|Library of Congress: Mrs.Schulstad and her daughter setting the table for dinner. South Dakota, 1940.|
There is usually a main room where guests first see when they enter a home. This is often a kitchen or living room. These are the common rooms we housekeepers try to keep the neatest. We also do our best to keep the bathroom tidy.
It is not possible to keep all rooms, of a house, perfectly organized and spotless at all times. This is because we do not live inside a magazine cover photograph. Our homes are not going to be "picture perfect." But we do well when we keep the main rooms company ready.
I have often read of the different temporary homes which Caroline Ingalls and her family lived in. She did a few specific things on a daily basis:
1. She always swept the floors each day, even dirt floors in a sod house.
2. The beds were made each day. She made her own, and directed her girls to make theirs. This was an expected chore.
3. After each meal, she and the girls would wash and put away the dishes. She would put a clean tablecloth on the table. Then she would put the Kerosene lamp neatly at the center of the table. It made things look pleasant and tidy.
4. All were expected to sit up straight and use their manners, even if they were camping near the river on their way to a new homestead out west.
There was a time when they didn't have much and the children had been sick with Scarlet Fever. I believe this was in the book, "On the Banks of Plum Creek." Some company was stopping by unexpectedly. Ma (Caroline) worried about what food she could serve, since nothing special was available at the time. Laura, who had been taking care of everyone said something like, "If it is good enough for us, it is good enough for them!" This is so sweet because the way in which they lived, good housekeepers, hard workers, and simple living with dignity, made any meal they served to the family, or to guests, a blessing.
In these modern days, we can certainly take a few minutes throughout the day to keep things neat. I like to polish the bathroom sink, wash mirrors and put out a fresh towel each day. I also make my bed each morning, and open the blinds to let in the cheerful sunshine. I straighten flower arrangements (these are assorted plastic flowers that make things look extra nice all year round), straighten chairs, and put everything "to rights" in the main parlour. This helps to keep our home looking inviting and pleasant.
It is good to just keep the house looking nice in case unexpected guests show up. When my parents were in their elder (retirement) years, they used to do some extra tidying on Sunday afternoons, as that was the common time when church members would stop in to see them once a month or so. Mother would be sure to have some coffee cake on hand for refreshments. She and Dad would dust the furniture and vacuum the carpets. They would make the kitchen counters and table look extra pretty. This was for "just in case" company came. If nobody stopped by that week, they would enjoy the special treat and the extra lovely home regardless.
Years ago, one of my grown daughters used to love to drop in for a surprise visit. She lived a few hours away and I never knew when she would just show up for the night, or for a day- visit. I always wanted to have a warning so I could buy special foods I knew she liked. As the years went by, I realized that I would much rather have her just show up unexpectedly. Surely she would enjoy any food we had on hand because it would be made with love. It was much more fun to have her come by without a warning. She loved to see how happy and surprised I was to see her!
In my childhood home, special treats like cake or popcorn were reserved for once a week or special occasions. Often this was on a weekend. If company happened to stop by, they would share in the refreshments. If they happened to show up on a weekday, they would have the common fare of whatever meal we were having - nothing special. But we made sure our house was always decent and neat so we could share our happy home and life with our guests.
Very often, "Nothing special" in a cared- for, humble home is just what company would love to see.
To have a company ready home just means we housekeepers are doing our job of keeping a decent and tidy home. We look as nice as we can (as representatives of our homes), and gladly welcome weary visitors with a smile and with grace.
From the Archives -
The Way it Was - Retirement Planning for the Poor.
A Happy Marriage - Serving Mister.
Training Children - Nobody Wants to Clean a Messy House.
Mrs. White's special book for Homemakers - "Mother's Book of Home Economics."
An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email.