The Clean Queen Talks Quarantine

What the “The Joy of Cooking” was to the culinary arts, “Home Comforts” was to keeping house. Now, five weeks into lockdown, it’s freshly relevant.

By Guy Trebay

Two decades ago, Cheryl Mendelson shocked Americans by informing us that there is a right and a wrong way to use a broom. She did this in a book that was scholarly, opinionated and too big to throw at the cat.

To the surprise of many, “Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House,” Ms. Mendelson’s nearly 900-page book — part treatise, part how-to — became a cultural touchstone and a galloping best seller.

Encyclopedic, quirky, thoughtful, opinionated, it enjoyed a second life in 2017 when a BuzzFeed writer, Rachel Wilkerson Miller, fell upon the book and said she’d like to give a copy to “every man, woman and adult baby I know.” “Home Comforts,” she wrote then, is relevant to those who already care about their home and also to people “who don’t know you have to actually wash hoodies.”

Now that self-isolation has forced a cultural re-evaluation of home economics, the time seemed right to check in on Ms. Mendelson, 73, who once wrote that “the sense of being at home is important to everyone’s well-being.” Reached by phone at the Upper West Side apartment where she and her family are waiting out the virus, she made clear that, although the meanings of that statement may shade differently on lockdown, it is as true as it ever was.

So how is your sock drawer looking these days?

When this started, everyone in our household — my son and his fiancée fled Boston to stay with us — had one similar impulse. They went into drawers and cabinets and started throwing away the defunct clothes and old prescriptions.

What caused this sudden mass compulsion to organize?

There was an element of stocktaking. What do we have? What will we need? In our house, we’re all huge curry fans, and so we were suddenly thinking we need our turmeric. Then I walked into the kitchen one morning and there was my son on his knees reorganizing the canned goods.

I’m sure he was not alone in that.

We are all doing it, protecting ourselves against want and fear. I don’t mean to dismiss any of this as neurotic. It has rationality to it. Organizing goes a long way toward helping us understand where we are and whether we are all able to live safely and comfortably in this terrible situation.

Source: Read Full Article