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.

 The Art & Science of Keeping House. 

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.

12 Checklists That Will Make Life Easier

I recently read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  The book is an argument for the value of checklists. We have so much knowledge today about how things work, and procedures are often so complex, that it’s impossible to hold that much information in our heads. 

One of the examples Gawande uses is surgery. Multiple steps need to be taken by different people before an operation begins. If even one of the steps is forgotten, it can be fatal for the patient. In the experiment Gawande conducted in eight hospitals across the world, post-op complications and deaths were reduced by one-third! All because of a simple checklist. 

You don’t have to be a surgeon or an airline pilot or an engineer to benefit from using a checklist. Using checklists at home can make your life easier because you’re not trying to keep everything in your head. It can you save you time and money and reduce stress because everything is written down. 

 12 Checklists That Will Make Your Life Easier

Here are 12 checklists you can implement at home that might make your life run more smoothly.

  1. A Workday Setup—This idea comes from Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner. The idea is that the Workday Setup gets you into work mode. I recently read of someone who signals the start of her workday by lighting a candle at her desk. Your setup might involve queuing up a particular playlist. Perhaps you shut down the internet to avoid distractions or use a specific notebook or pen. Over time, these actions signal the brain that it is time to start working. 
  2. A Workday Shutdown—Similarly, the Workday Shutdown helps your brain make the switch out of work mode while tying up loose ends. Maybe you write out tasks for the next day. Maybe you review the current day’s activities and make a note of what went well. Maybe you make a final check of email. 
  3. Common grocery items— I do a bi-weekly shopping trip to Costco and there are certain items I only buy from Costco. If I remember, via my checklist, to check and see if we need more dog treats, for example, it prevents me from standing in the aisles at Costco thinking, “Are we running low? Do I need to buy another box?” Murphy’s Law dictates that if I don’t buy it, we definitely need it and if I do buy it, we already have 46,735 boxes at home. This has happened with toilet paper. Multiple times. 
  4. Morning Routine—I first learned of morning and evening routines years ago from FlyLady. What are the steps you would like to go through each morning to make it most enjoyable or run more smoothly? Would you like to begin dinner preparations? Do yoga? Bible study? Some continuing education for yourself? Make a list so that you can follow it. 
  5. Evening Routine—Similarly, creating and writing down your evening routine can help you get out of the house on time the next morning. Do you know what you want to wear the next day? Is it clean?  Does it need ironing? Do you have the book/report/file you need for the next day? Is it in your bag/by the door/ready to go? Do you need to stop for gas on the way to work? Thinking through these things the night before will help you have a more peaceful morning start. Additionally, it’s good to include anything that will help you wind down and get a good night’s sleep. Hot bath? Stretching routine? Yoga? Reading? Reminder to have lights out at a specific time?
  6. Bills Due—No more trying to remember if you paid the electric bill. Pay it and then check it off on the list.
  7. Want to buy—Have you ever used your fun money to purchase something and then thought later, “I shouldn’t have spent the money on XYZ because I want ABC more.” Keeping a list of things you want will allow you to prioritize your purchases.
  8. Books to Read/Books You’ve Read/Movies or TV Shows to Watch/Video Games to Try—Keep track of your entertainment. This checklist will assure you that you always have something to read/watch/listen to. And it will also serve as a reminder of things you might want to share with family and friends.
  9. School Interview Checklist—Are you looking for preschools for your children? Brainstorm a list of things you want in the school your child attends. Turn it into a list of questions that you will ask during the interview process. Encourage your child to do the same when it comes time for college visits. What are the things that are important to them in a school? Having a checklist of questions to ask will help with the decision-making process.
  10. Communication Checklist—Do you have family members or friends with whom you want to keep in touch on a regular basis? Whether you do so by phone calls, email, snail mail, or text, having a checklist of those people will ensure that you stay in contact and too much doesn’t go by without saying hello.
  11. Cleaning checklist—Creating a cleaning checklist for each room in your house will help you remember when things get cleaned. When is the last time you washed the windows? How long has it been since you cleaned behind the refrigerator? Is it time to wash your comforter? Should you make an appointment to get your carpets cleaned? 
  12. Household maintenance—Speaking of cleaning, when is the last time you changed the heating/ac filter? Do the windows need new caulk? Have you checked for cracks in your home’s foundation recently? How long has it been since the roof was replaced? Tracking these things will help you budget for household repairs. 

You can create a checklist for any process or any area of your life. What are some of the checklists you use? Please share your ideas in the comments.