Apparently, I am sort of alone. I have yet to meet anyone who really gets into it. I try to have these conversations with women about housekeeping, but most don’t really care. Our conversation never really makes it beyond getting the house clean. Most of the discussion evolves around whether or not they have a service to clean their home versus doing it themselves. I even tried joining an internet group for housekeeping ladies, but most of them were struggling to keep up their homes. I want to be part of a group of ladies whose goal is “excellent housekeeping”. I envision we’d have our little internet group and then we’d meet at someone’s home for a proper tea, to discuss our homemaking victories and tips.
Now that my secret it out, it probably won’t surprise you that I checked out a few books on homekeeping at the library, four to be exact. I go on-line and order my books and one in particular caught my attention. I had read an excerpt of, “Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping” on a website and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This book was a real pleasure to read. There are many books out there that give homemaking tips but rarely the one that has “real” tips, meaning tips that really work and not merely tips to fill the pages of a book. It was fashioned around the traditional notes that southern women penned regarding housekeeping and living a beautiful life. Back then, nineteenth-century southern women kept these “receipt books” as they were called, where they included everything from tips on homekeeping to the proper rules of “decent” behavior. I found this fascinating of course.
Mrs. Dunwoody is a fictional character loosely based on the author’s great grandmother and other inspiring women. The book was written to provide the reader with advice and wisdom typical of these receipt books and yet, as you read the book, you begin to have a hard time separating fact from fiction. On the one hand, you find yourself engulfed in Mrs. Dunwoody’s life as if you were right there. Because the wisdom is timeless, many of the tips are useful today. And then of course, I’d remember how my mother did things and how my grandmother did things and that fundamentally, they weren’t that different. Being an orderly person myself, I couldn’t help but compare her daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal tasks on her domestic calendar to my own routines. I was struck by how similar they actually were. Of course, I don’t have a receipt book but I do have a “HOME” manual that I created myself, with “HOME” being an acronym for, “Home Organization Manual for Efficiency”.
What was most striking about this book, was the sense of importance of homekeeping in shaping the lives of our children and everyone in the home. No longer was keeping our home in order just a matter of cleanliness or decoration but the fundamental reason was to create a sort of optimal foundation for our children and everyone in the home to thrive. She says, “Our family members will carry the atmosphere we create in our homes for the rest of our lives.” “Organization has more benefits than mere efficiency, knowing your life is in order reduces strife and anxiety and increases confidence.” She uses various examples of how when we are rushed, we can’t be at our best or when we spend time looking for things that we can’t focus on what’s really important. She goes on to talk about how our family members will carry on the atmosphere that we create in our homes for the rest of their lives. She talks about the importance of order and that without it, none of the occupants in the home can reach their full potential. “When we make conscious decisions about the order in which we shall tend to our dates and our lives, everyone in the home thrives.” Meaning, we can focus on other things when we can find the things we need in our homes and when we have a sense of order and routine. When you understand this concept, the “receipt books”, as they were called, bring a whole new sense of importance to the art of homekeeping. No longer are we just keeping house, but we are really creating an optimum environment for our children and everyone in our house to thrive.
Imagine for a moment, a child getting off to school without order in the home. Without order, the child might not wake up in time. He’d have to search through the laundry for something to wear, because nothing was clean. Then if it was cleaned, it might be wrinkled. Without a proper breakfast, breakfast would be out of a box, if anything at all. Being late, he’d try to grab his backpack, but he wasn’t quite sure where he left it, so he’d frantically search for the backpack, hoping the school bus would still be waiting outside.
Now imagine for a moment, a home that is in order, where excellence in homekeeping is aspired. The boy, would get up on time, having time to get his teeth brushed and get his bed made before school. His Mom would have a healthy breakfast for him which would help him flourish at school, since he could think well, having proper nourishment. His backpack would be ready to go, on the landing pad and his coat would be hung up on the hooks near the door. The day would be off to a great start.
In both situations, the child hasn’t arrived at school. We haven’t even addressed whether or not the child might have some other things going on, such as ADD, which would make his life more challenging. Given these scenarios, one would think we should place a bigger value on order and homekeeping.
In the end, I couldn’t think of a more inspirational book as we prepare our children for the “Back to School” season. As Mrs. Dunwoody said, “We must approach every task as a blessing to be received, never as a chore.” As I changed Dear Son’s sheets for the second time in a day, I kept Mrs. Dunwoody’s words in mind. Making a nice home for the people we love is important.