I’ve been toying lately with the concept of modern household management. I like the idea of Mrs Beetons book covering all necessary areas of life with instruction on how to do things.
The reason for my interest in this topic is that I have spent a lot of time recently trying to figure out just what I want from life. The things I enjoy are for a large part out of fashion. Sure, some of these things are very much in vogue though. Tv shows on everything DIY and the recent explosion on the love of vintage and second hand. Yet gardening and true home design seem less important, the realm of the eccentric and fuddyduddys. People talk about going green or growing their own, but if truth be told I think I have only one friend who shows any interest in growing anything but chilli plants. I walk around my local area and I see maybe one in twenty gardens that look like they’ve been tended in the last year. The people I know who have managed to move away from their parents often show little flair with the interiors of their houses. I don’t know a soul who actually has any true interest in having livestock of any sort.
I think there are certainly many explanations for this:
- People are too busy
- Work is by far the highest priority
- People are too poor to spend time and money on their immediate environment
- Education about these issues is awful
- The decline of the housewife & the need for two incomes
- Lack of space, inability to get on the housing market, next to no outside area in many homes
Maybe rather than the title of modern household management, which does sound like I am extolling the virtues of doing the washing up after every meal, I should call this concept something like the modern good life.
For some reason I can clean, I can cook, I can sew, I can knit. I can design outfits and draft patterns, I can design spaces both inside and out. I can dig, plant, sow, prune, use a chainsaw and an axe. I can actually use a band-saw, circular-saw, soldering iron and pillar drill too. I can mend bikes, and help cut down trees. I can cut glass, I can decorate rooms and redesign furniture. I can do accounts and budget. I can build dry stone walls, and build amazing bonfires. I can make jewellery and do make-up very well. I'm about to brew my own beer and make my own wine. I've helped mix and lay concrete. I can skim walls with plaster and point stonework (admittedly only once on those last two.) There are probably a lot more random things I can do too.
For the most part these skills are all but pointless in most jobs that you can apply to with out taking the skills to the next level and having a degree in the use of them. And, I want to do all of these things day in day out. Hence thinking so much about the concept of modern house hold management. Is there a place in modern life for taking order of your domestic spaces, running your household, without becoming a housewife?
I believe there must be, I also believe that other people should be able to aspire to "the good life" with out giving up modern existence and moving to your own farm in the country.
So, I want to design and decorate my home so that it functions well and looks stunning. I want to design my garden so that it is beautiful, relaxing, attractive to wildlife and also productive in terms of food. I want to rear some livestock, chickens and pygmy goats (no reason other than they're cute) for instance. I want to cook great fresh and healthy food sourced locally. I want to be as 'green' as reasonable, and I want to look and feel good wearing nice clothes and make-up while I do it all. I don't want to spend a fortune, I don't want to move house, but I do want to fundamentally change the way my life is run.
Furthermore, I want to help open the eyes of other people to the possibility of doing such things, I want to encourage people to care about their surroundings and the way they run their lives. I would love to be able to earn a living helping people to love their lives.
I have an end goal for my self I am working towards in order to achieve this way of life. Unfortunately this goal requires a certain amount (read scarily hugely massive amount) of cash to get going.
How do I get started working towards my goal, and towards interesting other people in this lifestyle, in the short to medium term?
The first solution I have come up with is to use this blog more fully. Initially I want to write about and give hints and tips on having your own piece of the good life, without giving up every aspect of modern living. After all I live in a city, and I have restricted time, space and funds like most people. I believe this does not have to be a limiting factor.
This is where the idea of Mrs Beeton comes back in. Her book isn't just a guide to cooking (although that is the greater part of it), it is a guide to running your home. From bringing up children to firing servants. Can I provide the same concept but in an up-to-date setting?
I think I can. In my list of reasons that people don't even think about the way they run their lives, I mentioned education. When I was newly in secondary school fifteen or so years ago, we were not taught the basic running of a house like women were in my mothers time in the sixties. 'Home Economics' no longer existed. I was taught a very limited amount of cooking, I certainly wasn't taught how to clean a house properly. I was taught how to use a sewing machine though. I made a cushion. It was made incorrectly, you couldn't remove the pad. It seems odd to me that that was pretty much the limit of the sewing skills we were taught. In design technology we made a basic automata. We used, even at the time, embarrassingly out of date computer design programs in IT.
Why weren't we taught how to make basic stews and bread? I admit I learnt to make white sauce - a useful piece of knowledge, but other than that beans on toast and swiss-roll won't really help many people develop their cooking skills. Why weren't we taught to put in zips, sew on buttons and hem trousers. These are the basic skills that everyone will need at some point. Why did we do no design in design technology? Why didn't we get shown computer design in a useful way? We should have used the computer to design our automata! Gardening, growing fruit & veg and maintaining your house were not brought up once that I remember. Money management was also never mentioned, an enormous and unforgivable failure by school, college and university.
We were taught a lot of academic skills but next to nothing that is applicable in normal day to day life. I think that I can provide an education in all the ways that schools fail. I'm not criticising schools as much as I sound here, people of all ages should absolutely be taught to aim high. 'Become a scientist!' - yes! Do! But schools forgot that in the mean time, living in a bedsit in a dodgy end of the city is a high possibility, and that you will need to cook for yourself on a budget, clean your surroundings, and budget your own finances as a bare minimum. I think that schools, colleges and universities do a great job of career preparation, but not of life preparation.
Of course there is a certain amount of coverage for all these topics I am talking of, as I mentioned earlier DIY and vintage are very fashionable. Kirstie's handmade home for instance, there are enough baking programmes out there to never need a cook book again, sort your life out guides have had an airing, as has interior design and gardening. But they are always treated as separate entities. I feel that gardening naturally leads on to growing food, which leads to cooking, which leads to spending time in the house, which leads to home interiors, and I want to look great while I do all that. Everything is intertwined! How can you consider doing one of these things without doing something involved in another?
Would you be interested in learning more of modern day Home Economics or how to create your own Good Life? Is this something communities want for themselves or for their kids? Can it be made sufficiently interesting?!
Is this something viable that I should start working towards and incorporating in to my own business? Chloe and the Chimera was never supposed to just be a shop. It was always meant to embrace an entire concept. Interior design and property development have always been on the list from the outset of ways to evolve the business. But can I also develop it in to a whole life eduction and improvement occupation?
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