Book Review: Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson

If you have never contemplated your need to read an 884 page treatise on the history, art, and science of each and every aspect of keeping house, I urge you to reconsider! “Home Comforts” was such an interesting and useful read that I intend to purchase it and add it to my library even though I’m on a self-imposed book fast due to the fact that my volumes have outstripped my shelf space.

The reason this is such a fabulous book is that the writing is so engaging and entertaining. As a lawyer and professor who happens to love housekeeping, Mendelson brings a refreshing amount of scholarship and meticulous detail to the book. For example, she traces the history of various aspects of housekeeping, using original sources to challenge the myths perpetrated by the women’s movement of recent decades by illuminating what housework was really like and what it meant to women prior to 1960. Just a hint: it wasn’t about scrubbing floors in high heels and pearls while overdosing on Valium like you might have heard. Even better, Mendelson conducted incredibly detailed research into how to approach housekeeping, consulting experts ranging from allergists to chemists, and truly provides an authoritative description not only of how to accomplish each thing, but why different methods work or don’t work.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Mendelson urges readers to take joy in housekeeping tasks and describes how to delight in a well-kept home that truly provides respite and comfort. Although at times while reading I had to fight my inner perfectionist who was screaming “OH MY WORD, ALL THIS TIME I NEVER KNEW I WAS SUPPOSED TO VACUUM MY CEILINGS!!!!!!” I appreciated Mendelson’s overall tone, which encouraged me to put care and effort into the house without letting housework overwhelm me or take me away from more important things like reading to my baby and enjoying my home with my husband.

I would highly recommend this book as a resource, even to seasoned housekeepers. My mother, who is a consummate housekeeper, even found it interesting. 🙂

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