feeding ourselves. I also grabbed hold of your first statement about wisdom… and it reminded me that living in a state of awe and wonder is how children live, and when we begin to think we “know it all” – we really only puff up our ego and lose that sense of childlike awe and wonder. Like you, I’ve laid down my ‘know-it-all’ tendency and I am learning to be still and know God has my Father, and in that stillness to be restored to wholeness. Now that my children are in their 20’s I am forever grateful for taking the time to lay the tablecloth and create memories, for these are the things it turns out they treasure the most! Even though I have some regrets, I’ll never regret taking the time to cherish my family! Thanks – High 4! – Susan at

  2. What a Beautiful post!!! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have written!!! in fact, we seem to be thinking along the same lines!! Check out the post I wrote yesterday:

    I moved to a new house and community less than a month ago, so my life and house are still in disarray, but I am taking Joy in unpacking and getting organized and creating beauty in my new home! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Oh Charlotte! I love you! Thankyou so much! It is exactly what I needed today!!! Praise God for sister in Christ Jesus!

  4. Marymommy22 says:

    Oh thank you, Charlotte, for that beautiful post from your heart. I needed that today! God bless you!

  5. What great advice Charlotte – thanks! Sometimes I’m so busy with my 4 little ones, I needed the reminder that doing it every day is hard but worth it. I never regret spending a little more time with my family.

  6. Angelambrooks says:

    If mothering came with a book it would be so much easier to get started but yet – we would not get to make home original if we had them. The way we work and the hours we keep – time spend with my family has to be quality time – we giggle over silly things. I don’t plan on being perfect and I let my kids know I am not – Thank goodness God guides me daily so that they are raised in the fashion he wants them raised. Time is passing way to fast…

  7. anonymous says:

    Charlotte, I so appreciate your exortations. Coming from a less than model family life, and a family that perpetually wants to keep me in that pit, has (is) very challenging as I try to give mine better. I am constantly reminded of my fauilures and inadequencies and how off the mark I am. So much needs changed in me still I can never land on where to begin, I am pulled too many directions. Our favorite time of year is now, candles and melodious music are enjoyable throught our home school day, even when little ones cry. Thankful to have a home full of them. Thank you for you encouragement, from one mom of many to another.

  8. Thank you for your inspiring post Charlotte. Headline is a 4 for me. First two Para, 4. You invited me and I don’t have children! Overall, 3.5. You are a blessing to the world. Linda

  9. Anonymous says:

    Charlotte you have managed quite beautifully and eloquently to put all of life in perspective…an important reminder for all!

  10. says:

    Love the way you write and encourage (give courage to 🙂 others. Thanks for taking the time to write. This inspires me to keep on keeping on! Please keep writing ?

    Tell us how you taught your children to read and your favorite method after doing it a dozen times 😉

  11. Charlotte, how beautifully said. When I took my first son to college I felt that my heart was being riped out of my chest. I kept praying to God for one more year, one more month… Then I realized how important every little thing done for him and the rest of my family, every chore, every sleepless night, every dinner together was. Whatever I had given him at home over the years as he grew-up was what would get him through the years to come as he went about building his own life.

  12. This was just what I needed to read this morning, Charlotte! I’ve been feeling unable to create a Lovely Place in my own home even after being a Mom for 20 years and a wife for 25. I feel that I have failed in so many ways and don’t know where to start to “do something different”. I’ll be rereading this blog post a few more times! Thanks so much…Jennifer (just7 at T-Tapp)

  13. Anonymous says:

    What lovely advice! Thanks for sharing your perspective. I’ll think twice about my dinner table now. I think your home must be such a warm, pleasant and comfortable place to live — can’t be easily done with all the people you care for!

  14. What do I need help with as I seek to build my own lovely place…help with structure or consistency. I tend to not know how to keep a simple schedule so that there is more chaos than order. I have tried flylady and seem to get “perfectionist” about it. I am overwhelmed in that I work at home and have 3 children (10, 5 and 2) and trying to find the balance and keeping priorities straight the way the Lord would have me.
    What specifics would I wish I had as I go through my days…a schedule I can stick to, or a skeleton one at least, especially for cleaning routines, that would keep our home clean and cozy and more like a haven and a “Lovely Place” 🙂
    I’d love your help and am very glad I found your blog! Thank you for this post…it spoke straight to my heart!
    Kim (I was going to do the renew, but ended up not being able to commit…maybe one day I can)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wow Charlotte, you are an inspiration and living proof that achieving a fulfilling balance with the import things can be a reality.

  16. EXCELLENT post, Charlotte. I, too, struggled to give my son what I didn’t get. To treat him better than I was treated. To establish a happy, godly, peaceful, FUN home. He is 30 now, and I look back with mixed emotions. Gratitude to God for the good I accomplished, regret for the mistakes. You are so right…He Who calls us is faithful, and WILL DO IT. Thanks for the powerful words.

  17. Robertsquiver says:

    thanks charlotte- JUST what i needed today!

  18. Bkimberli says:

    I have a question, just being honest because I have struggled with legalism. I love books and reading them but how do you, with grace and balance, read the books and apply what you learn without getting legalistic? Do you have any thoughts on that? 🙂 Thank you, you inspire me and give me more of a desire to be the wife and mother the Lord created me to be.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I think that’s where wisdom and prayer come in. Pray for wisdom before you read, and ask for the leading of the Holy Spirit. The trouble with legalism is that you don’t ever have to listen to God’s leading–you just stay in the box of what others say you should do. Pray, read the book, apply what speaks to your heart, throw out the rest.

  20. Bkimberli says:

    Thank you! Really needed to hear that and continue reading it.

  21. Excellent article! Very encouraging and right on. I just want to add, for those of you who, like me, suffer chronic illness and haven’t found “the cure” yet, that it is ok to skip the flowers and fancies on the table if you walk into the kitchen gasping for air and dizzy with weariness at doing only half of what other moms you know do. Look for creative ways to make that all important beauty and order without the constant fussing, if it really is too much for you. Enlist the help of older children to make the table pretty (and clean it up!). And while waiting for those older children if your home is young, don’t feel guilty about being unable to do it all. Throw out the books if you can’t do their theories or they are making misery in your home. Focus on loving acts and together activities that don’t wear you out as much. If getting out of the house energizes you, by all means, find somewhere nature-ish to relax and have fun with your kids! Especially away from home where you are not thinking of what needs to be done inside or in the yard. That has done wonders for my particular problem- especially if we do it a couple mornings a week. There is so much beauty out of doors!

    Bkimberli- I know just what you mean. If you struggle with it, stop reading the books. Have some fun with your kids and don’t worry- it will give you some space and perspective to know what is good to use from the books you already read and how to use it without obsessing. Blessings and peace to you. I had to learn how to have fun again because I was so worried about doing everything “right.” That only damages you and your kids. My children are better people, and healthier, when we have more fun.

  22. What a beautiful article. My kid’s are 6 and 3 and I’m days away from baby #3 and no some things are not fair, take a lot of time, and don’t seem worth it but these years are so short. Thanks for the great reminder!

  23. ‘It turns out that giving your family what you didn’t receive, gives it back to you.” YES! YES! YES!!!

    Longed for it, needed it, now we can have it! Thank you for pointing this out.

  24. Love the reminder that while serving, stomping and self-pity cancel out rewards. This has really inspired me, as usual. Charlette, I love reading your blog! Thanks for all the encouragement for this T-tapping, home-schooling momma!

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