YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Home Rule

Confessions of a Housework Hater

April 17, 1986|BONNIE McCULLOUGH | McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management.

To tell the truth, I hate housework. There are so many other things I would rather do. At the same time, I believe the order of a home affects the family, how they treat each other, how they feel about themselves and what they can accomplish. At my house, I look for every possible way to save work.

I do not have a coffee table; never have, never will. The very name of this piece of furniture suggests food. I don't want to encourage eating in the room with my nicest furniture because it is not designed for easy cleanup. Second, I don't need another flat surface for stacking things.

Highlight valuables in an elegant fashion by only having a few on display at one time. Like an art gallery, give thought to placement and crowding. Most of us have certain areas of the home that are designated for show, for comfort and relaxation. You will not be proud of this area, or feel restful there if all the corners and surfaces are piled up with objects. Even when it comes to displaying treasures, if there are too many, you create a dime-store atmosphere.

Put Scraggly Plants Out of View

House plants are considered a form of decoration. Scraggly plants detract from a lovely atmosphere. If you feel sorry for it and want to patiently nurture a plant to lushness, designate a nursery away from the front-door view.

Another silly thing we do is to set down scraps of carpet, supposedly to protect the main carpet. If you want to save work, put good door mats at entrances to catch dirt. Loose pieces of carpet and slippery throw rugs cause accidents.

It drives me crazy to work in a kitchen that is crowded with plants, knick-knacks, canisters and appliances, where the counters serve as an overflow-annex to the cupboards. It is hard to find a place to work, and when it is cleaned up, it doesn't show. Keeping work areas simple and free from clutter makes work easier and cleanup faster.

Every few years we need to take a good look at where we put things, our work patterns, and evaluate if they are still right for our life style. Use cupboards close to work centers to store ingredients, utensils and pans used most often. Store the seldom-used items in outer cupboards, the garage, attic or basement.

And while we are talking about the kitchen, everyone needs to set some limits. It is defeating to save many butter tubs, pie tins, plastic bags, pickle jars and paper sacks. How many do you really use anyway?

Do you have more pots and pans than you need? We accumulate all sorts of specialty pans; we get extra pieces when we buy a set. The cupboards are filled with them. We stack them up. We hang them from the ceiling and they get dusty.

We fill cupboards with containers in which to store leftovers. Cake-keepers and pie-savers are piled on top of the refrigerator. We fight to find the right lids. Dishwashers melt and flip plastics around so they have to be pampered and washed by hand. I prefer to use wide-mouth salad dressing jars for leftovers. I can see what's in them and use the food before it gets spoiled and the jars can be put in the dishwasher.

Everything has its care price. A new end table is one more thing to dust and polish. A plant needs watering, feeding, spading and a monthly shower. We continue taking more into our lives, each requiring a few more moments of care until we are slaves to belongings. Does the pleasure of owning outweigh the care price?

I hate bedspreads that are hard for children to get straight, and bunk beds are a nightmare. Toy boxes, except for storing big play things, are a disaster. Once a game with little pieces gets tossed into the toy box, the parts are never together again. The children play dump-the-box, rather than with the toy. I prefer to separate pieces and parts into cloth bags and put them on hooks or shoe boxes on a shelf.

Some Handy Items

It is handy to have a trash basket, pin cushion, pencil holder and a box of tissue in every room except the living room. Bedrooms need a hamper to store soiled clothing until wash day. It saves time and encourages better cleaning to have mirror polish and cleanser in each bathroom.

It has been said, "We shape our houses and then our houses shape us." It is true. When we buy a house or rent an apartment, we choose a life style. The floor plan means we have to do certain tasks in a specific way. Placement of furniture, appliances, equipment, clothes, books and games influence how often they are used and attitudes about them.

There is no such thing as a perfect house. We make trade-offs. If you could have everything you wanted in a home, it would be too big to keep clean. We have to put up with some inconvenience. But in many cases, we can cut down the work and free up our lives.

Los Angeles Times Articles