I have a confession to make.
One of my all time favorite books is a book on housekeeping. Before you think me compulsive, I am not a spotless housekeeper, mind you. I have five kids, remember? But I love, love, love Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelsson. (She also has a wonderful work on laundry.)
To me, this book feels like home. All of your secret housekeeping questions are answered in this authoritative anthology. It is not for compulsive cleaners, but for those wanting a clean, comfortable home.
Topics like the ritual of weekly chores, the best lighting for the feel of the room, the science of laundry stains, making your bedroom a haven, caring for books, and folding your shirts correctly find their way into my domesticly inclined heart and I sigh.
And I love the dry humor of this author.
“ You should also air the bed and the bedroom simply to freshen them after your long use. On this subject, my Italian and Anglo-American grandmothers exhibited different attitudes. The Italian relatives were outspoken in defense of long airing, insisting on hours of this and putting little stock in making the bed… To the Northern European relatives, such a bed was a symbol of degeneracy and immorality; it suggested not only were you too lazy to make the bed properly, but that you intended to get back in and be slothful–or worse.” (p.659)
Here are a few excerpts:
“I first learned that housework has meaning by observing my grandmothers. The reason they made a fuss when they saw a granddaughter doing things in a “foreign” way is that they knew–in their bones if not in words– that the way you experience life in your home is determined by how you do your housekeeping. Just as you can read a culture in the way its people fold a shirt (or do not), little domestic habits are what give everybody’s home the special qualities that make it their own and let them feel at home there.” (pg.7)
“ The sense of being at home is important to everyone’s well-being. If you do not get enough of it, your happiness, resilience, energy, humor and courage will decrease…Being at home feels safe; you have a sense of relief whenever you come home and close the door behind you…but too much attention to the looks of a home can backfire if it creates a stage set feeling instead of the authenticity of a genuinely homey place…What really does work to increase the feeling of having a home and its comforts is housekeeping.
Housekeeping creates cleanliness, order, regularity, beauty and conditions for health and safety. It is housekeeping that makes your home alive, that turns it into a small society in its own right, a vital place where you can be more yourself than you can be anywhere else.”
“American housekeeping and home life are in a state of decline… Washday is any time anyone throws a load into the machine, and laundering skills are in precipitous decline. Dishes are washed when the dishwasher is full. Meals occur any time or all the time or , what amounts to the same thing, never, as people serve more and more prepared and semi-prepared foods. Cleaning and neatening are done mostly when the house seems out of control.”
I have borrowed it so many times from the library that I was tempted to send my husband in for it this time. Can’t wait to reread it again.