Monday, January 28, 2008

Dressing and Keeping A Home

Our small dwelling after the snow this week.

Smaller dwellings require special care to keep them them looking clean and spacious. It is quite easy to get in over your head in a small space, especially if you have things you like to do that have to be stored. Rubber stamping and paper crafting, sewing or quilting, or entertaining, all require special places to put things.

When morning comes and that small house is a total shambles, where does a person begin to dig themselves out and create order? It seems that there are as many techniques as there are people, but here are a few offerings.

Dressing as though expecting company is very helpful. It makes one feel that they are in charge of the job rather than the house controlling them.

Being sure to keep your stamina throughout a day of housekeeping is also a plus. Stopping several times and eating foods that consist of good amounts of proteins and natural fats and whole grains, will keep your moods level and your energy strong. It will give you the mind to go on and finish up just when you are getting the most discouraged.

If it is absolutely unmanageable, use the technique of starting at the door and working clockwise, picking up and moving things, discarding, and straightening, until the front room is presentable.

Most people seem to give the front room (lounge, living room, parlor, entry way) priority in cleaning, just in case someone comes by. Even if the rest of the house is not presentable, having the room that is first viewed by a visitor is much easier on the nerves, and so the first room to deal with will be the living room.

One possible way of tackling an insurmountable upheaval, is to put all "like" things together. Rescue first all clothing, then cloth items such as throws, blankets and pillows and put them aside, to be distributed to their places later. Children are a great help for this, as you can sometimes enlist them as runners, going back and forth to put things away for the homemaker, while she attends to the task at hand.

Gather all books from the mess, and then remove all paper items. Draw from this all the things that will be discarded, and file all the things that will be kept.

Toys are next, and they are pulled out of the pile and examined. This is where it can be decided whether or not to keep them. I quite like some toys, especially a doll, an animal, wood blocks, and any normal old fashioned toy that makes a house look like a real home. (Nothing too scary, and not too noisy!). Some toys will stay in the room to rest on the couch or put in a shelf. If you do not have children, it is still fun to have a few toys around for variety and feeling.

After pulling out clothes, books, magazines, papers and toys, survey the results. There are probably still some stray things that do not belong in any category but can be put in their place. Maybe a phone, a drinking glass, an empty box, or some correspondence needs a special trip to where it belongs.

By now, the furniture should be bare of clutter, so it is a good time to arrange the pillows and brush off the crumbs and put the knit blanket over the back of the couch and chair, neatly.

The floor is next. Everything should be off the floor except furniture and maybe the boots and shoes where they are parked after coming in the house. Group the footwear according the the mates and the owner. If there is no real place for it, make one underneath a little table or put them in a corner or a basket.

When everything is picked up from the floor, it is time to sweep or vacuum. Opening the windows or door while sweeping really helps keep the dust down and makes it smell so much better.

The worst is over and next comes some things that are a little easier. It is time to go around and check all the surfaces: the shelves, mantels, piano top, end tables, coffee table, desks, buffet table and book shelves. The tops of everything is what will be focused on.

- Remove anything that does not belong.

-With a clean rag, slightly damp and maybe with a tiny bit of dish detergent added, wipe the surfaces with one hand and lift the lamps and other objects with the other.

-This could be a good time to give your house a different look by re-arranging things like books, pictures, plants or hand-crafted items.

A front room or living area that has been cleaned, still looks nice with a book out that someone has been reading, or a basket of hand work that is being worked on, or anything that shows some evidence of life.

The kitchen can be a daunting black hole that creates a lot of fright, but there are some methods of cleaning it that can raise your spirits while getting the job done.

It seems to work better to clean up the perimeters of the kitchen before washing the dishes. Fill up the sink with hot, soapy water and add the dishes. Let it set while you clear off the table and wipe it. Sweep the floor. Clean of the top of the stove. Wipe the counter tops. Stack the dishes or put them in some kind of order to be washed. Put away food items. Take out the trash. There is a reason to do it this way. If you just start in with the dish washing, the rest of it remains a mess and that can be discouraging. Cleaning up the mess around the sink and the kitchen first, and do the dishes afterwards creates a less chaotic atmosphere. If someone walks in, your jobs looks three-fourths finished when the tables are cleared and the floor is clean.

The dishes have to be washed in hot water, but they should be rinsed in the hottest water you can get, and it should be renewed often if you have a lot of dishes to wash. Wash them, rinse them, and put them in a drainer, upside down so the water will drain out of them. Never sweep the floor while there are clean dishes draining, or while preparing food, and avoid vacuuming if the table has already been set. It just creates more dust and your work has to be done all over again.

As the drainer fills up, dry the items with a clean cloth that is used especially for the kitchen, and put everything away. Then wash another batch, rinse, and drain. In my house, I usually wash the pots and pans and cooking preparation items first and then draw clean water for the rest of the dishes. If I have a lot of dishes, it is possible I may be too tired to wash the pots and pans, and that is why I always wash the hardest- to- clean things first. That way, the washing gets easier towards the end.

Once all the dishes are washed and rinsed and put away, wipe down the kitchen surfaces with a dry towel, paying special attention to the faucets and the sink back splash. Leave everything dry and add something cheerful like a vase of flowers or a lit votive of your favorite home scent. A table looks good with a cloth and a center piece. Centerpieces do not have to be traditional flowers or candles. They can range from sea shells to birdbaths. Anything will do as long as it pleases the eye and has a meaning to you and your family. Cleaned tables also look good with two place settings left on them, looking as though waiting for someone special---your own family.

Desks or writing/business areas of the house is often the most complicated to look after, but the same method can be used as in the other rooms. Gather all like objects, such as writing utensils--pens and pencils. Sometimes you can find a box that fits them perfectly and will also fit in a drawer. Then papers--clean and unused, those that need to be thrown away, and those that should be kept. These all go in special files and are kept in drawers. The top of the desk looks great with a letter in progress and a few pieces of mail waiting to be answered.

The bedrooms can be done in several different ways depending on the amount of room you have and the amount of convenience. One way is to remove everything from the floor and put it all on the bed. Then, sort according to type of thing (clothes, books, papers, and so forth) and when that is all put away, make the bed. The other is to first make the bed and then pick things up from the floor and then go around the room paying attention to the surfaces and tops of things.

Children can learn to clean a bedroom just by watching and listening to what their mother does. She can show and tell them how to do it by first making the bed and saying, "This is how we clean your room." After the bed is made, she can collect all clothing items and dispose of them either in the laundry basket or put them neatly in a drawer or closet. The toys are then picked up and put in their places. The books and papers are dealt with. If there is a desk, it is cleaned, and the floor is cleaned. Once a child has a sense of the routine, he can manage just about any mess himself. Finished bedrooms look nice with a blanket folded at the end of the bed, and a favorite book on the lamp table.

It is reassuring to know that even Adam's garden had to be dressed and kept. (Genesis 2:15) The garden began perfectly, but still needed to be maintained. Once the house is cleaned, it will need to be maintained. To prevent those awful days when things are piled so high it is impossible to know where to begin, check periodically throughout every day for little "infractions." Pick up anything automatically and learn to spot potential problems. Things that are set down in the wrong place seem to attract more of the same. The family can help the situation by being sympathetic to the homemaker's goals of orderliness and beauty. They can be courteous and aid in the maintenance of the home by taking care of their own belongings.

A home is not just a place to sack out and be at our worst. It can be a glorious place that makes you feel like dressing up and behaving with dignity. Dressing it and keeping it gives the home dweller a purpose: to glorify God and to serve others.

Editor's note: There are over 300 articles here and only a few have been labelled so far. My "staff" and I are working on getting everything in order. In the meantime, if you are looking for something, be sure to click the older posts, down at the end of the page. Type your request into the google search area on this page and maybe what you are looking for will come up.


Lynn said...

Yet another beautiful post - thank you. I stopped reading part way through and put the sofa throw in the washing machine and replaced it with a laundered one! You inspired me that much!
I think if your family see you caring for your home they follow suit - and I live in a house with 3 sons!
My husband's grandmother was a wise woman and she told me never to leave the house without it being tidy to come back to and "don't put things down, put them away".
Thank you again for such a lovely boost to the day.

Anonymous said...

Dearest lady Lydia,

I am not sure whether an unfinished first attempt at commenting made it - think I deleted it by accident. Well, you're spot on yet again! Though to most eyes my home would be orderly, I am mindful, with two pet dogs (though they live outside) that the grit and grime accumulates; tiles need sweeping and mopping, laundry needs tending, clutter-points need regular attention and so on. This afternoon once my husband left for work (shift worker), with the heat and humidity we've been getting (fear not, I keep the doggies comfortable) I simply couldn't bear starting in on it this afternoon. Wel, one step at a time and before I knew it, by late afternoon everything was done! Not only that but a particularly nasty kitchen job I've been putting off was done also.I can attest to the sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes from accomplishing even one little dreaded task. In 40 minutes, my husband will return from a hot, horrible job at the airport to a cool, clean house and a content wife not frazzled and running it down to the wire. Though its late (shift people run to funny schedules), I took the time to shower, do my hair and put on a nice dress. To everyone who thinks such a seemingly superficial act cannot improve one's nerves after a hot, humid day of work, it does help greatly (smile).

All's clean and well organised as I take time to relax on the net waiting my husband's homecoming from his first night back after over a month's leave.

keep inspiring us, Lady Lydia!


Mrs. E.,

Tracy said...

I love that you offer this simple advice, step by step. There are so many women who want to keep a pleasant home, and have no idea where to start. You are a blessing to many!

Ali said...

Unfortunately, I am a working mother. I absolutely adore your blog and I also agree that women should be at home. I'm working on that with my husband at the moment. How glorious it is to be the keeper of the home! Your blog inspires me to go home and focus my energies THERE instead of at my job. Thank you.

Karen said...

Mrs. Sherman, it is positively uncanny how your posts seem to be just the thing I needed to read on a particular day!!

I appreciate that you took the time to outline for us room by room what we need to do, or at least to get started. The tip I will take away is to wash pots first and then put clean soapy water in and finish with the easiest ones last. There have been times where I am too exhausted to finish and I have pots soaking the next day and taking up space in my kitchen (I have a small home). Also, I will be more aware of my energy levels, especially in the afternoon. I find that I really need to sit down with a cup of tea around 3:30 or 4 o'clock. But I think some days (especially if I had a light lunch) I should add a piece of cheese and an apple or a graham cracker with peanut butter on it - something to tide me over until supper.

When I am working with even energy levels and have dressed nicely and the house is in some semblence of order, I know (without him saying a word) that my husband is gratified that his wife is home during the day to look after things, and in turn, he feels better able to tackle his work.

kind regards,
Karen (Mrs. D.)

Dianna said...

It really helps me to pretend people are coming over soon -- or to really invite someone over! I get so much more done and I do it so much more beautifully. In fact, I think that will be my plan for today.

Mrs.M said...

Living in a small bungalow myself, I agree with you, it is so important to keep clutter down and always keep everything in order. This task alone will make a small space seem larger.

Also what works for me is to make use of decorative items not just for decorative purposes but also setting them out if they are useful in serving a purpose. For example, I love vintage glass jars of all shapes and sizes. Instead of just using them to display decorative items, I actually use them for storing things I use all the time.

In the kitchen I keep tea bags, coffee, matches, tea-lights, licorice, and mints in different sized glass jars. In the bathroom I use other jars for keeping soaps, band-aids, cotton swabs, bath salts, and cough drops.

Yes, living in smaller homes requires using ingenious ways to maximize it's space.

This is a wonderful guideline to keeping order in the home that many readers will make good use of I'm sure. Thank you for this wonderful post.

texasmcvays said...

Thank you for your post. We homeschool, have church group on Wednesdays, my College girls on Mondays and often another couple for dinner on the weekends. So my house has to stay in somewhat in order even though we live in the country. I have two tricks that I use: a timer & the kids. I use a timer when I am really tired. I work for 10 minutes, play (play with kiddos,scrapbook, sew, read...)for 10 minutes. Before I know it my work is done! My kids have chores that help me maintain my home and it was wonderful to see that we are on the right track. It is so easy to let your house get away from you. Then it is so overwhelming to get it back under control. My kids have been a great source of assistance and joy as far as keeping the house clean. I enlisted their father to comment on how wonderfully they cleaned this or that and they were ready to do more the next day. Thanks for your inspiring words.

Anonymous said...

My husband, son, pet cat and myself all live in a small city apartment. This was just what I needed to read! Thanks for the encouragement to those of us who live in smaller spaces.


Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,

I just adore reading about how other ladies approach the daily tasks of keeping order in their homes! Even those of us who have reached "a certain age" appreciate some encouragement and a fresh perspective when it comes to the routine and mundane tasks of homemaking.

Most valuable to me, however, is the inspiration you provide by showing us on your blog how to create beauty in the home by using what we already have, such as your previous towel tutorial.

In my opinion, the subject of making do with what we have is greatly overlooked. When homemakers fall into an attitude of discontent because they feel their homes and furnishings are worn and shabby, they can become so apathetic that they lose interest in even keeping their homes clean. This attitude has a very damaging effect on the rest of the family.

Thank you so much for all the work you put into your Home Living blog. Reading it is the next best thing to having you as my neighbor!

Kind regards,

Susan T.

P.S. Thanks for posting the photo of your home. It looks so cozy and cottage-like with the pretty trim and the snowfall.

TheFiveDays said...

This was a really helpful and encouraging post! Just what I needed today. I'm off to work on the living room...

TheFiveDays said...

I'm back this morning to say thanks again. I worked a lot on the living room yesterday and did a little in the kitchen...but it was SO nice to wake up and come into the kitchen with a shiny clean stove to look at! :) Usually that's one of the last things I do...

Anonymous said...

We have been raising 5 children (although 2 are on their own now) in a 1352 sq. ft. house. And, yes, it can be more of a challenge to keep things orderly and organized. In our society so much focuses on the large home, especially with many children.
Too much of my younger days were spent comparing myself to others and longing for a larger home to raise my family in instead of using my time to really make the most of what I have been blessed with by the Lord.
Your blog is always such an encouragement to do just that!
Keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Chatty Housewife said...

I starred this in my google reader, it is very good! Thank you. The part about small containers inside drawers really made sense. I have already tried to do this some, but you inspired me to try again. I had a drawer full of serving and cooking utensils, thermometers, cookie cutters, rolling pin, bag clips etc. I found containers that filled the drawer first and worked from there, separating the items into categories and bins. It is so much nicer to look at and to deal with!

Becky said...

Thanks Lady Lydia for sharing this.
This is really a clear way of getting out of a mess, certainly for me, on Monday mornings !!!

Anonymous said...

For many years, I wasted time wishing we lived in a larger home. We live in a small ranch with virtually no storage. But, now I hardly think of it at all. I came to realize that a small house is a gift. It keeps you close to your family. Down the street from us, there are new 7,000 sq. foot houses with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms each. I look at these homes with neither envy or disdain. May the people in them find the joy we have found in our tiny house.