In days gone by, houses were much smaller. They generally consisted of Best Rooms like the parlour, where you received guests during designated visiting hours, and everywhere else.
Best rooms were very special places, strictly for showing off, all the very special, very expensive things went in there. You can see a more modern Australian interpretation in The Castle where the good stuff ends up in the primary entertainment space; “the pool room.”
Best Rooms were kept scrupulously clean, in general, by limiting everyday access to family, dirt, pests and other contaminants. And this was achieved by closing the door and clouting impudent children who dared to enter uninvited.
If you were a very special friend, you might be invited to join the family in the kitchen outside of visiting hours.
Though even if you were intimately acquainted, people liked to dress up and make an event of it, so the parlour it generally was. And it’s not like there was TV, radios or movies, so visiting was the main form of entertainment.
Modern houses are generally larger, more open, and less formal. Some of them still have a division between public and private spaces, for example with two or more eating spaces – formal, family, and the kitchen. Unless you’re a tiny house advocate, in which case you probably have only one informal space.
Though for most people, they’re just a bunch of rooms that don’t get used much. In Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors, (which I haven’t read yet), Jeanne Arnold documents a family whose formal loungeroom has become the dog’s bedroom. Lucky dog!
Caring for Best Rooms
But you might prefer the old-fashioned approach where you just close the door until you need the room. Or not furnish it until you need it like my friend Katy. Assuming the rooms have doors. And if they don’t, could you add one?
Your main private and functional family rooms are high traffic areas that are in constant use. And the more traffic, the more regular care and attention you need to give them. In fact, you’ll probably be cleaning them daily.
But your Best Rooms are rarely used, and when you rarely use them, you don’t need to give them the same level of care as more
In the later part of her pre-residential care life, my mother entertained rarely. The bulk of the cleaning took place the day after the event and ended with covering the furniture and closing the door. The next time (months or years later), she took the covers off and freshened the room. Ready to go with the minimum of fuss.
Does that sound like something you could get behind?
In days gone by, housewives would refer to Mrs Beeton, Miss Beecher, or Mrs Frederick; all experts in housekeeping. At the dawn of the steam-powered mechanical era.
But who can you turn to in the post-modern era when you have all the mod-cons but no time to use them?
I’m writing a housekeeping book for the 21st-century household; for when you’re working, and dragging up children, and studying, and volunteering, and running a business on the side.
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