Homekeeping with Martha

Posted by Brette in Home and Decorating

I recently borrowed Martha’s Homekeeping Handbook from the library to investigate her complete homekeeping approach. I was trying to figure out who would buy this book. Maybe people buy it as a bridal shower gift? I don’t know. I found it interesting to page through, but it’s not something I would have looked at had I not been doing this Martha project.  There were some unexpected things in it – like how to buy a mattress – that would be very handy information to have. There were other things that had me scratching my head – like an entire illustrated section on different kinds of scrub brushes. Martha is always thorough though and this book certainly is.

I decided to take on two assignments from the book – Six Things to Do Everyday and Weekly Homekeeping. I decided to surrender myself to them for a week – do the daily tasks each day and work through the weekly list as well.

I found the daily list to be not too difficult. The first item is make the bed. I never make my bed, but for one week, I did. We have a wonderful woman who cleans our house once a week and she always makes the bed that day and it’s always been a luxurious feeling to me to climb into bed the night she was here. My bedmaking skills are limited, so it doesn’t look perfect when I make the bed, but I have to say it was nice to climb into it each night and not have to straighten the covers or fix the pillows. It doesn’t take that long to do either – maybe three minutes at the most.

Next on the list is manage clutter. Martha says that whenever you go out of a room, look around and see if anything needs to be picked up. This is a great tip, but it’s really hard to do. Usually I am speeding from one thing to the next and I just don’t have time to stop and pick up the cards spread out all over the coffee table, take the new bulk pack of tissues up to the linen closet or deal with the pile of junk my kids leave in the front hall. It does cut down on the time you have to spend picking things up if you can do it. If you’re leaving the kitchen and there is a pile of receipts to go to the office where you’re going, you just grab them and take them with you. You do have to have an ongoing awareness of your surroundings at all times to really do this and that’s hard to maintain. I didn’t do this all the time, but when I did, I found it helpful.

Next up, Martha says to sort the mail. I already did that every day, so that was no change. Then she says to clean as you cook. That was a hard one for me. I tend to be in a whirlwind when I am making dinner and it all gets cleaned up afterwards. I tried to take opportunities when there was a pause in cooking (like when I was waiting for something to boil) to stuff things in the dishwasher. It’s much nicer to come to the kitchen after dinner to do dishes when you don’t have stacks of pots and pans everywhere. Again though, I find this hard to maintain since I generally am focused on the cooking, not the cleaning up when I am in the heat of it all.

The last two tasks are to wipe up spills when they happen, which I did already, so no biggie. Lastly, sweep the kitchen floor each night. Eek. I never do this. It’s kind of a nightmare with all the dog fur, so it’s actually easier to quickly vacuum. At our last house, I had a little electric broom I used to use in the kitchen all the time and I loved it. It broke years ago. I’m thinking of getting another if it means I’ll be more likely to do this. Having a dirty floor makes the whole kitchen look awful.

Now let’s look at Martha’s weekly plan. I’ve admitted I have help cleaning the house, but so does Martha! Most of the things on Martha’s list are things that get done weekly here, but there are a few that are new, so I’ll talk about those.

Martha says to pour boiling water down the drains in the kitchen. I did this but am not sure what impact it had. I generally dump out boiling water from cooking pots into the sink, so this felt redundant to me.

Also in the kitchen, Martha says to wipe inside and outside of trash and recycling bins. Eek. This was gross and it needed to be done. I’m not sure I would do it every week, but it definitely needs to get into the rotation.

In the living room, Martha says to vacuum the upholstery weekly. I did it, but I don’t think I would do it every week.  It does need to be done more frequently, so I’ll thank Martha for the reminder  – and Dude Martha was happy to scarf up all the coins I came across.  It’s just gross to find food in the couch though.

In the library (which is in my office) Martha says to dust the tops and spines of books. Egad, I’ve never done this. It wasn’t as dirty as I expected, but it definitely needs to be dusted more than once a millenium.

Martha says to dust banisters and lights in the hallways. I think these are dusted occasionally here, but definitely not every week. I cleaned them and they weren’t too awfully dirty.

In the bathroom Martha says to clean the trash bins – again, something that needs to be done more often around here, so that was a good tip.

Lastly, she has a category called “throughout” in which she says to vacuum vents. We don’t have vents since we have forced water heat, but this was a good reminder to take the covers off the baseboard radiators and vacuum out the little spines in there. These were filled with dog fur, so this was a really good tip.

All in all, I found Martha’s lists to be useful and thorough. I might not do the tasks with the frequency she suggests, but they are handy reminders to have.

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