Home Comforts – The Art & Science of Keeping House

by Cheryl Mendelson has been such a help to me lately. It may very well rank right up there with The Tightwad Gazette and Clutter’s Last Stand as one of the most useful and helpful books I’ve ever owned.

I was never taught how to take care of a house. I never learned how to straighten as I went or how to keep up on chores so that they weren’t always completely overwhelming. In my family, while I was growing up, we only cleaned on Saturday and it was a huge deal. It took practically all. day. long. So I learned to hate cleaning/picking up after myself and others. I learned that it was an all day chore when it happened and that I should put it off as long as possible because it always took forever.

I was also never taught how to get rid of anything. Everything I had, I just assumed I would always have. My parents modeled this behavior to me quite effectively. My dad had shelves and shelves of books that would periodically end up in piles on the floor and wait for weeks before they were reshelved. My mom kept everything. Every. single. thing. She still has boxes of junk mail and coupons from four years ago (maybe longer even) because when we would “tidy” up the house we would just put all those papers in boxes for her to go through at some mythical later date, but “later” never came.

Enter: my husband and two daughters. Now it wasn’t just my own mess that I was procrastinating about picking up. It wasn’t just my own clutter that I didn’t want to get rid of. Now it was my husband’s mess (which, admittedly wasn’t too bad) and my older daughter’s mess (toddler mess… pretty bad!) as well. I decided that I didn’t want to raise my children in clutter and mayhem the way I was raised.

“Clutter’s Last Stand” by Don Aslett came into my life through the Library Book Sale. I now know better how to decide whether something stays in my life or needs to leave ASAP. The fewer things I have, the fewer things I have to take care of and the less time I have to spend putting them away.

I still wasn’t comfortable with the cleaning aspect of keeping house though. I was never sure whether I was doing it correctly or often enough (or too often?). The book Home Comforts – The Art & Science of Keeping House fairly leapt off the shelf at me when I was at Border’s a couple of weeks ago. I was glancing through their selection of house-keeping and organizational books and this one was by far the largest housekeeping book on the shelves. It was practically corpulent!

I flipped through it and found that it contained information about how to take care of almost every aspect of house keeping. It covered how to make your home clean and yet not institutional. It covered how to choose fabrics and how to wash them without destroying them in the process. It covered how to make a schedule so that housekeeping doesn’t become overwhelming due to handling it from crisis to crisis.

I bought a copy.

It is changing my life. I have set aside one day a week to do baking so that my family has bread and breakfast muffins every day. We have a budget now and have put it down on paper so we will be sure to stick to it! I’m vacuuming the house several time a week and I don’t feel overwhelmed by the kitchen because the dishes are done after almost every single meal (breakfast only dirties a couple of plates that can wait until the lunch dishes are washed).

I’m getting my online life under control so that I have time to do the things that really matter – spending time making my house comfortable and safe. Spending time with my husband and daughters. Spending time LIVING! I’m cleaning more than I ever have before, but I feel so much better. I used to hide from my messy house by spending excessive time online and now I am able to spend time in my house because it’s a nice, pleasant place to be.

Now I just have to keep it up!


Happiness is….

  1. A clean kitchen.
  2. Sleeping children.
  3. Pretending that I actually know what I’m doing (’cause I’m an adult, right?), and succeeding!
  4. Organic toast with lots of honey on top.
  5.  A snuggly baby.
  6. Listening to KPLU Jazz station all day long.
  7. Surviving a drive to West Bremerton.
  8. Fresh veggies from the CSA.
  9. Singing in the car.
  10. Getting ready to travel to a warmer climate for 5 weeks.
  11. Tandem-nursing.
  12. Using a wrap to carry my baby while sniffing her head!

On Clutter

What is it? It is anything that I do not use, love, or have space for.

What purpose does it serve? It is currently serving to drive me absolutely nuts.

Where does it accumulate? It accumulates on the table, on the desk, on the floor, and on the bed. It accumulates in the kitchen on every single available surface and then some.

Why on earth do I have so much of it?  Where does it come from? It doesn’t just appear, does it? I suppose it comes from stores, yard sales, and generous friends who pass along items or give us gifts. However…

I never accept anything that I won’t use. Someday.

I never buy anything that I won’t use. Someday.

What if someday never comes? Why should I keep things that I don’t use *now*?

More importantly, why *do* I keep things that I don’t use now? Sentimentality? Hoarding instinct – “just in case”?

Does it make me feel better to have all this stuff just sitting around? No? No. NO! It makes me feel horrid.

Clutter saps my energy. It makes my house much more difficult to clean. It makes my house much more difficult to organize. I have to keep my kids out of all this stuff because much of it is not safe for them to play with.

So why do I still have it?

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