Kitchen And Laundry - Duties Of The Mistress
( Originally Published 1904 )
Experience has shown that kitchen floors can have no covering so desirable as simple linoleum of plain pattern, not dark in hue. Don't have painted floors; also avoid polished hardwood: paint doesn't last; hardwood is troublesome to care for; the cook will not take the necessary trouble. You will find it pays to buy a first-class linoleum only. Let the design be uniform on the floor of kitchen, laundry, and pas-sages. If the wear in one place is heavier than in another, you can transpose the pieces of linoleum, just as you would in the case of a carpet place.
As regards laundry and kitchen the house-keeper should treat her servants as she would herself. Give your cook and laundress, both for work and rest, accommodations you would consider good enough for yourself. Allow for air, light, sanitation, and reasonable comfort, such as you would expect were you in their and linoleum of the " inlaid " kind has infinite endurance for wear.
Along in front of the range, as well as around the tables, use stout rugs for comfort, as linoleum is chilly when you sit with your feet on it for any length of time.
It has been positively proved that the most convenient, cleanly, and serviceable kitchen table covering is a layer of zinc. Fold and fasten it securely underneath the table edges and corners, so that it cannot catch in anything, or scratch the fingers. You will find that this zinc table-top will remain always free from stains, grease will not sink into it, and to cleanse it is the easiest thing possible. It is far more durable than any wood surface.
The alcove in which the range stands should have, fitted .to the top, a hood and a curtain of asbestos. From this sheet-iron hood the curtain runs up and down by pulleys, without the least 'trouble. Pull it up, and the whole range is free to work at; pull it-down, and it closes everything in. In the middle of the curtain are slides, so that at any moment you may inspect all vessels on the range, and keep tab of your cooking operations. When the curtain is down and its slides are shut, the kitchen soon becomes vastly cooler. A hood and curtain of this sort can be had for about $20.
For kitchen pots and such other vessels, have agate ware. You can get it anywhere, and it surpasses in comfort and usefulness ordinary tin or any kind of metal; there is no rust, its weight is less, and it washes just like chinaware. Covers are advisable for all vessels—including those used for roasting. Covered roasting pans will reduce the amount of basting greatly, and produce better general results.
Provide your cook with one comfortable chair; she need not be always on her feet. Do the same for each laundress. Unnecessary standing during work should be avoided; don't do it yourself when you are engaged at any kitchen operations. Get a. seat of suitable height to the table where you work.
All chinaware, and the general kitchen vessels, can just as easily be kept in their proper places, and as neatly as the ornaments in the drawing-room. Have a place for pots and kettles; have another for the plates and dishes; insist that the servants lay away each class of articles where they properly belong.
Then come the servants' rooms. Provide iron beds; let the mattresses be excellent, the bedclothes plentiful, and always cleanly. White quilts are not costly and are readily laundered. No need for fancy fittings of any sort in sleeping-rooms. You- provide what is comfortable and easily kept in order; your servants, if they are tasteful, will do the rest. They will put in their own little adornments. Whenever they do, appreciate it, as evidence that they are interested in their rooms. For a song, little curtains and attractive covers for dressing-tables may be had. Give her such, and she will probably value the attention. Do not stint towels.
Many are the anecdotes current about the good effect of a little fellow-feeling between mistress and servant. Good feeling, and as a rule, better service, are the natural, result of some thoughtfulness on the mistress' part in these small matters.
The." impossibility " of inducing a servant to remain with you, and the still greater grievance that " Jane always leaves just at the time when she is beginning to suit me, and to fall into the ways of the house"—these are the common, constant complaints of mistresses, every-where. And why? The real reason—in more than half such instances—is simple enough to find, so simple that few mistresses ever do discover it. Half the trme they are wondering why servants don't stay, and ascribing the existence of this state of things to every cause but the right one. It is not solely and exclusively (as most housewives seem to think) sufficient to pay well, to board well, and to lodge servants well; these are most essential, but there is something more. That something is, to maintain as far as you can a friendly manner to-wards the servants, to look pleasant, and occasionally to give them a friendly word. With any employe who is of ordinarily good disposition herself such little attentions go a long way, and tend to attach her to her mistress and to her place. Make the experiment (if you have not already done so and seen how efficaciously it works). In that case, I need not address my-self to you particularly, but to your numerous sisters,- who are less wise. Another thing is, to never lay more work upon a servant than your own sense of what is reasonable assures you she is able to perform. Overloading servants is a very prevalent error with mistresses. Think it out before you apportion the labor, and your own good sense should guide you as to the amount.
If you intelligently plan your week's work, having a day and an hour for the performance of each household duty, you will avoid the loss of a peaceful mind. The housekeeper's bane is needless worry, and that is usually the result of lack of system in arranging the household work of the week. Think, plan, be sure you understand your own plan, and then carry it out.
There is time enough for all you have to do or to arrange for others to do for you; each day is long enough. Set these tasks out in regular order of special hours, and special days of the week, and you will discover that your washing, baking, and every distinct household duty, can be taken up and performed without friction, without interference one with the other; while the despatch and promptness which a simple system strictly followed always ensures, will be your rich reward. You will have more leisure time,, your hours of occupation will run smoother, and with one-half the fatigue. Prove this in practice, and you will own how true it is that " order is Heaven's first law."
Never attempt too much at one time. And do not keep vainly thinking that you can. Drill your mind, and your mind will drill your ac tions, and your actions will dispose of your tasks, until you will realize you have no diffilulty at all in " running " your household, for under a simple and regular system the house-hold work will run itself, so to speak.
Much more is-accomplished when one does not worry and does not rush. It is those two things which mostly cause loss of time. And they are so easily prevented by making your own little system a time for this and a time for that—a system any one can devise and live up to, day by day. Just map out each day's duties and travel according to that map. Then you will avoid all the rough places. And there will be no occasion for worry, since your mind is at ease, knowing everything to be in shape.
It is usually the endeavor to do too much, to " save time " by piling into one hour the work which belongs to, and requires, separate hours for its satisfactory performance, that finally causes confusion and stalls the household train. System ensures a " clear track "; and when each day " ringeth to evensong you are serene and happy-minded; " each thing accomplished, each thing done," in its own time and place, has " earned," not only a " night's re-pose," but the additional advantage of an evening of leisure or recreation.
And, likewise, every day is sufficient unto itself; so by keeping each day's work confined to that day, and never permitting one to overlap the other, you have no fear for the morrow. To-day's work is done, and done well; to-morrow it will be the same satisfactory story, be-cause, by adherence to your simple and practical system of division and arrangement of duties, every separate day takes care of itself.
It does not matter to you how other house-wives do things. Each one best knows what suits her particular case. The simple fact that you have gotten your work down to the fine point of practical organization—a thing any sane woman of the most average capacity can do for herself—guarantees you the happiness that comes from a well-arranged system of doing everyday housework, from the kitchen to the laundry,-from the drawing-room to the scullery, from the bedrooms to the dining-room, from the top of the house to the bottom. On every side there is order; nowhere is there anything left undone; in your heart there is ease.
Never yield to discouragement; you have no more—perhaps less—to contend with than falls to the lot of a nation-full of other women. They are going through all this every day, everywhere; they. are fighting the good fight and winning it. You can, and will, do the. same.
In all things, practise reasonable economy. That is the first and last lesson.