Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spirit and Attitude of Domestic Service

Dakrish asked: If any of you could write about the spirit of housekeeping and domestic service? There's stuff we can do, but without the right attitude it's just... empty. Perhaps someone could describe how you, yourself, go about finding that attitude?

I have to admit that I've found, particularly in the town where I live that not everyone understands my draw to domestic service, because they associate it with 'housework'... which for some can be a slippery slope to 'drudgery'. I've actually had to explain very bluntly that just because I am domestically inclined, it does not mean I necessarily want to come over to their house and do all their most loathed chores that they've neglected for the last 6 months.

I was not domestic growing up, and that carried into my early 20's. My idea of cooking was reheating leftovers from a restaurant. I'd do a weekly once-over to keep my place in order. And my house never felt like it was something I was proud of, or felt it was 'home'. But that changed as I started to think about the type of environment I wanted to create for myself, and what it meant for me to have a home.

My motivation is simple: I want to live well. This is true whether I am in service or on my own. My domesticity is not always inspired solely by the ones I serve. There are times when I do it for myself as much as I do it for someone else.

When I'm serving another, it's important for me to feel as though I am being useful, or making their life more comfortable or kept to their standards. I do it for them because that type of service is how I express my desires for them to be happy-- to feel cared for-- in their own home. The little touches are expressions of devotion to their comfort.

How I keep my home is a reflection of my values and what is important to me. It is a direct reflection of how I am feeling internally. That means I like to keep it uncluttered and clean, with lots of white space to breath and relax. I like to add thoughtful touches of comfort such as fresh flowers, clean linens on the softest bed I could find, well aired out rooms and a selection of favorite books and magazines in the guest room. I like the comfort of knowing my pantry is well stocked in case we have unexpected guests. I like coming into a peaceful, neat house after a rough day at work and feeling the unspoken invitation to relax and unwind.

It is my haven from the chaotic outside world. When I am in service, I like to be sure the home serves as their haven as well.

Order for me is serene. I like checklists and labellers and 'places for things'. It tweaks my little perfectionist in a good way to get everything organized and in order. I don't like unidentifiable containers of once-was-leftovers in the fridge. I dislike having to tear apart a room or house to find something-- or worse, making the owner wait while I dig around to find something.

I clean a little every day instead of letting it build up for the weekend-- it prevents it from being overwhelming and it's always ready for unexpected visitors. Spring cleaning is one of my favorite times of year-- I love the satisfaction of the deep clean. I clean thoroughly because I'm particular, but I don't like every single chore.

Some of them are exactly that: chores. I do them first to get them over with, and usually with an iPod in hand to distract me from the chore. Other tasks I enjoy immensely. There's a certain zen to gardening or bootblacking or setting a formal table-- or pairing the perfect wine with a specific meal. But my primary purpose is often not the task itself. I do it because the owner appreciates the end results (as do I!) and that appreciation is key.

I have found that generally the people I have served have allowed me to indulge my preference for certain domestic touches, provided it does not interfere with serving them in the ways they want. So in service, those expressions may be different- it may involve less 'fresh flowers' and 'scented candles', and more 'leather care' and 'turning down the bed', but the overall motivation is the same.

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