The Power of the Mundane: Why I Love Housekeeping

So, Good Housekeeping.  I am pretty sure that is a magazine for middle age ladies.  The dusty one you always find in the waiting room at the dentist.  Actually, I do happen to love that mag. (With a muffin and a latte).

Or…it could also be the cornerstone of a homemaker’s daily activities.  A forgotten treasure in a world of junk mail, fast-food, and stainless steel appliances.

I am writing about housekeeping because I love keeping house.  Not upholstery vacuuming kind, but the warm kitchen, cup of tea kind.  I’ve liked it since I was a little girl, dressing up as a pioneer woman, playing house in our attic.  As a student living at home, my job was to keep my room and the hall bath clean and guest-ready at all times.  As a newlywed, I always took some time out of the weekend to freshen up our apartment and bake a batch of cookies.  I enjoy it even more now that I am a mom.

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First, A Disclaimer: I’m writing this disclaimer because I know some of my friends.  You’ll read this post and get all condemned about the dust on top of your refrigerator.  Stop.  You are single moms, mothers of newborns, business owners, full-time working mothers, caring for parents, or maybe several of the above.  You have a lot on your plate.   Second, I don’t intend to reignite the old controversy of “SAHM vs working mom.”  Goodness knows the activity of home making is not soley reserved for SAHMs.  (If you are a working mom, I don’t have to tell you this.)   I actually intend to discuss the widespread belief that making home and keeping house is a “lesser than” activity.  This post is not about militant cleanliness and hospital corners on your bedsheets, but about rediscovering our value as women, mothers and homemakers.

Second, A Rant: Though I appreciate the advancements that the feminist movement has brought about for the women of this generation, I also regret that the practice of good housekeeping has been totally demoralized by it.  These days homemaking is a joke.  I have made my fair share of jabs at our good friend, Mrs. Cleaver.  In fact, if you admit to liking it, you’ll get the usual “Well, why don’t you come over to my house then! Ha ha!  I got cleaning for you, if you like it so much!”.  As if you have no life, and their lives are far too important for such diminutive activities.  As if the home, the center of all civilization, were nothing more than a dumping ground or a busy truck stop.  The art of good housekeeping seems reserved for the neurotic perfectionist who follows after everyone with a Dust Buster.  Ya know.  The one with the mom jeans and loafers. I am sad to say that the feminist movement in many ways, has done just as much damage to the identity of modern women as it has good.

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I love housekeeping

I love housekeeping.  Here is why.

It fills the need inside to behold and create beauty: A friend and I were at Macy’s recently admiring the array of Kitchen-Aid mixers and retro-style red and teal mixing bowls.  We may have even been drooling a little in the spatula section. Why make kitchen appliances so attractive?  Maybe because women love beautiful things, and they naturally love to express that beauty in their homes. It’s stacks of neatly folded laundry, white dishes in the cabinet, the citrus-y smell of a clean bath.  When I keep my house clean and orderly, I can enjoy it.  I can see the colors and arrangements that I created when I chose decorations for my home, instead of mountains of clutter and crusty dishes. I can think about holiday decorations or what room I’m going to paint next.  I can sit down in a calm, pleasant room and enjoy reading, blogging or other crafty things.  My home is an expression of me.  When I am surrounded by something beautiful, I am inspired to create beauty.

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Tending to your home communicates that you love and care about those who are in it. Who doesn’t love to walk in the door to a warmly lit kitchen, pleasant conversation and the smell of something delicious in the oven?  Can clean linens and freshly folded laundry really say “I love you; you are important to me?”   I say yes.  I have been blessed to enjoy the homes of some excellent housekeepers.  When you enter the home of an excellent housekeeper, you know it.  It’s a cup of coffee, a simple, home-cooked meal, flowers on the table, holiday decor, and the friendly whir of a washing machine.  You feel a sense of “ah,” when you walk through the door.  What is that?  It’s called laying down one’s life for another.  She’s serving others. She’s creating the feeling that someone else has been up before everyone, warming up the kitchen, stoking the fire, and tending to the little things that make life pleasant.

 

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It’s the repetitive and “mundane” things of life that leave the greatest impression. I firmly believe in The Power of the Mundane.  If you ask someone to recall happy (or not-so-happy) childhood memories, you will probably hear them begin with something like, “Well every day, we…”, or “My mother always…”  Every time we visited my grandma’s house, it was always the same.  The same meals, the same toys in the cabinet, the same pink bars of soap, the same trip to the grocery store.  And we loved it.  We looked forward to it every time.  In fact, when something at her house changed (say she changed the wallpaper in her kitchen, or moved a piece of furniture), you kind of felt a little sad.  It’s sameness and routine that creates that sense of “this is how life is.”  See, keeping house involves a list of repeated activities that are completed predictably over, and over, and over.  You always hear people complain about the repeated picking up of toys, or endless mounds of laundry. But I think that’s the beauty of it. The cumulative years of those daily activities: cooking dinner, folding laundry, tidying up all matter.  In a frantic, unpredictable world, these monotonous chores and exercises  are comfort and stability.  Your family will remember these cyclic, domestic activities and whether or not you were cheerful or disgruntled about them.  You may as well be cheerful, because they are not going away.  As the keeper of my house, I hold the Power of the Mundane in my hands.  I have the power to shape my family’s sense of “this is how life is.”

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Anyone can do it. Cleaning and tidying your house is the simplest, least expensive way to make your home gleam.  Anyone can do it.  (Why doesn’t HGTV have more shows about house keeping?)  It’s not the hardwood floors, expensive furnishings, or designer fabrics to make your home feel beautiful.  Go ahead, girl, dream about that big house with the chef’s kitchen.  If your current kitchen looks like Katrina, what on earth makes you think your chef’s kitchen won’t be a bigger version of the same catastrophe? More square footage and grand entryways won’t make it home-like.  It’s the housekeeper, people. I say, let’s stop fantasizing about what we want all the time, and start making life pleasant with what we have.  You would be surprised at how quickly your “need” for that additional square footage would diminish were you to begin to clean and care for the space you have. Whenever I start to feel down in the dumps about all the things I “don’t have,” the quickest cure is to hop up and start appreciating what I do have by caring for it.  Scrub down the bathroom, re-arrange some furniture, hang those pictures in the hall, put on some music and a kettle for tea, and you have made a home.

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It brings economic value to the household. Scouring that awkward crevice between the toilet and the baseboards, attacking an overwhelming, unorganized garage, making plans with two (or even three) sides of the family for the holidays.  Housekeeping is work. Which may explain why so many go to such great lengths to avoid it. Get out your calculator and add up the following costs: weekly maid service, laundry service, meals prepared by a personal chef (or the cost of eating out three meals a day).  For those who are home with children, calculate the cost of daycare or a full-time nanny.  While you are at it, factor in the savings generated by savvy bargain shoppers and coupon moms.  For those type A’s who tend to the household accounts and bill-paying, add the cost of an administrative assistant.  If you are the gardening or lawn service also, make sure to include that too. For the holidays, catering services and fresh-prepared treats from the bakery.  The list goes on.

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The homemaker is providing a significant, economic contribution to her household. Housekeeping requires a skill set called management. It’s multitasking, attention to detail, project management, budgeting and resource allocation, planning and scheduling, and the ability to anticipate needs before they arise.

Can you really make a marked difference in the lives of those around you and the forthcoming generations by such basic, simple activities as loading the dishwasher and wiping down the mirror?  Keeping plants alive? Is it that simple? The little-known truth, my friends, is yes.  The widely-believed lie, is no.

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And that is why I love housekeeping.  It inspires beauty and creativity, demonstrates hospitality and thoughtfulness towards others, generates economic value and creates a much-needed sense of security in an unstable world.  The Power of the Mundane within the keeping of the home; that is the invisible agent of influence over culture.

This post is dedicated to my mom, mother of seven and housekeeper extraordinaire.  “An excellent housekeeper lives in her house, not for it.” -Cheryl Mendelson, author “Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Housekeeping.”

 

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  • http://www.ecochicbaby.org Chrissy

    Preach it sister, you have struck a cord in every Woman out there. You have confirmed that why after a day at the shop I come home and whip up dinner & tidy the house is all of the above.
    Why on my day off do I light a candle, bake something special then sit bag read a magazine and feel so much joy?!!

  • http://dark-yet-lovely-mme.blogspot.com Molly

    LOVE this.

    • Auntie G

      I never knew that “housekeeping” could be put so beautifully and for the words to keep coming and coming and coming and there still be more to possibly say. Very well put dear Rachael.

  • Lisa

    Girrrlll – when is your book coming out??

    • REBECCA POWELL

      Exactly! I see one in the future!

  • http://ava-n-isla.blogspot.com KristiD

    Oh this is soooo good & relevant to my life right now as a SAHM of 2 girls under 2 & an over-worked husband who fails to see the value & perseverance of this little housewife. Thank you for the validation, the encouragement & the inspiration to be even better at this…God bless you.

    • Rachael

      Thank you so much for the encouragement. I saw your blog! Isn’t writing so therapeutic! Keep going sister!

  • Gram Gerri

    Miss Faye, love the Blog. keep up the GOOD WORK. Love Gram
    “Sooo proud of you”

  • Connie Seibel

    It is wonderful and humbling to get credit for your housekeeping inspiration! Can I get credit for your gift of writing too? Love you, Missy!

    • Rachael

      YES!

  • louise

    ah man. yeah.

  • REBECCA POWELL

    I have already referred to this article in several conversations with other women I was trying to encourage. The “cyclical” term has stuck in my mind and reminds me not to despise the mundane and repetitive duties of my day. Thanks!

  • Ruth

    What a refreshing view. I needed to hear your perspective today.

  • Liz

    A well-written piece, Rach. I’ll be sharing this encouragement with some of my friends :)

    • http://www.frugalfaye.com Rachael

      Thank you Liz!

  • Lynda

    LOVE. it.
    Love you too.
    So beautiful.

  • Shelley Johnson

    Thank you for this!

  • Sara

    Yesss!! Even though I am nowhere near married or a parent, ever since I moved in with my boyfriend over a year ago, I have felt my womanly housekeeping urges tingling. It is as if I just feel like a better, more confident person when our apartment is treated like a home and not just a space where we store our furniture. I have found, that tidying up and lighting candles etc. for coziness influences my mood immensely. My friends seem to see me as some weird robot woman, just because I actually enjoy baking and cooking. As if you are supposed to not like these things just because we are young students who have it oh so hard in uni and therefore are not required to care about anything else. Well guess what, I do pretty well with my studies and I actually suspect that it is the comfort of my home that gives me the peace required for me to focus on my reading. Thank you Rachel, for giving me confidence that it is okay to feel good about doing “mundane” womanly things!

  • Mom of 4

    Thank you for this post. I have been a homemaker for 14+ years, since my son was born. I have almost always enjoyed the “mundane” tasks. I love taking care of my family. And the sound of the dryer running is one of my favorites.

  • Hannah

    I needed to read this, so thank you for your words.

  • Di

    I love your post. I am now a grandma and my heart breaks for the pressure put on “Moms” these days. The art and importance of homemaking and a balanced environment, is under constant scrutiny. The saying happy wife, happy life is so true.

  • dana

    I am in love with this post. It is so lovely.

  • Em

    I loved your post because it is how I have been trying to feel for the past 3 months and I have actually been succeeding. I started with the kitchen and after a month I could not fall asleep unless it was clean. Now I’m on the living room. I’m creating new habits one room at a time and it feels GREAT!

    • ALHP

      I LOVE the idea one just doing one room at a time until it becomes a habit! I want to be a better housekeeper but I get so overwhelmed. I can handle just the kitchen for now though.

    • Hayley Prychun Rodgers

      I have a disaster for a house, so with the new year I am taking on one room a week, breaking it into smaller jobs per day and working until the whole room is exactly how I want it. Making it into smaller jobs is far less daunting, and I have managed to keep the rooms I have done cleaned afterwards. It is so much easier this way than the “I’ll be a better wife/mom/homemaker starting this second” and then getting derailed by how much work is ahead.

  • missjamie

    Thank you, this is great. I am not a natural when it comes to housekeeping. In fact, it drives me crazy. But what you wrote is the proper perspective, the mundane does matter. I have a newborn right now, but this post is going to be my daily morning read so I can re-wire my brain for the good of my husband, my children, and myself.

    • Hayley Prychun Rodgers

      As a mother of two, the first unexpected, I can say focus on baby and keeping baby happy and healthy, keeping what sanity you can however you can, and you’ll be doing a great job!

      It’s a hard time, especially when you are like me (and apparently you) and not at all a natural June Cleaver, and you often can feel down and out for it. But know this, motherhood matters more and if anyone TRIES to make you feel bad, inform them your neighbors’ name is NOT Jones, and keeping up is not your priority.

      • frugalfaye

        I agree with you Hayley and now that I have two kids I think I would love to edit some of what is in this post to stress the same points you are making here!

      • Linda Tibbetts

        Hayley, I wish I knew how to say this to you privately, rather than in a website all can see. I once made a comment about my children like your “mother of two, the first unexpected” My daughter overhead it, and several times has commented that she wasn’t “wanted.” You and I know that unexpected and unwanted are very different words. I don’t expect a surprise party, but I want one. I’ve explained, but it has stayed with her somehow. Perhaps you might wish to leave it at “mother of two.” I sure wish I had.

  • ALHP

    Great post! Very inspiring!

  • Becca

    Thank you for making me feel so good <3

  • Kate

    I loved this post because I am a feminist and a working mother.

    HUHHHWHHHHHAT?

    No, but seriously. THANK you for writing this. I found myself grinning as I read your description of walking into a well-kept home…there’s really nothing else like it. I can attest to that, because my home is absolutely not at ALL that way. For the record, it’s not because I don’t think it’s valuable and important–I am just absolutely awful at it.
    But I have so VERY much respect for women like you who do it so well. It’s a talent and a calling. I crave that in my life. I miss it. I feel like my strengths lie elsewhere and sometimes that’s a huge disappointment to me.

    I think it’s a travesty that the road to gender equality has been paved by trampling on the laudable efforts of the mothers and homemakers of the world. It is hard work. It is often thankless. It is never-ending, always giving, others-oriented WORK. My job gives me a sum of money every other week that says, “This is an acknowledgment of your efforts!” Often work at home goes utterly unrecognized…but I would say it’s never unnoticed.

    Thank you for everything you do.

  • Sarah Eastley

    Thank you for writing this. It is absolutely fundamental and so well expressed.

  • Diane

    I loved this. Thank you!

  • Nana

    As a senior I can tell you it is the mundane that will make your lives the happiest. I loved doing laundry, cooking, cleaning and giving my family an organized place to come home to. Yes I loved it…when I hear someone say they “aren’t good at it’… it could be because they never really embraced it…it isnt something we are born with…its something we want to give to others…a gift…That ‘gift’ will be one they will carry with them the rest of their lives and pass on…I love the MUNDANE..thanks for this article that reminded me of just how much I do.

    • Jessica Brown

      It’s true. A clean house isn’t a talent. Just good habits.

  • Jen

    i was raised by my dad alone who was old enough to be a Grandpa. I have 3 young children and struggle so much with keeping a home. The mundane things and consistency absolutely kill me and I have turmoil inside because I know I need to figure it out so my kids will know how. Thanks for your inspiration.

  • Braden

    This was beautiful. I say this as a teacher who recently got his own classroom. I have come to many of these same conclusions about my classroom. I like to do all the things you say for the same reasons. I also was the child of a mom who did all that you say and I am glad you honor her choices.

  • DaisyUnion

    Love this! I put so much love into keeping my home as well and love that my children appreciate it. It feels so good after a hectic day to come back to a well kept home.

  • disqus_QnabEZVn7S

    What an amazing post! I honestly feel like you crawled into my head and composed all my thoughts together in such a beautiful manner. Best piece I have read in quite some time. Thank you!

  • Jennifer

    You are so right, I don’t know that I love it, but I feel so much better when it’s clean! It is much easier to do a little every day than do nothing for 3 or 4 days (or more) and then have to catch up! (though sometimes that happens when life comes at ya full speed.) Great post!

  • Maribeth Humphrey

    Even though my boys don’t get all the candle lighting and picture hanging, I do believe so many daily duties and extras are providing a “sense of security in an unstable world” and security for a haphazard gender 😉 You put language to my feelings. Love you Rachael!

  • Anna Holloway

    I know this post is old, but I just found your blog on Pinterest and wanted you to know how much I love this. This post nearly made me cry. I too often forget how truly important it is to have a clean and beautiful home. It really is a way to show your love to the people living in your home. This was a beautiful post and I’m off to go do some much-needed cleaning. Thank you, Faye!

  • Tessa

    Saw this article today, and it reminded me of the part in this post about the feminist movement hurting women as much as helping them. http://acculturated.com/who-should-feminists-really-hate-kirsten-dunst-or-lady-gaga/

  • LORI

    THANK YOU!! Your posts are a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Just came across them today. I’m 56, raising two lovely girls, 5 and 7, and have always struggled with keeping my home. You’ve given me a renewed hope. A renewed hope that brings tears in picturing what can be. Thank you, thank you!

  • kim

    I know this is an older post, but I just came across it and just had to say thank you! You have no idea what your words have done for me today. Thank you.

  • CK

    I LOVE this post. Can you share some of your housekeeping routines with us? Do you use a certain system or method? Thank you!

    • http://www.frugalfaye.com Rachael

      Yes! I used to use Flylady, but I’m all off-kilter being in a new house! I’m kind of still working on my groove. I’ll do a post soon!

    • http://www.fromfaye.com/ fromfaye

      Yes, I would love to! I’m actually still adjusting my housekeeping routines six months after moving to a much bigger house, but as soon as I have them nailed down, you bet a blog post will be on the agenda! Thank you for commenting!

  • Maria

    Keeping my home orderly and flowing smoothly is my lifelong quest, it seems. We have good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks. I find that regularly purging closets, drawers and cupboards leaves me with less stuff to keep after, and more space to organize the stuff I do have. Regular deep cleanings help keep me sane!

  • Rachel Jacobs

    Thank you for this post. It made me cry a little bit! I’m 23 and have no kids, living with my boyfriend, and I have been struggling for awhile to convince myself that keeping my house nice is important. This has been a wonderful reminder for me. I grew up with my grandparents, and my grandmother always insisted that we learn how to keep the house clean, but when I went to college, I really lost a lot of those lessons. Not having her here with me to yell at me when I don’t do anything for days has made it difficult to start keeping things orderly because who really cares when it’s just my boyfriend and me? You just described EXACTLY why it matters. Thank you so much!

    • http://www.fromfaye.com/ fromfaye

      You can do it! Hugs!

  • Maria

    I agree with you. I love the beauty that a good deep cleaning, organization and a bit of decorating can create. I love it when my home feels beautiful!

  • sharon

    I love this, thank you so much! Lately on weekends I love doing laundry & cleaning up here & there and being able to relax comfortably in our small but well loved home. In the summer, its all about enjoying our back yard garden. The old weekends of shopping mindlessly at the mall are over for me. I find much contentment at home.

    • http://www.fromfaye.com/ fromfaye

      I always do too! :) I miss our back yard garden..hopefully next summer we will have one again!

  • Vicki Trusselli

    I love to decorate and have my place like a movie set. I custard the magazine Good Housekeeping and never liked the mundane magazine of all women should be anal retentive housekeeper and chefs. I like my place clean, but constant cleaning and nervous work around the house all day drive me up the wall. I love my computer gadgets, photography, art, film, editing send reading, movies, but not constantly cleaning a house and rearranging to keep busy. When I’m around someone who is anal retentive housekeeper and constantly rearranging everything and I’m thinking or researching and analyzing or looking at art and they’re moving around constantly it drives me up the wall. When people want everything done yesterday and I’m still working on the project for today to continue tomorrow I am lazy to them. No connection between laid back or go with the flow as I like to do, that’s lazy to them. No I’m not a domestic type

  • Vicki Trusselli

    In other
    Words from my post below I don’t like Housekeeping period, only do it as it has to be done.

  • http://stylewise-blog.com Leah

    I like a clean house as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean I love *cleaning* it, and that mostly has to do with the fact that I run a secondhand shop where I spend all day cleaning out other people’s old things, scrubbing kitchenware, doing laundry, sweeping, and dusting. That’s my priority, and there’s only so much of that I can do before I start to feel mentally and physically exhausted. It’s not as if feminism has *made* people not like to clean. I would argue that, instead, those women you’re speaking of feel trapped by having the sole responsibility to clean their houses in family models where men still don’t do very much of the cleaning. Instead of it feeling liberating, they feel obligated. Not to mention that some people have a higher tolerance for clutter and dirt than others, and that it can be difficult to manage a household where parties are not on the same page about what actually constitutes clean.

    • http://www.fromfaye.com/ fromfaye

      Hey Leah! Yeah I’ve probably evolved some in my views on gender roles and feminism since I wrote this post a few years ago. A nuanced issue for sure. Thanks for the comment!