My daughter is conscientious about her 1920s home. She cares that things be clean and orderly in spite of demands of her full-time job, a teenage daughter, three cats, an English Mastiff, a partner with multiple guitars (she loves his music), a room-conquering Peloton, and a kitchen being remodeled. I admire her greatly. That’s a lot to take care of–and she’s a bit of a perfectionist. But I bet your list of responsibilities is at least as daunting.
Mine, however, is not. My husband and I are retired, living in a small coastal town in Maine with only one non-shedding Bernedoodle–Beacon (though his energy level is more like 12 Border Collies with 100 tennis balls!). We walk the beach or preserves with Beacon, bringing sand and leaves back with us, thus, demanding we wash, vacuum, dust, etc. with some regularity.
What’s the answer to house cleaning? Sure, if one can afford it, maid service is great. But most of us can’t. We do it all ourselves. That “we” ought not just mean “women” but should include EVERYONE who lives in the home. Contrary to what most men think, women do not have a superior ability to push a vacuum cleaner, load a dishwasher, or sew on a button!–three things, BTW, my husband has almost mastered, proving men and children can be just as talented.
I recall 1970s lists of duties I sometimes posted for my boys and daughter: make your beds, pick up your clothes, feed the cats, set and clear the table, etc. Such lists seem to have disappeared from American society. Yet they taught kids to help, to be part of what makes a family function. It let them know they’re essential, loved. Yes, loved. Participation–even in work–conveys that.
Though the organizing may be your job, the doing of it all ought not be left up to you. Part of your organizing skill requires getting everyone involved. Figure out what needs doing and assign bits to every family member. No one is exempt. Even a 2-year-old can pick up his toys. Sure, it may seem faster to do it yourself, but look what the others are missing out on! If they are not held to clean and order things, they miss learning that infinitely satisfying state they will appreciate all their lives–as will their future spouses. So, divvy out the cleaning products, smile, play music, encourage yourself and others to get every job done–even windows! And once the Spring air pours through those spotless windows, celebrate everyone’s efforts with a special supper that everyone had a hand in making.
Lydia Maria Child was an early feminist, abolitionist, and author who in the early 1800s wrote a very popular book, The American Frugal Housewife, which is charmingly useful even today–I used it in teaching women’s studies in the 1990s. From anecdotes, economical wisdom, remedies and recipes, she includes how to make soap, beer, bread, clothes from scraps, carve a turkey, store vegetables, mend, knit, polish–even how to raise daughters–and how to clean anything. Throughout her practical advice runs a theme of benevolence. “True economy is a careful treasurer in the service of benevolence; and where they are united respectability, prosperity, and peace will follow.” This feminist understood the importance of home.
Home has always been precious to me, as I imagine it is to you, too. I know I will be writing about it throughout future postings, for it is never far from my thought. On the entry wall of my current home I painted these words: Home is not a place, but a power of love and grace.
The quality of thought of the homemaker matters. It is not just her house that needs cleaning. Dirt and clutter collect in thought, too. Negativity, anger, prejudice, moping, ill will, and bad humor grow in thought crevasses like dirt in the corners of woodwork. Tackling this sort of cleaning is best done daily. No hit-or miss-dusting. What mental cleaning supplies does it take? Likely you already know. I’ll offer my two cents next posting. Until then, grin (yes, even during a pandemic) and get rid of the grime. It’s Spring!
Before we moved to Maine two and a half years ago, one summer we stayed in this charming cottage while I painted the area. There was a lived-in brightness to this little historic house so I painted it in watercolor, a medium in which I’ve taken numerous awards over many decades. There’s a freshness and freedom that working in watercolor affords that perfectly suits Maine’s character. This is a favorite painting and hangs in my bedroom.