For a long time I’ve wondered how the women of old seemed to always be on top of the household chores, and I think that I’ve finally come up with an answer. It breaks down into two parts, and both can be modified for today’s living. Today, I am going to focus on the fun one.
Before telephones, people used to pop by unannounced for tea in the afternoon. You didn’t have more than a couple minutes warning that a friend was coming. If you were lucky, they were walking and the dogs tipped you off a full ten minutes before they arrived, and if you were unlucky they came by buggy and were at your doorstop before you knew it.
This was a great motivator for keeping the house spic and span. Most of our friends fall into one of two categories: the type you would have over even if the house is a bit of a mess, and the type that we would only invite over if the linens were ironed and the silver was polished. Back in the day, there was no telling who would show up, and so the silver was always polished.
With the invention of the telephone, it became no longer polite to show up unannounced. And if your house was a wreck, you could always put off the would-be visitor by saying that you were sick or were going out. Eventually, we stopped calling all together, and now we never invite ourselves over, instead we make dates weeks in advance to go out to coffee, thereby avoiding the home entirely.
So where is the lesson in all of this? I wouldn’t start showing up at friends’ houses unannounced to see if they eventually start keeping their house neater. What you can do instead is plan to host more. So many of us will think about having friends over, but we stop ourselves from inviting them because the house is a mess. A better way to think of it is: if the house is a mess, invite a friend to have dinner over in a couple days. This gives you the time to clean, but it sets a strict deadline on how long you have to do it.
Throw the hat over the wall so to speak. You will be amazed at how effective it is at motivating you to do the dreaded straightening and cleaning. In our household, this basically means that we have to have people over at least twice a month. Any less, and our house becomes rather unlivable. The beauty of this plan is that you get the joy of seeing the people that you love, and you get to have something to look forward to as you are cleaning.
Go on to: How Did They Do It? Part 2