I began my professional life with a doctorate in women’s history, and now I’m a professional Organizer. You’d be surprised at how much they have in common!
In this article I’m not going to give you a complete women’s history lesson about the so-called “well-ordered” home. Though it’s quite fascinating what Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, and many other men had much to say about how women should manage a home to operate at maximum efficiency — as if they would really know! I do want to share why it’s important to understand.
I want to challenge the idea that there is a “perfect household,” and suggest a new approach to manage the home you’ve got as well as you can – without making yourself crazy!
The Perfect Household
The concept of creating the perfect household dates back to the 1840s when Godey’s Lady’s Book was published as the first women’s magazine, founded by Sarah Joseph Hale (of Mary had a little Lamb fame). From then until now, publications like Good Housekeeping teach girls from the time they are old enough to help mommy in the kitchen that a women’s place in the home.
The well-ordered home is neat, tidy, and, well … orderly. To meet this lofty goal, we are taught that one must possess the following traits:
- time management
- linear thinking
- productivity skills
- spatial acuity
- attention to detail, and
- the ability to project manage every goal
For a well-ordered home, being organized is key. Phrases like, “I know exactly where it is” and “I love my filing system” will often emerge from the mouths of the well-organized. Their children will grow up to be successful, and their marriages remain intact. A neat and tidy household makes neighbors envious and in-laws sing your praises. Right?
On the other hand, a disorderly home brings with it feelings of shame, embarrassment, frustration, and anger. Women criticize themselves when they believe that they fail miserably in this seemingly pre-ordained role of housekeeper and cook. It’s as if women are actually born with these skills.
Wait! Homemaking requires skills?
Yes. Creating and maintaining a well-ordered home requires many skills and a particular way of thinking. But the work – unwaged, 24/7, with the longest job description in, well, herstory – is supposed to come from the heart, performed out of love.
Don’t get me wrong. I think many people – both women and men – enjoy housekeeping. There are even those who are really good at it.
But historically the role of homemaker has been assigned to women regardless of whether homemaking is part of their skill-set or how their brain is hard-wired.
That’s right, I said “hard-wired.” We know that everyone’s brain is not wired the same. We hear about left brain (linear, logical, orderly) and right brain (creative, artistic, musical), the ADHD brain, and brains with various disorders.
It takes a certain “type” of hard-wiring to be really good at homemaking. But what if you’re not wired that way? Are you doomed to be a failure as a woman and a homemaker?
Starting a New Conversation
It’s time to start a dialogue (internal or with your loved ones) about lightening up, turning off the head-trash, and thinking differently about what it really means to have a well-ordered home. What is REALLY important for you? What do you know really works?
To get started with this new conversation, remember these things:
- all women weren’t born knowing how to keep house
- the family can be included in a more mindful approach to household tasks
- reward your good work with fun stuff
- create your own definition of the well-ordered home