Video Digest: June 13, 2008

The complete video guide to being a lunatic homemaker, as guided by a 1939 good wife test.

When the need arises to indulge in the felicity of unbounded domesticity, not everyone is up to the task. Some of us weren’t raised by kings and/or queens of their castles; others were, but perhaps failed to learn such skills as home horticulture and grilling the perfect tomato. Would you pass this 1939 good wife test? Even granting myself half-points for things I do sometimes, and counting “has meals on time” as “comes to meals on time,” I scored a -3.5. In contrast, my partner scored a 9.5.

Low scorers, do not despair! In the interest of public service, we’ve assembled the following tutorial in the ways of housekeeping. Watch carefully, listen closely, and soon you too will be a domestic deity.

Lesson 1: Keep a clean kitchen. You will never experience true domestic bliss with a dirty oven, so at least take a sponge to it once in a while. It may seem like cheating to wipe down only the visibly dirty areas, but unless you’re performing an exorcism de cuisine, hardcore scrubbing isn’t necessary.

Lesson 2: Wear an apron. Whether you are cooking, cleaning, or feeling kitschy, an apron is essential to being a model house-spouse. Without my apron, I would regularly end up a flour-and-dishwater-covered mess. The secret no one tells you is to never wash it. That way you always look like you’ve been houseworking up a storm, even if all you really made were cocktails.

Lesson 3: Know how to remove stains. Adult bibs are not outdoor-wear, nor are cloth napkins to be used as ersatz bibs by tucking them into your top, no matter how much messy eaters would like to. All domestic artists should be able to scrub out a spot of red wine—you have budgets to stick to, after all, and nice clothes don’t make themselves!

Lesson 4: Make use of children. Before they know chores aren’t supposed to be fun, children believe that cleaning is more fun stuff that people bigger than them get to do. Should you acquire a child, strongly encourage this misconception for as long as possible.

Lesson 5: Place settings matter. To the more casual diner, more than one type of any utensil may be redundant, but good hosts and hostesses understand that impressing their guests means lots of silverware. In multigenerational families, setting the table is usually fobbed off on the children (age regardless), though that does not excuse the non-reproducing from observing table etiquette.

Lesson 6: Throw at least one party. This means that you provide all the comestibles, and in return your guests wear nice clothes, arrive on time, and lavish compliments on you and your abode. Hiding ugly feelings behind a veneer of politeness is called good manners, and we weren’t raised by wolves, were we?

Lesson 7: The outside counts, too. This means gardening, and as long as you have a window in your home, you can have some greenery. The environmentally aware homeowner in particular must pay attention to landscaping: lawns are out and edible gardens are in.

Lesson 8: Advance techniques: Reupholster the furniture. A new cover on your chairs or couch can change the entire room, and if you’re using the chairs you got free off Craigslist four years ago, they could probably do with some nice new seats. It’s much easier than it sounds, too, which is good for subtle bragging—the only appropriate form of bragging for the domestic artist.

Lesson 9: None of this is mandatory. Some of us have neither drive nor talent for cooking, decorating, or any home improvements besides occasionally turning on the Roomba. In this modern age, good housekeeping is a choice, and no one can force you to arrange flowers or make your own coffee table against your will. Taking pride in the home you make is the most important part of domestic deism, anyway.

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