Monday, March 27, 2017

Finding Help

A good friend admitted that she does not look forward to getting her garden back into shape after this winter's hammering. She and her husband had been discussing downsizing to a condo, but the plan is on hold. Their energies are not what they were, and each prefers to manage their property in their own style.

Legendary garden writer Vita Sackville-West observed that a garden is a personal expression of the gardener's unique sensibility and will never look quite the same under the management of another person. I still prefer to edit and groom as I see fit, though I am light years away from my friend's depth of experience and competence with ornamentals.

It took an embarrassingly long time for me to figure out that help is help. Lightening the burdens in other areas of household management gives me just as much extra energy as asking a strong back to pick up a shovel or a pair of loppers. Someone else can wash the windows better than I, mail order saves time behind the wheel, and exchanging house shoes for street shoes slashes cleaning time. I have not yet ordered groceries on-line, but it makes sense to do so. I see many delivery bags on neighborhood porches. Every few years I ask a skilled arborist to give the large shrubs in the garden a working over. He's better at it than I, and the assistance is cost-effective. 

The basic principle is not to do anything a machine or more efficient person can do, since time and attention are valuable and irreplaceable. Our complex industrial economy has replaced live-in household help with commodities that displace the personal labor and protect the cognition of the person running the abode.

Over the last decade I have allowed the casual efficiencies of skate and digital culture to influence the way I clothe myself and manage the household. Something as simple is deciding to wear layers of t-shirts, that is to say light knits, as the organizing principle of getting dressed saves hours of fussing with wardrobe. I have used the lightest and fastest laptop that is reasonable for my digital needs to displace the bulk, tonnage, and allergen-fostering capacity of a paper archive.

Structuring time before structuring anything else generates a sharp focus on priorities. Routine tasks that aren't getting done in the slots that are available for them can often be discarded altogether. I no longer, for example, wash, iron, and archive vintage doll clothing. In my experience, there are so many layers of domestic procedure left over from the full catastrophe of Victorian housekeeping that it is easy to omit one after another until the righteous rigor of eighteenth-century simplicity is exposed. It's helpful to keep in mind the Navy design premise "do not let the hardware determine the mission". Setting excessive hardware aside increases velocity.

Food, clothing, and shelter are the traditional basics of life support.  Decent, safe, and sanitary are a professional housekeeper's shorthand for evaluating facilities. I base my inventory on the traditional ten essentials of the outdoor community. The rest is up to the individual.

I owe much to the simple efficiencies of commercial food service that I have been learning from a competitive young East Bay foodie. She'll never convince me to give up stemmed glasses and a proper place setting, but things are much swifter in the kitchen now that I've had a chance to enjoy the meals she and her partner turn out in record time. Protecting one's time and attention opens the culture of the household to the superbly efficient supply system that is now available. Doing that gives one time to catch up with the radical simplification of domestic life that the digital community now enjoys -30-


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