Book Review: Cheryl Mendelson on Mastering Homemaking

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I’m a self-proclaimed Martha Stewart fan, and it’s not because I subscribe to the idea that a woman’s place is in the home; nor should women be the sole person responsible for the health and happiness of the entire household. I’ve just always relished the idea of having a clean and comfortable home filled with things that fill me with joy.

There’s a strange satisfaction that comes with cleaning and organizing that comes with completing even the smallest of domestic tasks. It’s a feeling that I always felt existed in opposition to my desire to pay attention to my career. How does a workaholic like me reconcile the urge to be domestic as well? Is it possible to be both?

While Martha Stewart launched a successful business and television career, lawyer Cheryl Mendelson used her passion for all things domestic to launch her writing career with the two volumes of housekeeping hints of biblical proportions. Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House is a meticulously researched and detailed guide for serious home-keepers who believe in the power of a clean and orderly house.

Note I use the word “home-keeping”, and I use it deliberately: this book is not about how to speed clean your home, or taking domestic shortcuts. Mendelson has amassed an encyclopedia on virtually everything you wanted to know about housekeeping and were afraid to ask. Food storage, linen care, even musical instrument maintenance all make appearances on the veritable laundry list (excuse the pun) of subjects covered by Home Comforts.

This might seem to be a strange subject to write about for someone with a career in law, but Mendelson argues both that her demanding schedule and strong domestic background fuelled her need for keeping an orderly house as an independent adult. Her solutions are practical and yet seem rooted in a more romantic time, where homes were seen as places for families and individuals to flourish and grow instead of storage facilities to keep an increasing amount of meaningless possessions.

A client of mine referred to me this manual for some housekeeping issues that I was having and I was so in love with it that my own copy is being shipped as I type this post. I’m looking forward to creating a new approach to cleaning based on some of her methods. Some people may choose to take or leave her advice if they are happy with their existing routines, but I would recommend reading it anyway. The material is so extensive there’s something there to excite novices and experts alike. For those who think they know everything anyway, they may want to check out her other manual (remember I said she had two?) titled Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens. Three guesses as to what it’s about, and the first two don’t count.

Finally, for all of ye nay-sayers who are reading this and scoffing at the idea of housework as being a virtal part of our existence, consider this quotation from Mendelson:

“Housekeeping creates cleanliness, order, regularity, beauty, the conditions for health and safety, and a good place to do and feel all the things you wish and need to do and feel in your home.”

Now that’s one smart lawyer.

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I love to read and I’ve made a promise to myself that every month I’ll read one non-fiction books that relates to my own self-improvement. I wasn’t paid or perked to promote any of these titles, although I do receive a small commission each time you buy a book through my Amazon store. Have a favorite that you’re dying to share? Send suggestions by commenting below. For more reading inspiration check out my Goodreads profile, or click here to read more about what’s on my bookshelves.

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