In THE SIMPLE HOME, QVC's design expert Sharon Hanby-Robie wants to help Christians rethink their homes as spiritual sanctuaries. "Imagine how different life would be if we let the Creator of the universe not only rule our lives but our homes as well." In this faith-driven approach to home decorating and organization, she offers practical tips and personal anecdotes to get readers started.
I hadn't thought of crafting a mission statement for my home, but Hanby-Robie says this is the first step toward simplicity. What is your home's purpose? Do you work from home? Is it a place for you to retreat? How do other members of your family see the purpose of your home? She peppers her chapters with anecdotes from her own homemaking, quotes about homes from famous people and scripture verses. Chapters end with a short plan of action and a prayer. One of my favorites: "Lord, give me wisdom to clear away those things that distract me from what is important to my life. Help me to rid myself of confusion so that I can enjoy the creative use of my home."
There's a nice mix of practical tips ("The key to creating a beautiful wall of art is to choose similar sizes, styles, or shapes") with plenty of room for sentiment and emotion ("Hanging children's art is an amazing way to instill confidence and a sense of value in a child."). Some tips are simple and inexpensive (using paint to update a room) while others are more complicated and expensive (removing walls, installing new flooring).
Some readers may find her a little gushy; for example, of one client couple she says: "I have watched their two sons grow from adorable little boys to strong, amazing men." The spiritual emphasis is strong. Musing over color choices is a chance to ruminate on scriptures in Revelation that describe colors in heaven. There is a specific section for readers who want to create a sanctuary space for spiritual quiet time. The section on hospitality, however, was disappointingly thin. Two chapters on color choices probably could have been combined, and some ideas are repeated in different chapters.
But I appreciated her willingness to let us in on her own decorating mistakes, including one that resulted in a neon orange-papered powder room. She also urges contentment even when we are unhappy with the home we have. I also enjoyed her reminders about the importance of some rooms for family, such as the "flop and chat" potential of the master bedroom. (My teenagers loved to do this!)
In addition to decorating, Hanby-Robie addresses organization ("maintain a family calendar") and clutter elimination (one chapter is titled, "Attics and Garages and Basements, Oh My!). I picked up a new tip on eliminating odor in a damp basement --- she recommends trying an activated charcoal filter. Another idea I appreciated was an easy way to manage coupons. Most of the ideas are tried and true…and practical.
One of the amazing discoveries we'll make as we simplify and de-clutter is how much stuff we have, Hanby-Robie notes. "Too often, rather than look for a small, specific item it seems easier to buy another one." I have a feeling if I ever got my office organized, I'd be amazed at how many pens I have! Yet I can never find one when I need it.
Her ideas about making the most of what we have ("rearrange your furniture") and remembering more elusive things, such as the scents and sounds of our homes, were particularly compelling. What do you smell when you walk in your front door? Most importantly, there is plenty of scope for your creativity. "There's so much you can accomplish just by putting your mind to the task and letting your imagination run wild." In these pages, readers will appreciate finding new ideas to make their home a spiritual haven.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on October 15, 2006