We do not allow our houses any longer to bloom as alive; at any rate, those of us who are wise. Our houses are still refuges, as they always were, but they have taken on with the years another aspect; now a days they are play things too.
A house, in small ways can be constantly changing it's looks and become more delightful. How? Why? What has happened to the housewife to make her take her dwelling and her meals less seriously; to the enormous improvement of both? The explanation is not very far to seek. Once upon a time a woman was tied to her house. She could not get out of it. She always knew what was coming for meals. She could talk and think of very little besides her house and its problems. She was bored, and therefore boring. Now---- she can buy cooked food round the corner if she wants to have an afternoon free. If she tires of her curtains, they are inexpensive to dye or replace. She need not spoil her hands with dust pans and brushes and the cleaning of grates; the vacuum cleaner and various forms of radiant heat save her all such trouble. In short, she can get away from her home, and so begin to see it in proportion. She has, perhaps on very little money, the leisure to be not only a frugal , but a happy housewife.
Still, though the claims of the house on a woman's physical powers nowadays are nothing like so great, its claims on her intelligence are greater than they were. A house, no matter how well equipped, sunny, dustless, and paid for, will not run itself. There has to be a directing mind at work upon its problems, and that mind in most cases must still be the woman's.
Sufficient money is not everything; married or single, rich or middling, if she has to make a success of her home the house keeper has to be clever. Not only this, but she has to be willing to learn and experiment. Experiments without guidance sometimes have deplorable results, especially where cooking is concerned. The need is, then, for an experienced hand at her elbow now and then, and an occasional warning voice. Where are they to come from? The housewife is not only mistress of the kitchen, but of the living-rooms, bedrooms, nursery, bathrooms, cupboards and garden of her house. How and where is she to find the methods of decorating, cleaning and making interesting or beautiful all of these? The answer is, by taking advice from somebody who has tackled all the problems in turn. That is the task which this books sets itself; to note compactly and not too technically , advice on all these points.
I believe that it takes time, less than it used - intelligence, and constant openness to new ideas, to keep a home running smoothly and happily, as all homes should run. The time and the intelligence every woman who loves her house and garden will gladly provide.
To begin with, I think that every woman who attempts to run a house should work to a plan. Not a cast-iron plan, for that is a tyrannical pest, detested of husbands and children, and to which you yourself may end by becoming a slave; but a good elastic everyday plan, which allows scope for variety, and sits on you like a good supporting corset rather than a shackle - that is the plan to try for.
There is an idea , held by some women, I am sorry to say , as well as most men, that there is nothing in housekeeping ; that it is a woman's job, which she ought to be able to deal with by the light of nature. Let me say at once that housekeeping is a full time skilled job. Imagination and constructive powers are needed to make a success of it. Economics come into it. A housewife who really knows and practices her trade at its best must be a trained nurse, chef, organizer, secretary, book-keeper , and arbiter of elegance. All these trades are highly respected, taken singly, and nobody ever supposes, when they are conducted in offices or in uniform, that they can be undertaken without training. The housewife is expected to learn them casually, all of them, and to practice them three hundred and sixty-five days a year. The queer part of it is that - astonishing creature - she works the miracle more often than not!
The Financial Side of Things
In dealing with this important matter, the financial side of housekeeping and how to plan, it is worth remembering to work within your yearly income; your life is set in that like a picture in a frame. This sounds an obvious fact. Of course; but in these days it's not always easy to save, and it is easy and often necessary , in jobs where appearances matter, to live up to the last penny of the income. Again, it is only too easy to slip over onto the wrong side of the ledger; especially when you have bought things on the hire purchase system and an illness or other unforeseen trouble comes to interrupt the payments. It is just as well you are working out the amount that can be allowed for housekeeping and other domestic expenses to estimate your income at rather less than it actually is; this will allow you a very welcome margin for all such sudden emergencies.
The yearly household and domestic expenses, generally speaking, divide themselves into three sections:
1. Current Weekly Expenses
Small household requisites
Wages of daily help, or part-time maid.
Fuel, other than gas and electricity
Gas and electricity if you have a slot meter
Minor repairs and renewals.
2. Regular Expenses not coming under the above
Rent or installments on a house
Installments on furniture
Taxes and rates
Gas and electricity, if paid monthly or quarterly.
School or other education fees.
Wages if full time servants
3. General Expenses
Dentist and Doctor
Purchase of furniture
Larger repairs or renewals
If you have a car and a garden, then these are added expenses which should be allowed for in the yearly budget.
The first of these sections can be kept within its proper limits by a regular housekeeping allowance, paid weekly, monthly, or even quarterly. As a rule it is based on the number of people in the household, and so much is allowed for head.
The second section can be estimated fairly accurately as the amount so several of the items are known. Gas and electricity bills should be averaged out; the winter quarters or months naturally are more expensive than the summer ones.
A general sum has to be set aside for the third section; the amount of this must depend on your own good or bad luck throughout the year.
If regular housekeeping money is paid to you monthly or quarterly it is as well to have a special banking account for it. The necessary amount for wages and extras can be drawn out weekly, and if you have weekly accounts, these can be paid by cheque. If the housekeeping money is paid weekly, then keep it apart from other money; it is simpler to deal with. In any event, in spite of the trouble and whether or not you have a head for figures, account books should be kept.
Keep an account, if you can, of each item bought, and try to know, not only how much you spend on housekeeping each week or month, but also how much individual things have cost during that time. If you do this it is simple to find out where too much money has been spent, and whether you must economize or can afford to spend more.