When reading about interiors and browsing photos I’ve always thought they ought to be both inspirational and aspirational.
After all, dreaming and hoping are wonderful motivators and good for the human spirit, regardless of an individual’s financial circumstances.
With this in mind, a scouring online for inspiring books about housekeeping with a sustainability theme threw up a duo for reading during evenings sitting outside in this lovely mild weather we’ve been having.
Starting with Christina Strutt’s Green Housekeeping: Recipes and Solutions for a Cleaner, More Sustainable Home (CICO Books), the introduction seems a waste of pages with unnecessary preaching to the converted about the need to live sustainably. Let’s face it, who is likely to read this book unless they already want to housekeep more sustainably and are prepared to make an effort?
I couldn’t help but think an opportunity had been lost to expand into a few more pages on the worthwhile chapter "Cleaning Without Chemicals" (excellent suggestions here, by the way), when the author said, “This is by no means a comprehensive advisory chapter on how to keep your house clean. It is merely a hint as to how.
By using very few cleaning products, you can achieve most household chores simply, effectively, non toxically, and safely.”
Overall, a better title for the book might have been Green Housekeeping and Gardening as it takes in composting, and growing vegetables and herbs, broadening the scope of housekeeping beyond the interior. But there’s lovely material in this expansion of the topic, though, and conveyed in an accessible way.
Back to the interior, Strutt’s homemade cleaning solutions and tips for more general household matters include how to strip wax drippings from a candlestick: blast it with a hot hairdryer. It works, I tried, and it’s this tip with her love of vinegar and making sticky flypaper with summer looming (water, vinegar and honey, it appears) which prompt a score in the aspirational stakes of 9/10.
As for an inspirational score, it’s 6/10 thanks to too many photos of crumpled linens and shabby chic for us who like an orderly interior with clean lines.
Next up is The Joy of Living with Less: how to downsize to 100 items and liberate your life (CICO Books).
As yet another approach to rectifying the problem of suffocating under mounds of possessions, author Mary Lambert extolls the virtues of living with what seems like an alarming minimum number of things around us.
But hasn’t the whole decluttering scene itself become cluttered?
Books and experts abound making it easy to confuse this book with The Joy of Less by Francine Jay, or with Marie Kondo whose mantra "does it spark joy" is now on the lips of almost everyone who likes a regular decluttering spree.
The author’s goal is a worthy one nonetheless.
“It’s all about having a simpler life,” she tells us. This manifests in things like, “less time spent caring for possessions”, “less envy” (of others lifestyles), “less environmental impact”, “more contentment”.
But only 100 items?
If we lost the run of ourselves and decided to follow her approach we might live to regret it and end up buying the same stuff again.
Maybe this is why Lambert says to tackle it over one year and includes worksheets for writing down all of our possessions so we know what we have.
This also gives us time to adjust to getting rid of the flotsam around us.
As someone who once decluttered my life into a skip over a weekend, I know the shaky feeling of being left at the uncomfortable end of decluttered, so the idea of taking a year to do it has my head nodding vigorously.
Still put off? Well, there are cheats, of sorts. Common use items like furniture, lamps and rugs are excluded from the 100 items.
Any struggles with culling earrings or cufflinks, for example, can be mitigated by learning that jewellery qualifies as one item.
My score for aspiration? 4/10, but for inspiration as a seasoned declutterer it’s 8/10 for one reason.
Lambert says, “Going around your home and really looking at everything you have will make you realize where your buying weaknesses lie.”
It’s a revelation and probably the best first step in any decluttering project to make sure we don’t clutter up again.