I don’t think it’s a big secret that I like to clean. That’s right: vacuuming makes me happy. Dusting calms me. Wiping down counters is pure bliss. The only thing I like more than cleaning is reading books about cleaning.
Guys, I am a cleaning supernerd.
I recently bought Home Comforts, which is quite a doorstop of a book. In 845 pages, author and homemaker extraordinaire Cheryl Mendelson breaks down every conceivable aspect of keeping house. From oyster forks to plungers, Home Comforts guides the reader through hosting parties, regular household maintenance, and what to do when disaster strikes. It’s also really, really informative. The book decodes those little hieroglyphics on laundry care labels. I’ve learned about eutrophication and shigella, plissé and Saltillo tiles. The book might strike some as overwhelming or ridiculous (I’m sorry, but even I am never going to change the bedsheets twice a week), but the author herself says not to implement all her tips at once. Rather, the reader is meant to use the book as a reference. It’s always there for helpful information, and has everything a novice homemaker or a cleaning expert will ever need in the pursuit of a tidy, healthy, organized house.
I am neither a novice nor an expert. My skills are somewhere in between. While the idea of vacuuming before dusting truly stresses me out (vacuum last, friends!), I have little pockets of chaos around my house (don’t open the laundry cupboard. It’s where I stick all my nature table people and it looks like a wool plague struck). The point that has really hit me, however, is that no matter how disciplined or organized the cleaner, the goal should be a cozy, comfortable house. A home, Mendelson says, should feel homey.
My house is always tidy, but I’m working on making it feel more homey. I’m trying to implement little touches to this end. The first thing I did was to put a tray with a candle, our mealtime blessing, and some gourds on our counter. We don’t have a dining table in our open concept main floor, so I didn’t have any place for flowers or other center pieces. The tray provides a little spot to bring the outside in. It also sort of says, “Look: a family has meals together here. They say this poem. They light this candle. This is where they spend time together.”
Next, I threw some of my old rules out the window. A big one: no countertop appliances. I know this is weird, but I loathe visible countertop appliances. I prefer clean, empty expanses of counter. But you know what? My husband gets up and leaves for work hours before the rest of us wake. I love programming our coffee maker and loading it up the night before so that he has a warm drink to start the day. I may not be there with him physically (I love the guy but I don’t 4:45 in the morning love the guy), but I’m there in spirit. My other visible appliance is our bread machine. Yes, I know a true expert would knead the bread by hand and bake it in the oven, but to me, that isn’t necessarily the point. The point is there is always a fresh loaf on our counter, and that the house smells like baking bread twice a week. Nothing says home to me like the smell of warm bread.
The last part of making our house a home is bending a little on kid stuff. The kids have a great playroom, but toys frequently creep upstairs. I’m beginning to be okay with this. If there are Wheely Bugs and trains in my living room, all it says is that Ben wanted to play near me. How can I complain about that? I’m also super proud of myself for putting up our daily routine chart. It’s a wood slat with Velcro backed, laminated squares. There is absolutely nothing about it that says high decor. But it does say that in this house, the kids have a predictable routine and a fair amount of fun. It may be tacky, but I’m learning to care less and less about that.
I’ve read so many articles by Waldorf educators about the importance of creating a sense of warmth in the home. Although Home Comforts may at first seem like an awful torture device meant to make homemakers feel inadequate, that’s not true at all. Even as it’s discussing dusting schedules and where the crease should be on table linens, the book’s purpose is to help the reader create a beautiful place to work, relax, and entertain. I’ve always had a tidy space, but I’m trying to make compromises to invite the Waldorf warmth in. It’s not about constant scouring and scrubbing; it’s about creating a space where everyone feels safe, valued, and comfortable. It’s putting my kid’s artwork on the fridge even though I detest clutter. It’s keeping out the ugly old throw blanket because it’s great to snuggle and read The Tomten. Cleaning is important, but creating warmth matters more. This is our Waldorf home.