Friday, October 24, 2014

The Importance Of Good Housekeeping

Your home is a mess and so is your life. I forgot where I first read the phrase, probably at Darla Shine's site, but I remember thinking how true it was. Unfortunately, nowadays many people don't seem to realise the importance of having a clean and well-organised home.

For instance, Cheryl Mendelson in her book Home Comforts writes about the sad state of American housekeeping and points out that "These deficiencies...can have serious effects on health. The decline of home cooking and regular home meals...coincide with skyrocketing rates of obesity...Allergy and asthma rates...are exacerbated by modern housekeeping practises. Those who live in disorderly and untended homes suffer higher accident rates. Inadequate cleanliness in the kitchen poses the danger of foodborne illness. Germs and mold...can cause infections and allergies." (H.C., p.8. Scribner, 2005).

While she is correct in identifying the problem and praising the diligent housewives of the past eras, Mrs Mendelson stops short of proposing a logical solution of restoring the old system and suggests instead that housekeeping tasks are divided between various households members, which is probably better than when the house is totally neglected, but certainly inferior to the situation when there is one person who is in charge of the household and generally responsible for the state of affairs at home.

When Home Comforts was first published in the end of the 1990s, it was probably too politically incorrect to suggest the return to the traditional division of labour, but 15 years later things have changed and there is an abundance of sites supporting people (chiefly women, of course) who choose to stay home. However, the accents have changed subtly. We talk, as I just did, about stay-at-homes, whether they are a stay-at-home mom or even in some situations, a stay-at-home wife. It has become sort of accepted choice for some women to stay home, as long as they don't designate themselves as housewives, apparently.

Well, you will ask me, what's the difference? The point is, you can stay home and do little to no housekeeping. You can even spend as little time at home as possible, being engaged in various activities, volunteering, ministries and such. Christians are hardly better in this regard as they promote the work-at-home model when the wife is engaged in home businesses the whole day long, and this purely economic activity is seen as something spiritual. This, and she can homeschool (which is positive in itself), however, the necessity of creating a cosy and orderly home is seldom stressed at all.

If one tries to question it, out comes the (in)famous Proverbs 31 lady with her supposedly business activities. It's noteworthy that there were also some things which this lady didn't do. Her energy was directed to her own household and not that of someone else. It was her husband, not herself who was known in the gates discussing politics with the elders of the land. She obviously wasn't engaged in any social causes, and didn't spend her time trying to change the world. She gave to the poor and needy but the Scriptures don't mention her going on mission trips to the foreign lands. She helped those around her, her actual neighbours.

She also looked well to the ways of her household and spent most of her time at home. It's hardly a secret that one of the tenets of feminism was rebellion against traditional female domestic duties. Again, to quote Cheryl Mendelson: "Feminist historians...have complained that the 1950s woman foolishly wasted on superfluous "work" the time she saved by using technological innovations. In calling the work superfluous, they devalue the goals of that era's housewives..." (p. 13).

"Advertisements and television programs offer degraded images of household work and workers...It is scarcely surprising...that so many people imagine housekeeping to be boring, frustrating, repetitive, unintelligent drudgery. I cannot agree (In fact, having...practised law...I can assure you that it is actually lawyers who are most familiar with the experience of unintelligent drudgery)." (p.10).

Well, I don't agree, either! I think every sort of job has it drudgery element. Mrs Mendelson compares the declining middle class domestic standards (including the shipment of young children to daycare) with the life of the industrial poor a hundred years ago. The truth is that material possessions aren't what makes one middle class (or, at least, it's not the only thing that counts). If your house looks like that of Daisy and Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances on any given day, you aren't really middle class, despite having a TV set in every room of the house and going on vacation three times a year.

When speaking of a  well-ordered household, I don't mean to say that it always will be ideally clean, or that people should be afraid to let a crumb fall to the ground while eating a cookie or that children shouldn't be allowed to have friends over because they make a mess (there are families like that), however, a house should be well organised with the minimum cleanliness standards met. It means that the lady of the house will have to devote at least some time to domestic chores every day. The rewards, however, are great. As Mrs Mendelson rightly notes: ` is your housekeeping that makes your home alive...´ (p.7).


  1. Very true! Good food means a clean kitchen, a healthy family with feminine women and masculine men. This is not a mistake, few women have a pure feminine behavior and men have started to become feminists. Women want men cooking in the kitchen while they are busy in the office and society outside the home. If men fail in the kitchen they are considered old fashioned and macho-men and if women are good homemakers they are considered kept-at-home unfairly by narrow-minded men. But bachelors should try to keep a clean kitchen too until they get married, I can't deny the importance of a clean kitchen for men who live alone in a flat.

  2. I had never disectd the Proverbs 31 women to discover what she Didn't do! Those were good thoughts ! Just as in teaching cooking if one does not show and teach our young people how to keep house in order it will be harder for them to learn years later on their own. There are standards. I mean you should have enough respect for yourself and those you live with to keep things tidy and clean! It is not that hard to take an object back to where it belongs each time you go from room to room or designate a time or day to do a more drastic clean. It is just common sense you would think to take care of your own home and the things you or someone else worked hard to be able to buy. I doubt these people who keep a dirty kitchen or house would stand to go to a restaurant that is not clean!! Today we were driving behind a car that looked like it was full of books and papers and old food wrappers. Full! That does not happen over night!! I don't understand it all. Being poor or even overly wealthy has nothing to do with it...anyone can keep a clean organized home. If it is out of control it might take a while to get it back inn order. With steady work it can be done and for your health and peace it should be! :) Yes that is part of the package of living someplace. If you worry each time when the door bell rings that it is someone who wants to come in to visit you may have a problem. A home can be lived in and does not have to be spit polished and totally sterol but neat and orderly is not that difficult and should be maintained. If you time some of the chores it really takes little time. I guess I am just a bit dumb founded at people letting their homes get so very out of control and not even carrying about it. Where is their pride and self respect? The families who delegate chores to each member are teaching them how to work {hopefully teaching them not just telling them to do it}. But at some point those children will leave and the mother will be left to again do it all. :) Silly me, I never imagined women so busy with other ministries and such and ignoring their work around the home. I pictured them getting that work out of the way Before going out to do other activities. I must be too old fashioned! :))) I thought if they did that they would feel uneasy out and about while they neglected their homes. Least I would! Sarah

  3. Alexandra, yes you are right, Western society seems to promote androgyny as default, but I didn't imply that bachelors should live in squalor:) Having basic skills around the house is good for both men and women, however, in my experience, single men will often hire someone to do their housekeeping or rely on their mothers/sisters:)

  4. Being busy I try and keep a clean house but this week I went the extra step and made things sparkle instead of just a quick wipeover.
    What a difference it has made to my mood and how proud I feel when coming home each day.

  5. I find it interesting when I go to a younger womans home-usually it is pretty messy and counters aren't wiped down, etc. Then they tell me they hate germs and try to keep their kids germ free. Kind of odd don't you think?:)

  6. There are some women who stay home as an easy way to get away from the discipline of working and having responsibility. Believe it or not there are some young women that may need the experience of working for a boss so they can learn how to manage things and be efficient with time and money.

  7. Llivecheaper, yes, I know what you mean! Becky, unfortunately, it doesn't only happen to younger women...

  8. Lydia, yes, you are right, it is a question of self-discipline. Without a boss to tell you what to do every minute of your day, you must have enough will power to keep on going, which is especially difficult with the temptation of computer:) Heart For Home-making posted an article on this very topic today, how difficult it is to concentrate on cooking and cleaning while internet occupies your thoughts in the same way The One Ring occupied Frodo's:)

  9. Oh how I love this topic! :-)

    I would like to promote a campaign called something like 'You Deserve Better!' Really, it bothers me how people (women) don't realize all the things that were already mentioned (self-dicipline etc). That orderly house, nutritional meals (nothing fancy) and neat clothes are something you really deserve. They are the 'platform' you live your life from, they give you the sense of stability physically, mentally and even spiritually, imho. You function better, you save time, your stress levels go down and so on. Of course if your life and your house is a mess, it's a lot of work to get on the track, but when you finally are there it is so much easier to maintain a orderly house (than to get there, I mean)

    You deserve a clean and organized home, and when you've got one you don't want to leave it...

  10. Sanne, would you be interested in writing a serie of posts about Mrs Mendelsohn's book as you have done with Mrs Andelin's books?

  11. Miriam, your campaign sounds like a really good idea:)

    I noticed the more messy your house generally looks, the less you are inclined to spend time in it. As for writing a series of posts about "Home Comforts",the difference with "Fascinating Womanhood" is that the author chiefly gives practical advice and I'm not sure if retelling it in my own words would be a good idea (and could constitute copyright infringement). I could do a review, I suppose, if folks are interested, but since most of my readers are from the USA, I assumed that they were acquainted with it. This book can be ordered in Europe, too, I got it from, a Dutch internet store.

  12. It took me years to embrace my chosen role as a professional homemaker and part of that is keeping my home practically immaculate. Of course, that is much easier to do now that I have an (almost) empty nest! It's one of the many perks, really... :)

  13. Women used to take pride in their homemaking, and now it's universally seen as boring. With small children, it's difficult to keep an ideal house, but as they grow older they can help!