Hughes, Dora Morrell, THRIFT IN THE HOUSEHOLD, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Boston, c. 1918
THE GREATEST ECONOMY: YOURSELF
pp 92-101 "Blessed is the household where the mother puts good health above all things except moral strength. In that household the mother does not throw away her strength and time doing work that can be eliminated, but she serves cleanliness with reason.
However hard one works and however steadily, she never can have an absolutely clean house. Nature forbids it. All out-of-doors is dirt, yet we take to out-of-doors and we thrive. Instead of working so hard to drive out the dust why not take more of out-of-doors into the house? That is thrift. It may fade the carpet, and the life-giving sunshine generally does fade it and the paper and other things, but these can be renewed if the members of the family are well, for they will work with so much more enthusiasm that their incomes will increase; moreover, there is no home that is so inviting and homelike as one that is not too new and speckless. Better is a home where faded walls and floor are, with a well, happy mother, than an immaculate, darkened home with an irritable, nervous mother presiding over it. In homes where the income is small, only one person to see to everything, there is always occasion to choose which you shall have, more show, more work, less happiness, or health and content with plain living. As a matter of dollars and cents, regardless of the spirit of the homeand the happiest homes are not the most scrubbed it pays better to work less.
A woman will tell you, "I cleaned all my up-stairs to-day, took up the carpet, washed the floor, etc.' as if she had done a truly virtuous deed, when what she really did was to strain her back, neglect her food, work all day keyed at the highest tension, and go to bed at night with every nerve strained to the utmost, an aching head and back, and the consciousness that her weariness and aches have made her so snappy that the children have stayed as far from her as they could, and her husband has "decided to do some extra work at the office."
"Wearing one's self out like that and being cross is a sin, and if a woman herself must clean her house at such a cost she will be much wiser to let the extra work be undone. Probably no one else ever would know whether or not she had done all the cleaning, or care. Just why houses should become so remarkably dirty twice a year when they apparently have been kept clean all through the months between is one of the puzzles of a thoughtful mind. When this country was first settled and only one fire was kept in most houses, and that in the kitchen, and all winter the family hibernated and dirt accumulated because it was too cold to clean the rooms unlived in, there was reason for a yearly digging-out; but now it is the custom to occupy all the house, and all is kept swept and garnished from January first to the following December thirty-first at midnight it should be possible to keep it livable without any yearly upheaval. There is enough to be done each day not to add any needless labor to the amount.
"If you, my dear sister-worker, find yourself getting so tired each day that you "cannot think," try this way of cultivating thrift. Take time to consider with yourself how not to waste your life. It is the best thing you have. Did you ever notice how many husbands have young wives spending the money saved by the work of the first wives, who die and leave it for their successors to spend? Why not spend it yourself? Reflect on that topic deeply and heartfully, and then decide first that you will not join the number of those thus making a place for some superfluous woman. That decision being made so that it cannot be shaken, reflect thoughtfully on what you can do to save yourself, which is to make yourself well and keep yourself well.
"You know just about what you can do before you become conscious of weariness. You should stop a little the other side of that. If you can work but an hour and feel right, work that at your best and stop.
"If you cannot afford to hire a helper, really cannot afford it by going without something else, then there remains for you only to cut down the work and have the members of your family help you. Probably you are the kind who hangs up everything the other members of the family drop, who puts away or packs everything for them, and who makes of herself an unthanked servant for the household. Having resolved to be just to yourself, you must change this condition, so talk over the situation with your family and request their cooperation in making life easier for you. Very likely they will be greatly surprised to know that you have any lacks in that respect. If you have brought them up so selfishly that they will not help for the asking, then make a demand that they do at least what belongs to them to do, the work they make, and if they do not heed your words, leave all their proper work undone.
"Let their clothes lie where they were dropped, also their tennis-rackets, books, etc. Don't give way to the weakness of saying, "I can't stand seeing them around." If you can't, just go somewhere else and forget about them. You may as well go while you are able to do it as to wait until you are carried feet first. If you were sick abed you would have to let them lie, so play that you are too ill to attend to them. It should come easy to you to do that.
"The woman who is always tired is a woman who is not well, and she belongs in bed quite as much as the woman who is there. Rest will do her more good than any medicine and help more to keep her well, and the housemother should rest some part of every day as soon as she is conscious of weariness; even fifteen minutes' relaxation will do her good, and after it she will go on with renewed energy--She can get this rest if she will. It is always possible to do the thing one should do, and to be pleasant is the first duty of a woman with husband and child.
"As soon as you feel that you have more to do than you can ever get done, and wherever you turn you see nothing but dust and dirt, it is time for you to drop everything for half an hour. Go outdoors and breathe fresh air and see how the sky looks. There is no more dirt than when you did not notice it at all. You see it because your nerves are magnifying everything. Remember, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be' and you can do all that belongs to you to do without the wear that makes you cross. You have no more before you that absolutely must be done than you can do well. Separate the things you know must be done from those that can be left, and be guided in your decision by the state of your mind and body, and pay no heed to the things you would do because your neighbors do and think you should do. Your neighbors do not have your life to live; live it yourself as seems good to you. Tasks are the things you do to satisfy your neighbors' notions. Do no more of them. They bring nervous prostration.
"Do the duty that lies nearest," but be sure it is a duty. You can recognize a duty because it is something that makes you and your family physically well, that develops them spiritually and morally, and does not take from you more than you are able to give. Your first duty is to make yourself so lovely that your family want to be with you. Nothing is worth while to you or them that does not help you to be dear to them. Test what you lay out for your work by its relation to this great demand, and reject it if it does not meet the test. Very many seem-to-be-important tasks will fade into nothingness if judged by this test. You think of pies, doughnuts, cakes, or what else to be made, but are those really necessary to body or soul? They take much time and they are delicious, but if you are not strong, cannot your family be well nourished and wholesomely fed without them? You know they can."