The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse by Ms. Potter was written in the Victorian era and is a lovely little piece of fiction. I am guessing it is less than 60 sentences long, but it fits into the category of classic literature for me.
However, she receives many houseguests who seem to disregard her desire to keep her home neat.
First she feel asleep in her chair, then she went to bed. “Will it ever be tidy again?” said poor Mrs. Tittlemouse.
Like Mrs. T, I put a lot of heart and soul into housekeeping. Keeping home is an art- albeit a bit of a lost one. It doesn’t rate high to many people. People who have stayed at home beyond the socially acceptable maternity leaves, sick leaves, etc. usually are not considered to have “worked hard” over the course of their life.
So far, it’s the hardest job I have done. But also the most satisfying. I'm not saying this is what I will always be doing but I am finding myself falling surprisingly in love it.
It’s always a balance between keeping the space neat for the sake of all our sane heads, as well as allowing freedom for everyone to be who they are in the house. Mrs. T seems to struggle with that too.
Mrs. Tittlemouse was a most terribly tidy particular mouse, always sweeping and dusting the soft sandy floors. Sometimes a beetle lost its way in the passages. Shuh! Shuh! Little dirty feet!’ said Mrs/ TIttlemouse, clattering her dust-pan
Like Mrs. T, I find myself murmuring to myself after a day when I have swept up for the 14th time – “I shall go distracted!”
You may be laughing now but some of the best planners and builders have given their life’s work to this kind of thought. What is the home, but our castle?
One of my favorite toilet reads – A Pattern Language by Murray Silverstein, Sara Ishikawa, Christopher Alexander (1977) is a classic and popular in design and architecture classes around the world. It is kind of like permaculture, but for cities, homes, kitchens and even bathrooms. Applying many of its design suggestions has changed my home-life a lot. I'll explain a bit below.
Here are some ways I have tried to make things smoother in what my stepson continues to remind me, “is a very very very small house for 5 people”. (Not that I agree – we are blessed beyond measure though it may seem small to some).
We never had family pictures up and finally I made a wall downstairs for framed family pictures. But who has time to update these?!! Not me. But frames make pictures beautiful and prompt us to stop and look. Also we never looked at them downstairs.
Here is our solution in the kitchen. I can chop and change these whenever I like. Or feature a kid during the month of his birthday. Or even put up pictures of those family members who have passed when their birthday or anniversary of death approaches.
Nonetheless, sometimes I find myself - in the spirit of Mrs. T - scrambling after the kids to try and keep the place from getting out of hand ("She followed Frog with a dish-cloth, to wipe his large wet footmarks off the parlour floor”).
There is nothing I love so much as a finely set table with friends around it. It doesn’t always happen and that’s ok. Because when it does, I love it all the more!
In the end Mrs. T, “makes the door too small for some of the visitors she really doesn’t want to come by”. I promise you I will never do that. Even Mrs. T has to let loose.
[When her house] was beautifully neat and clean, she gave a party to five other little mice, without Mr. Jackson [the dirty frog]. He smelt the party and came up the back but he could not squeeze through the door.”
Sometimes I will have parties and the kids won’t be invited too. However, I think its fair to say that like Mrs. T, the home is worth investing time in. It might even be a legit full-time job. Most people think you have to have way too much expendable income for that sort of thing but I disagree. Many homemakers I know are the most frugal people out there and live on one salary that most people would bawk at.
Habitat for Humanity operates under the belief that if everyone had a home, many of the world’s problems would go away. I wholeheartedly agree. But a home isn’t just four walls. It’s the heart and soul of a family, whatever shape or size. Mrs. T had dirt floors but she still swept them. A true home isn't just the luxury of those with money.
Ours homes should receive the respect they deserve as the castles of our children, as the our own castles - hedge or mansion on the hill.