Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Importance Of Beauty In The Home

In our pragmatic times, housekeeping is often reduced to keeping a minimal standard of cleanness (like vacuuming once in two weeks) and comfort (some Christian blogs suggested serving dinner on paper plates so that there would be no need of washing the dishes).

The result of this philosophy is often that women are either told there that there is nothing to do at home, hence they should seek paid employment outside of it, or (in the case of more traditionally-minded people) that while being at home, they should invest all their time and energy into home businesses.

Thus, both liberals and (some) conservative Christians denigrate homemaking and put money-making activities above everything else, including health and beauty.

In less enlightened times, folks actually used to value a clean and well-organised household much more than they do now. Cleanliness is next to godliness, states an old proverb. However, cleanness alone is not what makes a house a home. A really good homemaker adds what the author of Fascinating Womanhood calls feminine touches to her housekeeping.

Feminine touches include things like "...gingham curtains, a basket of fruit, soft pillows, a cozy rug at the door, flowers, a row of plates above a cross beam, cheerful wallpaper...cheerful tablecloths, pretty dishes and delicious aromas." (F.W., Bantam Books 1992, p.229).

We all like to watch the pictures of beautiful homes, hence all the magazines about interior design and decorating. I believe that most women have an innate striving for beauty which modern  society based on utilitarian principles does its best to eradicate. It didn't start right now, of course, but as the 20th century progressed, architecture became uglier, female clothes more masculine and approach to life more pragmatic.

You can especially notice it while reading the mid-20th century homemaking books which kept mocking more ornamental style of previous decades and suggested industrial standards for an ordinary household, not only in the way it looked, but in the way it was run. One book I own actually states, that a household should be run as a factory. Then, in the 1970s the majority of married women went to work, and it all went downhill afterwards. Luckily, the tide started to turn and modern women have regained interest in domestic arts.

To make a house really feel like home, one should invest a lot of time and effort into it. It's not just a question of keeping it reasonably clean and uncluttered. A home should have a certain feeling about it, which is only possible if there is someone whose daily duty is to take care of it.

Most of my readers have probably heard about Cheryl Mendelson and her book Home Comforts which became a homemaking manual for the modern woman. That's what Cheryl writes in the first chapter of her book:

"...what a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive, was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things...Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home...her affection was in the sofa cushions, clean linens and good meals; her memory in well-stocked...cabinets...; her intelligence in the order and healthfulness of her home; her good humor in its light and air. She lived her life not only through her own body but through her house as an extension of her body; part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made." (H.C., Scribner, 2005, pp.9-10).

To use an old-fashioned expression, the traditional housewife made home her career. And to enjoy any career, you will have to go an extra mile, not only doing the bare minimum, but going above and beyond the call of duty, so to say. While a well-run household should be uncluttered and organised, which will often mean simplifying things, there should still be place for beauty in it and for that special feminine touch which only a really feminine woman can add.

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