Whenever I ought do chores, I do my research first. Thoroughly. I search the internet or head to the library.
If I need to lose weight, I read all about
Pritikin. Ornish, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Weight watchers & cabbage soup.
Low fat, low carb, and low sugar.
While I’m in the library, surrounded by cookbooks, I’m apt to spy an interesting book about making spice blends from scratch so I read that too. And then a book about the foods along the ancient Spice Route.. Did you know that meat kebabs and flat breads are still prepared all the way from the Middle East to China? I love those random facts.
If I want a pot of flowers on the porch, I first read up on
Petunias, fuchsias, geraniums, potting soil, and self-watering containers.
When to prune hydrangeas.
Varieties of raspberries that do well in the Northeast.
And wild edible plants.
To get in shape, I read about
Pilates, yoga, aerobics, spin classes, weight lifting.
Kickboxing and running marathons.
Biking Prince Edward Island from end to end.
Swimming the English channel,
Walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage from France to Spain.
And Indian classical dance.
Because life is complicated, I read about simple living and mindfulness and how to live on next to nothing. And how best to spend Powerball lottery winnings—should I ever buy a Powerball ticket.
Years ago, when my sons were small and still leaving toys everywhere, coloring on the walls with crayons, and tossing their dirty socks on their closet shelves, I was strongly urged by my husband at the time to improve my housekeeping skills. To be honest, I found it hard to clean up after myself, let alone deal with my kids’ messes. I thought often and deeply about the subject. But thinking didn’t seem to help.
So I went to the library. Week by week I checked out their collection of housecleaning books. I became something of an expert on deep cleaning, spot cleaning, and speed cleaning. But that knowledge didn’t help much either.
Then I came across a gem of a book: The author applied scientific methods to house cleaning. For example, she explained in detail how I could make a pot of coffee using the minimum number of steps and the fewest motions. There were flow charts! Admittedly the book was a little out of date. Actually, it was written before I was born; nevertheless, the notion of efficiency enthralled me.
Best of all, the author, Lillian Gilbreth, had amazing credentials. I had heard of her; I had read the book Cheaper by the Dozen when I was a teenager. She was the mother described in the book. She had a PhD and a career as a time-motion efficiency expert. She was married to a man who was also a time-motion expert. And she had twelve children! Who in this wide, wide world would know more about efficiency at home?
I had only three kids and no job at all, and I was not a bit efficient. I read the book from cover to cover, many times. If only I could follow her principles, I would have a cleaner, more organized home.
Whenever I couldn’t cope—whenever the laundry was piled high, and train tracks and Action Jackson dolls and matchbox cars were all over the house and our shoes stuck to the kitchen floor—I went to the library and looked again for my old friend, the book by Lillian Gilbreth on efficient household management. It was always available, tucked away on a high shelf in the back of the library. I would check it out, take it home, and read it again.
Sadly, the book had precious little effect on my house even though I believe I thoroughly mastered the contents.
To be honest, I haven’t changed much over the years. If my house is tidier, it’s only because I no longer have little children at home. I have adjusted to my failings—which is probably a mistake. At the same time, I still want heroes, people who actually get things done, and done well, and share their wisdom with others.
But Dr. Lillian Gilbreth is not the one. Years and years later, I found out that Lillian—despite her expertise in household management—did not clean and did not cook. Never. She mastered only one dish in her life. She always had servants. Always.
If I’d had someone else to clean my house, it would have looked a whole lot better.
I’d like to have seen Lillian get spaghetti sauce off the kitchen walls. For that, I had plenty of experience.
copyright December 2015