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Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House Hardcover – November 4, 1999

367 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Virtually everyone enjoys a crisply ironed dress shirt, clean sheets on a well-made bed, and a savory home-cooked meal. Yet housekeeping today stands as a somewhat neglected, if not maligned, job. But as author Cheryl Mendelson points out in Home Comforts, keeping house well can be a rewarding position--it allows you to provide for the physical and emotional comfort of loved ones. It's also not an easy job--there's much to be learned about properly managing a home, and Mendelson has set out to provide a guide to doing just that.

Mendelson, a homemaker, lawyer, and mother, learned about housekeeping from an early age from her grandmothers, one Appalachian, the other Italian. The two grandmothers taught her that although different ways of keeping house can be appropriate, there are generally smarter, faster, and more creative ways of housekeeping that make it less of a chore and more of an art. In a practical, authoritative tone, Mendelson discusses the ins and outs of homemaking, such as washing dishes, recommended cleaning methods for various surfaces, housekeeping for those with pets or allergies, and emergency preparedness and safety procedures.

Mendelson's well-researched book includes meticulous sections on food (for example, which foods belong in the fridge versus the pantry, food storage times, picking the freshest fruits and vegetables, and keeping your kitchen and food sanitary) as well as laundry (caring for various fabrics, how to read--and read between the lines of--clothing care labels, and removing stains). Mendelson covers a lot of ground, and as she herself points out, readers shouldn't feel required to do everything mentioned in the book--simply pick the activities that seem appropriate for your particular home. This is a comprehensive reference book that should serve homemakers well and induce a greater appreciation for the effort and specialized knowledge that go into keeping house. --Kris Law

From Library Journal

Unlike the shelves of short-cut manuals for people who don't enjoy housework, Mendelson's comprehensive book is for the person who wants detailed information on every aspect of setting up and maintaining a clean, well-functioning home. Building on the strong domestic skills she learned from her family, Mendelson, a lawyer, did careful research, incorporating current recommendations from experts. There are extensive sections on food, clothing, cleanliness, daily life, and safety, with information on negligence, domestic employment laws, insurance, and even the impact of clothing label laws on our laundry. Preferred methods are explained in detail, and some alternatives are offered for those who need to compromise. This is a valuable tool for today's masses, who aren't learning domestic skills from their elders. Readers with only a cursory interest or those wanting a highly illustrated guide may prefer Reader's Digest's Householder's Survival Manual (1999). Highly recommended.ABonnie Poquette, Shorewood P.L., WI
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (November 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068481465X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684814650
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (367 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cheryl Mendelson received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Rochester and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She has practiced law in New York City and teaches philosophy at Barnard College. Her books include the bestselling Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, a trilogy of novels about Morningside Heights, and, most recently, The Good Life: The Moral Individual in an Antimoral World (Bloomsbury 2012). Her next book, on the subject of marriage, is to be published by Bloomsbury in 2013. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

632 of 638 people found the following review helpful By J. Greely on August 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book without knowing anything about it. As a thirtysomething single man who just bought his first house, I've been looking for the practical information that I never got growing up (more my fault than mom's), and after idly flipping through this book in the store, I was convinced that I'd found it. The amount of venom contained in many of the reviews here was frankly astonishing to me, and for a moment I wondered if I'd wandered onto the wrong page by mistake.
Home Comforts is not "the fascists guide to spotless houses at the expense of friends, family, career, and joy". Indeed, the author repeatedly stresses that her methods and schedules are suggestions, nothing more, and goes to great lengths to explain why each task should be done in the first place, and how to balance the effort against the benefits. I found nothing in it to suggest that I, living alone in my brand-new house, should be forced into hours of weekly drudgery in order to meet an irrational white-glove standard; what I found was a set of clear explanations that would allow me to make informed choices on how to set my own standards and keep up with them in a reasonable and realistic way.
Attempting to read it from cover to cover in one sitting is indeed overwhelming, and I can see why it left some people feeling inadequate or with the false impression that the author was looking down her nose at the readers. I didn't know most of those things either, and much of what I thought I knew was wrong.
Some aspects that others find off-putting added to the charm for me. Who but a lawyer would, when faced with the complications of laundry care labels, reach immediately for the federal regulations governing them?
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482 of 492 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Home Comforts" is a massive guide to the fundamentals of keeping house. An engaging writer (on a subject I NEVER would have thought I would care about), Ms. Mendelson provides a thorough reference to caring for one's home and possessions, from the proper way to clean wood floors to how to lower one's dry-cleaning expenses to safety matters. For someone like me who never really learned how to keep house, this is an essential reference.

Yes, the author is often obssessive--and she freely admits to that charge. (Has Martha Stewart ever done so?) In fact, she details which chores she believes are essential and which tasks are obssessive. But her advice seems to be generally sound and thoroughly researched, especially when it comes to explaining the scientific & medical reasons of why certain tasks should be done in certain ways. (The chapter on dust mites is, frankly, slightly terrifying.)

This isn't a book about decorating or crafts for the home or time management (though there is some advice about organizing). There are dozens of other sources for those subjects--take this for what it is. It's fantastic, and it's changed the way my husband and I keep our house. I wish more books--fiction and non-fiction--could be so well-written.
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256 of 261 people found the following review helpful By Janice Campbell on June 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mendelson's lucid prose transforms the hot-button subject of homemaking (which is more than just housekeeping) into an activity worthy of time and attention. Without the slightest preachiness, she covers everything you need to know to run a home efficiently. Her gentle, practical tone eliminates any need for defensiveness, so it is possible to glimpse her vision of the pleasantness of order.
The book is more like a detailed, well-organized textbook than a "helpful hints" manual. For example, the "Cloth" section begins with descriptions of modern fabrics, and thoroughly discusses everything relevant to choosing, laundering, ironing, folding, removing stains, sanitizing (for contagious diseases, lice, or poison ivy), and troubleshooting fabric difficulties. And she manages to make it interesting!
My mother, whose home was perfectly maintained, used many of Mendelson's techniques and scheduling ideas, but never passed them on to me (she preferred to do it herself so that it would be done "right") so I grew up feeling that housework was something I couldn't successfully do.Since there are few things more depressing than feeling incompetant, I've tried to learn homemaking through trial and error. This book would have eliminated much of the error, and provided a much shorter and more pleasant learning curve.
I recommend this book to anyone who has a home or wants to be prepared to maintain one. It's well worth the price.
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156 of 157 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
One of the highlights of the Cheryl Mendelson's book is the suggestion for schedules - what should be done daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
In the past, the only cleaning I did during the week was wash the dishes, clean the counters and take out the garbage. That left weekends as the only time to launder, dust, vacuum, and on and on.
Needless to say, weekends were not a lot of fun and the feeling of peace that you feel when you're in a clean home only existed for one or two days.
Thank you, Ms Mendelson, for helping me find a way to have a comfortable home 7 days a week and time to enjoy my week-ends!
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