Book Review ~ Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson

I bought this book several years ago and I have had it in mind to review for a while. Since I'm focusing on getting my home in order for the holidays this week, I thought there was no better time. Home Comforts is the best book on the subject of keeping house that I’ve ever read. I tend to be a sucker for old housekeeping books and magazines but the information contained in them is not always relevant. Home Comforts is relevant, whether you’re an apartment dweller or have a tiny suburban cottage or a sprawling country manor. After reading this book, the first thing I adopted into my daily routine was what Cheryl calls “The Broken Window Theory”. She has an excellent example of this theory in life and draws a parallel of this to life inside the home. Here is a quote from the book:

“This theory says a neighborhood causes people who are predisposed to antisocial conduct to feel more inclined to commit various crimes and misdemeanors. If there is one broken window and it isn’t fixed, this suggests to malefactors that no one is in charge – that there therefore it is safe to write graffiti on the walls, litter, and break other windows.”

She goes on to explain how this applies to the home and I will show how it happens in my home. The day begins with a neat and tidy dining room and a table that is cleared off. I set down my coffee cup when I am done with it. Then someone else comes in and sets the book their reading down on the table. Then someone else adds a sweatshirt, then a purse, and then a flute case and so on. By the end of the day the table is covered with things that do not belong there. It all started with a broken window, or in this case, my coffee cup. The entire room is now out of order, is cluttered and soon, so is the entire house. So the solution is to be aware of the problem and not allow for broken windows. We have a plan, we TRY really hard to make sure everything lands in its proper place to begin with. That cuts down on a lot of problems. It also means that when it is time for me to clean, that is exactly what gets done. I do not spend my time putting things away. When things do get out of hand, I am also famous for rounding up the family and insisting that all broken windows be fixed (yes, they thought me crazy at first, now they know exactly what needs doing).

There are people who have the opinion that this book is a bit over the top and Cheryl does admits that she is meticulous. I like that she is meticulous. This is what I am aspiring to. The ideal. Not necessarily the reality. I also like that she spells out HOW TO, and then I get to decide what fits into our lifestyle and my way of doing things.

All that to say, Home Comforts is a great book and a wonderful resource that no home should be without.