Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Short Note

I'm off for a couple of days. Comments moderation is on, I'll switch it back to normal on Sunday.

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...

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Marriage Is A Real Thing

I found a very interesting article which in a rather sophisticated way argues about what I have felt for a very long time: namely, that marriage is something which exists on its own, like a thing or a being and to dissolve it is akin to committing a murder. Personally I have always thought about marriage as an institution, but I like the author's comparisons. As I'm getting older, I find myself rather agreeing with the Catholic point of view that a marriage can't be dissolved, only annulled.

The way most people, even those calling themselves Christians view marriage nowadays, treating it as something disposable at a whim of either spouse is downright scandalous, imo. I've read an article recently about a woman in UK who had left her husband and children for her African lover. People in comments wrote how she was a horrible mother but hardly a word about her betraying her husband. They even stated they could understand it!

The traditional Christian point of view is that the relationship between the husband and the wife is primary and more important than that of parents and children, after all, the kids will grow older and leave, but you are supposed to stay with your spouse till Death do us part! That's why the man wasn't allowed to divorce his wife if she couldn't have children or couldn't produce a male heir for the family. By allowing easy divorce we sacrificed the high position of a Christian wife for that of a concubine who could be kicked out for any reason. Of course, the same is true about women divorcing their husbands left and right and remarrying, something which Christian Bible calls adultery.

I'm not talking about really hard cases here and speaking of policy I'd allow divorce for certain transgressions, yet my point stands: marriage is the first institution divinely ordained and the way we treat it will bring judgement on our whole society.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Easy Dinner Ideas

One pot pasta.

Somehow this idea of hers was very controversial. Mine was made with onions, garlic, rasped carrots (and probably bell peppers but since the picture is from last week I forget) which were stir-fried first, then I added pasta, water, a jar of stewed tomatoes and a can of tuna. It tastes quite decent, but don't forget to stir while cooking so that your pasta gets equally cooked on all sides!

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Question For My American Readers

This morning I have been watching one of those homemaking videos I wrote about and the lady said they were using something like 3 kWh per hour when their heating system was on. I was like did I hear it good, because we use 3 kWh per day on average (yesterday it was only 2 actually). Of course, we heat with gas which is quite expensive,too; but still utility bills in the USA must be huge. Can anyone enlighten me about this issue? 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Something Lovely For In Your Home

I thought this blog misses something, for instance, a nice picture, like this one:

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

The little wooden tray with a moose, a pitcher and a candle holder is a present from someone. Aren't they cute?And though it's not exactly Christmas yet, I thought it's OK to start decorating for it a bit:) For those who don't know, God Jul apparently means Merry Christmas in Norwegian. Bought it at a Scandi Christmas market last week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Real Housewives Of America

A new generation has grown up and quite a few young women choose to stay home, with or without children. Being more media-savvy, they popularise their lifestyle on YouTube, like this lady who in this particular video describes her favourite household products, but also makes one- day-in- your- life kind of videos, gives advice on budgeting, meal planning etc.

Another recent video features a young African-American lady explaining why she chose to be a housewife even without kids. She makes a good point that if you are home you'll have time to help your distant family, like your aunts and nieces, something which used to be considered normal, but not anymore since family ties are getting weaker.

This young wife explains what housewives without children do all day (it's not eating bonbons!)

Another housewife explains her choices in this short video, and, of course, there are plenty of young mothers sharing tips, like this and encouraging each other. 

The real housewives of America aren't some lazy gold-digging brats but nice, intelligent, hard-working women who are simply not so driven to compete in the work world but like to take care of their homes and families and they want their choices to be respected. There is nothing wrong about that!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Importance Of Schedules

Chapter 2 of Home Comforts discusses the importance of establishing routines and schedules. Without a system of sorts, you'll either feel that your work is never done and lose your motivation, or fall into emergency mode when housework is only done when domestic chaos becomes unbearable. The author discusses setting priorities (such as health and safety) and keeping lists.

She gives an interesting example of an elderly gentleman who has a housekeeping book and writes down the contents of all the closets and cupboards. Cheryl also gives lists of daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual chores and then discusses them in more detail. For working people, she suggests at least some minimal amount of cleaning to be done right after breakfast, before they go to work, so that you return to a reasonably clean house.

Here I'd like to stop and give a suggestion to homemakers without small children who are home alone for the biggest part of the day. Morning is the best time for errands, doctor appointments and visiting, and if you go out in the morning and spend a couple of hours outside, you'll come home rejuvenated and won't experience this feeling of restlessness which comes from being cooped up the whole day.
In this case, her advice also applies to you: try to make your bed, wash the dishes and do at least some picking up, so that you come home to a reasonably decent looking house.

Mrs Mendelson then goes on to discuss weekly routines. According to her, the traditional routine of washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, sewing on Wednesday, marketing on Thursday, cleaning on Friday and baking on Saturday was still used till the end of the 1960s. Just for the comparison, Little House In The Big Woods mentions nearly the same weekly schedule, except that Thursday is churning day, and Wednesday chore is mending, not sewing. 

The author states that sewing and baking are rather obsolete, but still suggests people continue using a modified version of the weekly routine, and gives her ideas for working couples with small apartments and big houses. One interesting point she makes is that it's more efficient to designate a special laundry day than do a load each day; or at least to do it twice a week. I have been pondering this issue and it appears to me that the old weekly schedule still makes sense (with the exception of churning, of course:).

I know many people don't iron but I still do, and since I have no dryer, my laundry is never dry all on the same day, so Tuesday is the day when I do the most of folding and putting away anyway. Cheryl, by the way, suggests choosing a second day for mini-laundering and having Wednesday as the odd-job day, used for mending, paying the bills and doing odd jobs. Ironically, in the Little House times it was a mending day, too; and those who sew can still use it as a sewing day. You can still market on Thursday, clean on Friday and bake on Saturday and so preserve an old tradition from dying out. I should add that if you don't usually bake, Saturday can be used for cooking something extra, then freezing it in.

A funny thing is that Mrs Mendelson keeps talking about how easy modern housekeeping is, even for working couples, and then proceeds to give quite an extensive list of weekly chores, like changing bed linens twice a week (the last info I've read on the issue is that up to once in 2 weeks is still considered hygienic); washing the whole bathroom including tiles (an abbreviated version of it costs the housekeeper 1 hour), and cleaning your fridge every week (takes me more than 1 hour). How are you supposed to do it all after your normal working hours is a riddle; though, to be fair, she suggests doing major housecleaning on Saturday for working couples.

She then encourages people to do a yearly spring cleaning, discusses the order of work and debates whether vacuuming should be done first or last. I freely admit that I do it first, which is apparently wrong, but it suits me just fine so I doubt it'll change. In conclusion, the author mentions little touches such as fresh flowers or baked goodies to make your house homey. All in all, lots of useful info in this chapter.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Home Comforts

If you are a traditionally-minded woman, there are some books which are a must for your library, like Fascinating Womanhood, Little House On The Prairie series, and, of course, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. Now I have a somewhat vague idea, that I have reviewed this book before, so I'm not going to do it again, however...

However, I recently have decided to re-read it and it appeared as a good idea to write my thoughts about some of the things (and advice) she gives. Apparently, there are still lots of folks around interested in the subject of housekeeping since my latest post on the topic was quite a success.

The first chapter of the book is called My Secret Life and Cheryl goes into detail describing her personal experiences and the facts that in the circles she moves, overtly domestic women are ostracised. She talks about her family history and then delves into what could be called the philosophy of housekeeping.

Have you ever asked yourself why is it actually important to keep house, especially if you have a small household with grown children? You may even live alone so why bother? Most chores are rather repetitive, you wake up, you make your bed etc etc, and so every day. Now, Cheryl comes up with a simple but stunning explanation: because otherwise, your home won't feel like home, and without a proper home you don't feel safe and it will affect  your mental and physical health.

She also warns against LARPing as a homemaker instead of being one. Just doing some crafts can't really substitute regular housekeeping and create this special "homey" feeling. Here is a relevant quote: "...the way you experience life in your home is determined by how you do your housekeeping." (Ch.M., Home Comforts, Scribner Trade paperback, 2005 ed. p.5) All consequent quotes will be from the same edition, so that I'll only add the page numbers.

Have you ever experienced the feeling of restlessness? I think lots of people do nowadays. Well, apparently, it can be explained by the fact that since homemaking has become unfashionable, the comforts of home diminished greatly which in its turn, created a feeling of homelessness, of not really belonging anywhere.

Mrs Mendelson claims that American home life is in the state of decline which is detrimental to health and well-being and she even goes so far as to compare an average middle-class household with the 1900s industrial poor farming out their children to institutions and living in unsanitary conditions.

She is careful not to blame feminists though. Changes in family life evidently just happened out of the blue. She sort of hints that partly it was due to the invention of labour-saving devices but then goes on to say that all these devices were already present in the 1950s, and women still stayed home and dusted. She further states that some women of that generation were unsatisfied and taught their daughters to have careers which she claims, was a good thing, but then goes on to decry the consequences of it, as in lack of domesticity.

Anyway, she does mention the role MSM played in the whole thing by showing "degraded images of household work and workers" (p.10)  and reinforcing negative stereotypes. (I'm shocked, shocked I tell you! Why would MSM do such a thing? Could there be some sort of agenda behind it?) Cheryl calls housekeeping "the most thoroughly pleasing, significant and least alienated form(s) of work" (idem) and encourages her readers to be domestic.

She even touches on classical literature, mentioning Dickens, Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy who all extolled the virtues of good housekeepers, such as Agnes from David Copperfield, an example also used in Fascinating Womanhood , and reminds us that there was time, not so long ago, when life was much harder and homemaking was one ongoing struggle against dust, dirt, nasty smells, pests etc and that 1950s women loved their modern homes and enjoyed keeping them clean and sparkling. It symbolised their victory over forces of entropy.

Mrs Mendelson also discusses housekeeping standards, their disappearance and whether housework is arbitrary or superfluous. It's interesting that she mentions that folks used to iron everything. It's my personal opinion based on some real life experiences, that ironing had the same function an automatic dryer fulfills now (I don't have one, btw). When you iron wet clothes, they dry much sooner, instead of hanging for a week and contributing to the mold and mildew growth.

The summary of the chapter is that housekeeping in general isn't discretionary but something necessary for your mental and physical health, however small your household could be.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Marital Obedience

For years conservatives have been reactive instead of proactive. That is, progressives will come with an idea and conservatives will react to it. Instead of taking initiative, they just appear content to follow liberals around, reacting to the latest outrage. Often enough they over-react which fact liberals then use to make them look ridiculous.

One of the institutions constantly under attack is, as we all know, a traditional family. There is not one aspect of it left unscathed in the modern society. In fact, those who argue that marriage 1.0 is dead, are probably not that far from the truth. Yet, the secular onslaught causes some religious people go into overdrive and start preaching what could only be described as a new and strange doctrine.

Traditional society is by its very nature, hierarchical, while modern society strives to be egalitarian, that's why it has such problems with an idea of wifely obedience. First, they argue, there can't be any obedience between two equals, and second, if one is supposed to be the head, then why always the husband? The idea of divinely ordained is weird to the adherents of secular equality dogma.

Yet, the opponents of it will often go into another extreme and argue that the husband's authority is absolute or very near it, just like it was the case with oriental despots of old. It may sound very spiritual for those who claim to follow the Bible to the letter, yet this interpretation can only be described as an overreaction to marital egalitarianism because it never has been the traditional Western teaching on marriage, because Western ideas on authority in general, tried to restrict absolutism (Magna Carta anyone?).

The marital sermon used by many Reformed churches in my area dates back to the times of Reformation, and yet it claims that the wife is only to obey her husband in "good and honourable things", not in sin and misery. As Christians, we do have a freedom of conscience and the Scriptures teach us that in a conflict situation we are to obey God rather than men.

Here is what Matthew Henry, a prominent theologian, writes on the subject: So it follows, Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ (Ephesians 5:24), with cheerfulness, with fidelity, with humility, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing--in every thing to which their authority justly extends itself, in every thing lawful and consistent with duty to God. (Emphasis mine). 

Matthew Henry is writing about things to which the husband's authority extends, apparently presuming that there are things, to which it doesn't. Granted, there are grey areas in life. If your husband insists on you watching a naughty movie together, it could be better to submit, for the sake of marital peace. Now, what about if he asks you to sell drugs? Prostitute yourself? Murder someone? 

We live in a civil society and the husband isn't the only authority. There are laws of God, but also laws of the state which still view certain antisocial behaviours as crimes and will punish them, often severely. I have an idea that this whole absolute obedience teaching arose in extreme patriarchy circles the adherents of which wish to model Christian family after the OT patriarchs who were tribal and a law unto themselves. They tend to forget that we live in NT times, and while the whole Scripture has been given for our instruction, we are living under the New Covenant.

In all fairness, I should add that extreme wifely obedience is probably the least of our modern problems, unlike radical feminism, which is much more widespread; yet, with all the interest young people express in traditionalism I feel like someone has to provide a voice of moderation in this discussion. As a good wife, it's wise to be somewhat flexible, but betraying your sincere convictions doesn't pay.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Matter Of Choice

Traditional folks are often accused of living in the past. Maybe, it is true to a degree. Maybe, some do idealise certain historical periods too much. The truth is, much as I like vintage stuff, I realise only too well that that world has disappeared and it's not coming back. The liberal society may fall apart in the future (and probably will, the way things are progressing), but what comes after that, will be something entirely new, not the re-run of the 1950s or the Victorian Era or whatever.

Keeping this fact in mind, those of us more or less traditionally inclined should learn to live with the new paradigm and use it to our advantage. And just like the concept of duty was the cornerstone of Victorian times, the concept of choice is that of ours. And it's probably not that bad as many think. Victorian morals and idealism, while admirable in many ways, gave birth to the mass movements and centralisation of the 20th century.

Granted, some of it was due to the loss of the central position of Christianity, the rise of mass media and socialistic tendencies and the diminishing role of the extended family; however, the governments of the West were able to achieve many dubious ends by simply utilising this concept of the citizen duty to the state, the latest manifestation of which is the idea that not only family, but also national borders should be sacrificed on the altar of the god of economy. After all, it's our duty to make fat cats even fatter, don't you know!

And here enters the millennial and Gen Z, much abused by their elders for being special snowflakes, yet younger people are also those dropping out of corporate jobs and Western consumerism, choosing smaller homes and minimalist lifestyle and practising liberalism to such a degree that any idea of duty is totally lost on them, but they do believe in choice including such choices as being a stay-at-home wife, for instance.

Recently I've read two discussions on the topic. One was full of older Gen Xers, berating young women for dropping out of the workforce and not performing their duty to the state (sounds a bit like North Korea, come to think of it). The other was dominated by younger women who scoffed at the idea of having duties to corporate world or anyone else except yourself and your partner. If you wish to stay home even without children, and your husband/boyfriend/significant other agrees, go for it, they claimed. Your feelings are just as valid as the feelings of a high-power career woman. After all, life is all about choices.

I say amen to that. Homemaking nowadays is a matter of choice. There have always been women who enjoyed achieving in the world. They probably didn't all have top tier jobs in the 1950s but they were active in social and political circles, and seldom bothered with any homemaking or childcare. They now have found validation in the world of men and are perfectly happy. Let them, to each his (her) own. Yet, there are other women who are simply not interested. They don't have the necessary ambition and drive and are perfectly happy with a quiet domestic life. Their feelings are just as valid and they have just as much right to make their own choices.

Heck, there are men turning their backs on corporate jobs, and I can't blame them, either. For many people, life is about more things than just making money and being a happy obedient consumer. Remember, a penny not spent is a penny earned. You don't have to keep working till you drop so that you have more money to buy more unnecessary stuff. Take liberals at their own word. Modern life isn't about duty, it's about freedom, choices and having fun, and for many people, the work world just doesn't cut it. If you have a possibility to retire early, why not?