Maternal moralizing and the language of hoarding therapy insult the real and necessary inventory issues of people who do custom work with their hands. Essential components are dismissed as junk, which makes as much sense as describing medical supplies as garbage. Doing so strikes at the heart of innovation and design.
Domestic support systems are complex. It’s helpful to define and recognize as separate disciplines sanitation, food service, laundry, media, communications, info-tech, carpentry, electronics, garden, and whatever else the family skills encompass. Play, especially, deserves to be respected.
Living and working space are expensive. Managing space rationally prevents even more expensive hassles, like divorce. Different disciplines require different storage techniques, but I have found a format that serves various technologies realistically practiced in a building designed for private life. The heavy wire storage rack system with cylindrical posts and easily adjustable shelves is rugged, flexible, self-cleaning, and adaptable. Set on heavy castors, it’s not cheap, but it’s a labor cost. Flap-lid plastic bins organize the contents of the shelves. The shallower the bin, the safer and easier it will be to lift.
HEPA air filtration protects cognition from the allergens and toxins that accumulate in an interior too cluttered to be cleaned. A housekeeper who is flipping out has probably been poisoned by dust, fatigue, and dehydration.
If you’re the mess-er rather than the mess-ee, take heart. You don’t have to change. Manage stuff for your personal convenience, and you’ll establish a reliable keyboard of materials that does not encroach on shared space. Pay the most for what you use the most, store things close to where you use them first, and leave them ready to use again when you’re done working. If you are cutting flat stock, like cloth, paper, or wood, cut straight across the shorter dimension first to generate remnants that are easy to store and organize.
Designing and organizing use different parts of the brain. Respect each, and all the rest of that brain, too. You’ll generate a work space that moves like a racing yacht.
Last week I hired a truck and crew to haul solid waste. One bid had left me gasping at $1,100. Fortunately, relatively, I found a jolly crew who took the mess away for a mere ___. (I don’t want to talk about it.)
This was the third time in thirty-four years I called in air support for yard and construction waste. Ordinarily, I mow branches smaller than a finger, and process larger wood with loppers and a reciprocating saw. The resulting short lengths of wood make good barbecue fuel that stores and dries well in sturdy paper garden waste bags. It's a bother to chew up prunings, but it's the most efficient way I've found to manage shrubbery. Should you use a mower as a shredder, follow safety instructions and wear steel-toed boots and eye protection. I learned this trick from a graduate student in landscape design. Use your head, and work when you’re well rested.
Usable household items go to a thrift handily located between a regular destination bus stop and the gym. I can whip in the door, unzip the roller, and drop a plastic bag of excess as quickly as putting a letter into a mail box.
The Japanese have it absolutely right in removing footgear before stepping onto a floor. Originally Japanese society was divided into two classes: people of the floor and people without one.
We take much for granted.
I’ve been experimenting with painting floors. Last week’s maintenance turned up two interesting results. One second-story room with little traffic had been regularly vacuumed with a tank machine fitted with a natural bristle brush. A damp mopping barely discolored the cleaning pad nine months after I painted the space.
Even the hub of the house, the kitchen floor, was barely soiled week to week, until I tromped through in muddy boots after a morning with a pruning saw. A few steps from powder room to counter to sink generated more cleaning and more wear than the previous seven months.
If you do your own maintenance, you’ll have to figure out elegant ways to manage. Paying someone else to cover the work load just sustains the hassle.
That’s easy enough to say, but hard to live up to. Reverting to the domestic precedents of the past buys me time and saves me money. Housekeeping is rightly and inherently conservative, and archaic practice dignified.
My house is in an area that’s developing rapidly. Capital improvements make no sense, and that suits me very well. I like to experiment with restoring the original systems of this 1890 structure, which is nearly eighteenth century in its arrangement.
Bare floors are current, elegant, and rational in the town houses that have sprung up nearby. The sixty year old genuine linoleum on the kitchen floor showed depressing signs of age. I reasoned that the floor would originally have been painted, and that paint might be as simple to refresh as the floor polish I’d been using. Nearly a year later, I find that the painted floor in a heavy traffic area is easy to maintain, cheap to install, and rewarding to the eye. The key to this strategy is to remove street shoes at the door.
The kitchen was designed before electricity. A wood-fired range originally heated water for dishes and bathing. A cold closet in the north east corner of the room kept food. That was it for appliances, although there was probably an ice box somewhere. The spaces in the house, like all pre-World War Two houses, are fragile: bulky twentieth century amenities kill the proportions. Small space imports, like an under-counter refrigerator, are good to the room, flexible, and cheap to operate. Small appliances require less tending and are cheaper to operate than a conventional stove.
Managing the garden as an ornamental romp through English practice cost me several days a week when we first moved here. I never considered hiring help, and over the decades shifted the emphasis to native plants. At the height of the growing season, I now spend half an hour a week mowing the lawn and trimming excess foliage.
Five generations' keeping house in Western Washington know how to get the job done. Deft Home is the fruit of thirty years’ independent research with casual scholarship, deep-time experience, and no ties to commerce.
Deft home is about doing things the easy way, doing things you won’t get tired of, doing things in little specks of time, and doing things effectively so you won’t have to do them again. It’s also about working with things you already have or have scrounged, about respecting tradition and family legacies, and about making time to enjoy your living quarters. It’s about dignity, self-reliance, and innovation. Especially, Deft Home is about respecting the basics and the labor it takes to keep them right. Hope you enjoy the site as much as I enjoy developing the material.