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Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for HomekeepingTimeless Wisdom and Practical Advice
By Miriam Lukken
Warner BooksCopyright © 2003 Miriam Lukken
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Art of Homekeeping
All of us carry in our hearts and minds the image of our ideal home, realized or not. It is a place where we feel we belong, a rightness, at-homeness, a knitting together of self and world. Home is a place to become yourself, to rest and surrender all pretense. As Dear Mother used to say, "Home is the place where you can restore your mind, body, and soul." It is a source of emotional nourishment. It?s where you can close a door and open your heart. If there is any meaning to existence, we are surely closest to it there.
We often take our homes for granted. But when we steep ourselves in our home, a deep sense of place begins to emerge. Life becomes more meaningful. We begin to have a greater spiritual awareness of what our home is and should be. Perhaps our most inspiring thought is that our homes, if we are to live well in them, require and deserve a lifetime of the most careful attention. A home absorbs caretaking like a sponge. All the hours we spend tending to it are never in vain, for everything we give to our home, is in turn, given back to us. Our homes will be only as generous and nurturing as the effort we invest in them.
How can we create this special place? A home that rises up to meet us when we come through the door. One that calls out to our soul and draw us in like a magnet. A home that calms, soothes, rejuvenates, and restores. Let us begin by considering the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
Colors have a grand effect on our nerves and should be considered carefully. What colors are pleasing to our sight? A bold and bright cranberry damask wallpaper with Copenhagen blue trim, or the quiet, soothing tones of a sea-foam green or pale yellow goldenrod? The colors in our rooms should reflect what is most pleasing to our eye. Color strongly affects mood, so pay attention to the way various colors stir your emotions. If you want to make a strong statement in a room, choose strong colors. For a soothing effect in a room, choose pastels or cool colors.
Experiment with color combinations. Some of my favorite color combinations include cream and violet, or rose blush and chocolate accented with sage green, or cream white with turkey red. Maroon and pallid sea green is beautiful also. Ask yourself, "What do I want to look at every day?"
Papered walls can achieve very specific effects. Vertical strips make a room seem taller. In a small room a large pattern can be overpowering, but in a big room it often has a cozy feel. The less dense the pattern, the greater the effect. A dense pattern, even if it is small in scale, creates a busy feeling within a room.
There is no right or wrong in choosing colors as long as the occupant is happy with the results. We must, however, give careful consideration to these color choices, because color alone can completely transform a home.
Also to consider is the display of the room. The most successful decorative plans result from well-chosen focal points such as fireplaces or large pieces of furniture or artwork. Large mirrors dramatically increase the feel of size within a room. One must be careful not to clutter the room, which reduces the impact of a room?s finer features. Is there simply too much in the room? With respect given to the smaller pleasures of day-to-day living, can we make it more pleasing by removing or by adding something? Do we prefer a simplistic look, a mere table, chair, and lamp, or a more complex, intriguing mix of books, antiques, and collectibles dispersed creatively among several seating areas in the room? Do we wish to live in light and airy rooms or cozy and comfortable ones? What is the purpose of each room: grand social occasions or relaxing family times together? Is it a welcoming home full of graceful details?
How does smell affect our homes? Have you experienced the stirring in your soul when some pleasing aroma takes you back to a charming memory? The mouthwatering smell of a freshly baked loaf of bread in the oven, or the soothing, fragrant mixture of lavender and magnolias in the bedroom. Smell can be a powerful tool in the creation of a nurturing and pleasing home.
You most likely don?t notice the smell of your own home until you return to it from an extended stay or vacation. Take care to notice the smells in your home. Is it musty and stale, or perhaps sterile with a lingering scent of ammonia? Or is it filled with the faintly sweet smell of flowers cut fresh from the garden? We can find pleasing scents and aromas for our homes by using fresh plants and flowers, fresh fruit zest, or candles, and incense. On the washstand a bowl of lavender-scented water calms the senses and soothes the nerves, while a basket of perfumed French soaps and sachets next to the towels in the washroom creates an oasis of purity and beauty. We can remove unpleasant odors from our home by keeping them clean and free of clutter, and by airing them out regularly by opening the windows.
How does our home feel? Cozy and soft? Grand and exciting? Do we wish to live in an opulent atmosphere, or a simple one? Are there many accommodating, inviting pieces of furniture to retire on or merely a few ladder-back chairs with little else for resting? Are there good books, plush rugs, and luxurious chairs and sofas? Is the lighting bright and plentiful, or subtle from a small table lamp? Are the bedrooms dark and dreary, or sunny, bright, and cheery? What is the feeling we wish to create upon entering a room?
What are the sounds of our everyday lives? The sweet giggles of young children along with the barks of a favorite dog? Wind chimes on the front porch or lovely music drifting through the house from the front parlor? What are the sounds that our ears long to hear? Laughter of friends, or a soft piano? Or is silence golden?
Taste. What do we wish to serve to our favorite guests? Something simple and sweet, or exotic and special? A "house specialty" that everyone looks forward to? Perhaps a mouthwatering rabbit stew that entices the appetites of everyone who enters the front door? Or more simply, just plain yet nourishing food served in a grand style. What foods will we offer for the pleasure of our family and guests?
All of these notions deserve our careful consideration as we strive to make our home the most special place in our lives. Home reflects the creativity, serenity, and beauty we hold dear. It should restore our souls. Home should be the place where we can grow, and thrive, and live and love, to the fullest extent.
Homekeeping is a fine art. It grasps with one hand beauty, with the other utility; it has its harmonies like music, and its order like the stars in their courses. I fear really good homekeeping-which exhibits itself not in occasional entertainment or a handsome parlor, but in good housekeeping which extends from the attic to the cellar, and through every hour in the year-is far from common.
As Dear Mother always used to say, organization has more benefits than mere efficiency. I heartily agree. Knowing your life and home are in order reduces strife and anxiety, and increases confidences. In short, establishing your own routine for tackling domestic chaos makes the task less burdensome. And everyone feels the effects of that.
Homekeeping is an ongoing art, a process, not an end product. It will never be "all done." Bathrooms, clothes, and dishes, once clean, have a way of getting dirty again. But home is meant to be lived in, in the fullest, most potentially fulfilling way for everyone in it. That means that every room does not need to be picture perfect and waiting for a perfect display, but rather, each room has a sense of order and calmness to it. The home looks like someone lives there, without appearing messy or cluttered. There is an order and a method which is followed faithfully. There is a "place" for everything and everything is in its place. There is a "domestic calendar" for cleaning and chores. And that, my dears, is the first lesson in the "art of homekeeping."
Our Family Members will carry the atmosphere we create in our homes
Recipe for a Happy Home
Half a cup of friendship, a cup of thoughtfulness,
creamed together with a pinch of powerdered tenderness,
very lightly beaten in a bowl of loyalty
with a cup of faith, one of hope, and one of charity.
Be sure to add a spoonful of gaiety that sings,
also the ability to laugh at little things.
Moisten with sudden tears of hearfelt sympathy,
bake in a good-natured oven and serve repeatedly.
Excerpted from Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping by Miriam Lukken Copyright © 2003 by Miriam Lukken
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.