Just recently I received an early inheritance (the best kind, because no one dies). It is a book that once belonged to my grandmother. Written by Peg Bracken, and published in 1963, it is entitled The I Hate To Housekeep Book – subtitled When and how to keep house without losing your mind.
It’s for women who don’t want to live in a pit of filth, nor be 24/7 spotless housekeepers, nor go about nursing grudges against all the housework they find themselves doing.
“Consider, for a moment, your spotless housekeeper. She housekeeps most of the time, apportioning various chores to different days: Tuesday morning is ironing morning. She calls this Not letting the House Get On Top Of Her.
“But the occasional housekeeper doesn’t know she’ll be ironing that day, nor does she care to. It would depress her to know that this was the shape and colour of next Tuesday morning. She would rather just let it happen, should an ill-natured Providence so decree.”
After all the emphasis on Routine Routine Routine which one usually finds in this arena, it was enormously refreshing and, indeed, affirming, to have someone describe the kind of housekeeping which I myself go in for.
I like to start the day with a cuppa in bed, considering the jobs that are waiting to be done, the expected weather, the level of my energy, what I may already have happening, et cetera, and then decide on the day’s course based on that.
But I have never felt quite at ease about this – as though I am somehow derelicting my duty by not always doing the same things at the same times on the same days. On which note, I have sometimes found myself wondering how the traditional Wash on Monday thing worked out if it rained on Monday. No driers to chuck everything into, after all.
So now, thanks to Peg Bracken and her witty little book, I shall take a more adventurous and whimsical approach to my housekeeping. I suspect I shall enjoy it a lot more, and it may well even work out to a cleaner house overall, since I won’t be held back by that seeping feeling of unease that I should really be doing whatever it was I was doing exactly a week ago – could I but a) remember and b) twist my arm into doing it.
As Peg Bracken says, “what you keep house for is for you and your husband, but mainly for you. Because if things get too cluttered, you won’t be able to think straight, and you never will get past record two in your Conversational French course.”