As a part of a cohort with parents who were in the first generation of economically middle class with a great percentage of women working outside the home, an interest in “home-making” for my generation is atypical if not outright subversive. While Cheryl Mendelson certainly writes from what she perceives as a female perspective, the wisdom and information she shares in Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House is universal and in no way gender specific.
Mendelson breaks down the uses of each room in the house and how best to maintain the cleanliness and comfort of it, but even more she philosophizes on what is important in life. To encourage orderliness in the home, she posits her “broke window theory”; she notes that if there is a broken window that is not fixed, the social contract appears to be broken and a location is more likely to collect more signs of neglect from debris to graffiti. She connects this to behavior in the home- if a room is picked up, then it is more natural to pick up the teacup and bring it the sink or place a food wrapper in the trash. Once the orderliness is compromised, it is much easier to let the cleaning-up go, resulting in a messy living place.
Now most of us do not aspire to the author’s level of meticulousness. It is unlikely that many of us will change our pillowcases twice a week, nor clean our drains weekly either. However, Mendelson gives us reasons based in efficiency, and even more convincing- science, why many of the routines she recommends can improve our lives. And who wants to argue with reasons why we shouldn’t make our beds every morning? (Dust mites, that cause allergies, are more likely to die if the bedclothes are pulled down and everything allowed to air out). Also invaluable is a chart addressing the best means for stain removal and general cleaning. Environmentally sensitive solutions are of interest to many, so Mendelson’s recommendations for hot/cold water or baking soda, lemon juice or vinegar as cleaning agents in lieu of chemicals are useful. This is not a “green” book per se, but those interested in sustainable living could find much of interest in this book.