Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dealing With Clutter

The third chapter of Home Comforts is dedicated to clutter. In it, Mrs Mendelson makes a tremendous discovery - Westerners generally tend to accumulate too much stuff which they don't need so that half of it is regularly thrown away while the other half clogs our homes and contributes to chaos and disorder. Say whatever you wish about minimalists, but some of their ideas are correct. We don't really need that many things and many a mother could probably stay home or at least, cut on her working hours if only we somehow got rid of rampant consumerism.

Clutter problem has reached such proportions that we now have books and magazines (and blog posts:) on how actually to deal with it. Yet, as Cheryl points out, good habits can overcome it. She then goes into detail describing the broken-window theory, that is the idea that if you once allow yourself a small dereliction of duty to uphold law and order, whether in your own household or in the neighbourhood, it will cause a chain reaction of increased chaos and antisocial behaviour.

Simply staying neat and doing the chores come hell or high water prevents a downward spiral...and this is how things were done until the middle of the twentieth century. (H.C., Scribner 1999, p.32 - emphasis mine). Mrs Mendelson conveniently avoids answering the question what it was that prompted such a change in attitudes towards housekeeping (of course, we all know the answer),  so the solution she offers is to relax the standards while still maintaining some semblance of order as having a place for everything, just not expecting that everything will be in its place all the time, if you know what I mean:)

It is actually a very good suggestion for modern busy households and she stresses that while our standards for toys and newspapers could be more relaxed, we should still maintain  strict order in the kitchen , bathroom and bedroom, as to do otherwise would be unhygienic and unsanitary (never leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen overnight is a very good rule which is, unfortunately, often broken nowadays and don't let me get started about some folks' laundry habits which are more fitting for a slum than for a decent middle class neighbourhood).

Cheryl also warns against accumulating junk in remote corners of the house and leaving it there, something we are all inclined to do, I'm afraid. She then adds that the only real manner to keep order in your home is to follow the old ways and stick to your routines and schedules whatever happens and in case of emergencies, to follow a basic schedule of providing "food, clean laundry, fundamental cleanliness" (p.33, idem) until you can get back to normal. The last piece of advice she offers, is to teach children to pick up after themselves, though she doesn't exactly go as far as saying that you need to teach the same to your husband.

As long as both work, yes, they both should pick up after themselves, but when one member of the household is a full time homemaker, I think she can cut her hard-working husband some slack...

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