Claire Leavey: “Excellence in housework is achieved by… planning”

(Proximamente Trabajo entre los trabajos estará disponible en inglés y en francés. De momento, publicamos esta entrevista en inglés.) This week, a very good friend sent us an interesting article about how to take care of our clothes saving time and money. It was such an interesting article that we contacted with the author. She accepted our interview and here we offer you the text. She is an ‘autodidact’ in home management. Her lifestyle is low cost. She invests in classic wearing and good quality. She sews her own clothes and her socks can be usefull up to 15 years…

1 – Can you explain us what´s home management?
I would say that my understanding of skill in housework is to use specialist knowledge and skill to minimise the amount of time and effort required to keep your home clean and healthy, and to spend as little money as possible on doing it! Traditional housekeeping methods were very realistic about what was achievable if you also had to fit other things into your day, and this more patient approach works very well if you have other things to do while, for example, soap flakes melt into hot water, or silver is cleaned in a washing-soda bath. Housework should fit around and serve your life, not be your life!

2 -I read in an article that, while you were studying English literature you came across books on how to take care of the home, how to do laundry, etc. Could you explain why this fascinated you so much that you decided to write a book on it?
The books I found when I was a student were mainly Anglo-Saxon and Medieval herbals (directory-style books about the properties of plants). These gave me an insight into how powerful and versatile the natural raw materials could be. I then began to collect and research household books in order to find out the practical uses of the materials. In my business I have been making products from the old recipes commercially for almost fifteen years. When the recession got into its stride I could see that it would not be a temporary problem but rather a lifestyle revolution, and so I decided that the way forward for my business would be to help people cope – and learn to enjoy their new way of life – by sharing the useful information I had collected over the years.

3- In your own home … who is dedicated to housework?
I am the only adult in my home so I do the majority of the housework. I pay my thirteen year old daughter to do some during the school holidays, and I also have a lady who comes in to help whenever I am too busy working for my business (and only if she has some time free). If I had a husband I would certainly expect him to do an equal share!

4 – In your country, Great Britain, is this type of work respected?
I’m afraid that in Great Britain the knowledge and skills required to run a home properly have been entirely lost, replaced by an excellent knowledge of expensive major brand names and supermarket own-label products! Here, the work of looking after a home has been scorned for years. In Britain, the very low status of ‘housewife’ is something not even a housewife embraces willingly. For this reason people have been only too happy to abandon the skills, and they are proud to say that they cannot cook, or their fingernails are too expensively painted to dirty them with cleaning! It is my mission to help people recover the knowledge and skills that mean they can enjoy a very high standard of living without needing more than a tiny amount of cash. A few hundred years ago, it was possible for ordinary working people to live their whole lives without even seeing a coin. They might be paid in beer, or in grain, or in being allowed the use of a piece of their landlord’s land to grow the things they needed. Commoners’ rights still exist in some parts of Britain, where people are legally allowed to cut down trees, or let pigs forage, or graze their horses, on someone else’s land. These rights are a remnant of the old cashless economy of hundreds of years ago, and while I’m certainly not recommending we return to that kind of system, my study of history makes me very aware of the fact that it is perfectly possible to live well, entirely without money!

5- How do you understand these words of an article from our blog: “They need us at home. It is something to think about, because it has many repercussions, wonderful repercussions”
Adults are definitely needed to play a positive and constructive part in raising, and caring for, their children. It is important that our children feel that they have a safe and loving home, and that means they need a clean and comfortable home with loving people in it. But I do not see why this role should fall solely to the woman. Fathers should have the time to be there for their family too. When my father became a grandfather, he cried with joy when he finally got the chance to change a nappy for the first time! His career meant he worked into the evening every day when we were children, and my mother was a stay-at-home mum. My parents loved each other very much, and had the happiest marriage I’ve seen – but that old-fashioned arrangement of strict gender roles did not work well for either of them.

6- What is it that keeps one from taking better care of their home?: Time? Lack of ideas? Money?
Money is not necessary at all, as long as you are secure in having enough to eat and to not be worried about losing your home. As long as you have a good, strong, large sink, a reliable cooker, plus something to sit on, something to put things on, and somewhere comfortable to sleep, that is all you need. A clean home is a luxurious home. And the more basic and simple your home, the less time it takes to clean!

7 – Excellence in housework is achieved by…
… planning. Think through each job before you do it, and while you’re doing it think about the next one! This way no time is wasted in fetching things, putting things away, walking back and forth, and so on. Also, think about the effect of the job you’re doing. For example: if I brush down the cobwebs this will mean the surfaces and floor will be dirty – so don’t take down the cobwebs when you’ve just vacuumed! Approach housework as though it was a professional task, and you’ll find it all fits neatly into place and takes a fraction of the time. For example: I have a spare moment, so I use a long brush to take down cobwebs throughout the apartment (the ceilings are 3m high!). The next day I dust the surfaces throughout the whole apartment, and then on the third day I go through the whole place with the vacuum. This way my efficient use of time is maximised, I don’t waste time in having to do jobs more than once, and I have hours and hours free each day to do the more time-consuming jobs like mending, to earn money, and do more exciting things like ride my motorbike! If I didn’t have a business to run, I would of course do all three jobs on the same day!

8 – When you take care of all that running a home involves, do you do so to save money or do you do it for the wellbeing of your family?
I have an urge to look after things. My hobbies include restoring and caring for old books and old motorcycles, and I am almost at the end of restoring my part-Victorian, part-Georgian apartment. Looking after my daughter properly by growing and cooking good food for her is also important to me. It’s all just part of who I am. I’ve learnt through both reading and experience that the traditional ways of doing things are almost invariably the most efficient, the cheapest, and the most effective. There is real quality of life to this way of keeping your home, and it also helps that it doesn’t cost much money. But if you care for your home in a traditional way, positively banning the intrusion of the big corporations via their brands, this has the unexpected result of making it more your own, and more homely – and this is good for my happiness, as well as for my daughter’s wellbeing. I would not have predicted that effect, but it has come as a welcome surprise to me!

8 comentarios en “Claire Leavey: “Excellence in housework is achieved by… planning”

  1. A clean home is a luxurious home…definitely!! Brilliant article, as I read more and more the idea of doing these tasks profesionally and in the most traditional way, was more and more captivating. This lifestyle, so attractive, is a challenging target, worth to be adopted and shared with others, thanks very much to both the interviewer and the interviewee!!

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