Book Review: Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House
Your home is your retreat from the world. It is your refuge and should be a place where you can relax and unwind.
But if your home is not running smoothly, you may feel agitated instead of calm and peaceful. It’s difficult for a home to be restorative when the floors are covered in dog hair, and surfaces are piled high with books, papers, and other paraphernalia of life. Eating well and within budget is difficult if the refrigerator is always empty and the dishes are always dirty. You may feel panic when your neighbor stops by and wants to see the pergola you built. He’s thinking of doing something similar in his yard. But rather than leading him through the house to the backyard, you back him away from the door where he’s standing and guide him around the outside of the house, through the side yard, because you do not want him to see the mess that is your kitchen.
Home Comforts is not an ordinary book on housekeeping. Cheryl Mendelson is a Ph.D., and a lawyer who identifies as “excessively domestic.” In her world, domesticity would not be taken seriously. She says in her opening chapter, “Without thinking much about it, I knew I would not want this information about me to get around. After all, I belong to the first generation of women who worked more than they stayed home. We knew that no judge would credit the legal briefs of a housewife, no university would give tenure to one, no corporation would promote one, and no one who mattered would talk to one at a party.”
Mendelson wrote Home Comforts because she saw a need in the market for a modern housekeeping manual. A book that is practical and teaches you how to “make a comfortable home.” She wants you to see that, “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…[Home is] the place where you can be more yourself than you can be anywhere else.”
Home Comforts is not about crafts or decorating. It’s about taking care of your home and everything inside it. For example you can learn: How to create routines so that things get done on a regular basis, how to sanitize laundry after a nasty bout of the flu, how to make simple clothing repairs, how to use a dust mop, how to clean every single kind of stain known to man, how to shop for furniture, what to look for when buying new bedding.
Home Comforts in the most comprehensive book on the market. You’ll learn how to clean every possible kind of fabric or textile you might have in your home. How to efficiently ventilate your home. How to care for the various woods and metals found in your house. And then it also covers administrative things like how long to keep paperwork, purchasing insurance, record keeping, and contracts. She also includes things like fire safety, electrical safety, and water safety.
And if you’re too busy to do much of the housework yourself, there’s even a chapter on hiring household help, the legalities and taxes involved, and even a section explaining how to write references when your help moves on.
Home Comforts can be read straight-through, beginning to end, or you can treat it as a reference book, using the index to find answers to questions as you need them answered. It was written for those who are entirely new to the idea of keeping house and those who already have systems in place and only want to learn more.
In addition to being an excellent reference book for your home library, it would make an excellent housewarming or shower gift.
Purchase your copy of Home Comforts on Amazon.