I’m always trying to get better at “life”. This time of year more then usual. I’m one of those people who get all excited about the end of summer,the falling of the leaves,the harvest etc.etc. I wear cashmere sweaters all year around but at least now people won’t frown (people in this country insist on wearing summer clothes during June,July and August even though it might just be one of the coldest summers EVER! I do not comply. Bring me my cashmere cardigan!!).
In London I bought a copy of How to run your home without help by Kay Smallshaw at Persephone books. I read it, and intended to do so all along, as a piece of women history. It is a rather quick read that will leave you with a feeling of gratitude at being alive in this time; cleaning was serious business back in the day. However there are a few tips that are still valid. The kind of advice that still turn up in books of this kind like Domestic Bliss by Rita Konig and Simple Matters by Erin Boyle.
A few word about those books: Domestic Bliss is from 2002. I tracked down a second-hand copy because it is just the most wonderful cover ever: in vinyl. Some of the advice is dated( lattes do not seems so hip anymore, they are pretty standard) but an awful lot makes perfect sense still. I’ve read it from cover to cover once and browsed it several more.
Simple Matters was a book I saw in a shop but got it from the library instead. This would be my own advice: always try to get these books from the library or borrow from a friend first. These lifestyle guides are written in a certain tone and they really can be overbearing and ridiculous. Konig is bossy but in a way that I can relate to, Boyle is not. I will say nothing about her minimalist aesthetic. That is not my style, nor will it ever be, but I was still interested in what she had to offer in terms of living with less, less plastic, trying to be environmentally friendly and so forth. I learned nothing new really; part of it has to do with things being different in the US from where I live. And that’s that. Boyle runs a very successful blog that you can find here if you are interested.
A few things that these books all recommend; which is stuff that I incidentally also do so can vouch for.
–Turn old sheets into cloth to dry dishes and clean; I might make them into dresses first and then when the dresses are worn out they become cloths(sometime they are also made into pillowcases). Make them the size of a dishtowel.
–Keep your cleaning supplies in one place;You don’t need that many tools or products to get by. I would however recommend a proper feather-duster for all the frames on paintings in addition Tobbe basics. I keep it all in a wicker basket that I bring out.
–Use special things for the bathroom; this really is basic hygiene but surprisingly few people do it. Use scrubbers and cloth that are made for bathroom use(so you don’t ruin your tiles) and keep them there. Change them more often then regular ones( the are full of bacteria and the kind of bacteria that can make you sick).
–Do listen to the radio when doing chores; I don’t think any housework would get done if it wasn’t for the pleasant distraction of a podcast(much better then music I find).
–Have a routine; I try to do the cleaning on Thursday evening because then the flat is still in good knick if I have guest during the weekend or if anyone should want to drop by. Using the 10 minute rule( tidy as much as you can in 10 minutes) on every room, then a quick dusting (those microfiber-cloth are excellent), a once over with the hoover, change the sheets and all the towels. Wet wipe the floors. It doesn’t take that long once you have gotten into it. That done every week prevents it from getting too bad and then a few more thorough cleaning-sessions(after Christmas, after the holidays,spring cleaning, when you feel there is need).