Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgOn today's journey through my house, I hit the room in which I spend the most time. I'd call it the living room, but since we have another living room as well, the one with the fireplace and no TV, making it seem a bit more formal, this room might instead be called the family room, or the den, or what-have-you. In my house, it is the room to the left when you come in the front entry, and you pass through it into the no-name room I told you about the other day, then into the kitchen. It's where our TV and big couch are, and it's where we spend the majority of our time together, and I spend the bulk of my working days. I have an office, but I never work there.

America's Housekeeping Book offers the following itinerary for weekly living room cleaning:

1. Clear surfaces for dusting, removing magazines, covers, bric-a-brac, etc.
2. Collect lamp bases and globes, bric-a-brac, fireplace fittings, etc. that need washing or polishing.
3. Bring in cleaning equipment: hearthbroom (if not kept at fireplace), vacuum cleaner and attachments, dust mop, cleaning basket (page 142), 2 bowls of clear warm water on a try. (At least two trips will be necessary.)
4. Brush ceilings (page 166) and walls (page 157) when necessary. Dust high mouldings, door and window frames, window shades and Venetian blinds (page 171) when necessary.
Dust mirrors, pictures, lighting fixtures, lamps, woodwork; wash any of these articles if necessary (see index for page references).
5. Dust radiators (covers and coils) or registers (page 207); clean thoroughly when necessary.
Brush baseboards or use brush attachment of vacuum cleaner. Dust book shelves and books as necessary (page 202).
6. Remove cushions from upholstered furniture. Use brush attachment of vacuum cleaner on furniture (getting into all crevices) and cushions. Replace cushions.
7. Dust furniture; rub wood surfaces to polish (page 187); apply wax or polish when necessary. For special care of furniture, see index for types.
Polish metal hardware if necessary.
Wash glass table tops.
8. For weekly or special care of each type of flooring, see index for types.
Use vacuum cleaner for through cleaning of rugs and carpets (page 131).
9. Polish or wash accessories and return to place with other objects removed during cleaning.

A few of these instructions weren't all that clear to me, so I consulted the pages on which more detail was provided. On the subject of brushing ceilings and walls, I learned:

It is an extremely important task that walls be dusted regularly and often if more difficult cleaning tasks are to be avoided. Walls that are neglected in this respect soon acquire a film of greasy dust that attracts and holds still more dust and which inevitably becomes embedded and difficult to remove.
The only exception to this rule occurs in the case of papered walls. In soft coal regions or industrial sections dusting papered walls is not advised, because soot will be grimed into the paper no matter what method of dusting is used. An annual cleaning with a dough-type cleaner is recommended.
In other regions where dust and cobwebs are the only problem, papered walls may be dusted with the suction attachment of the vacuum cleaner.
There are three tools for dusting walls:
1. A soft wall brush of hair, nylon, lamb's wool, yarn, or sponge rubber, with a long handle.
2. A fiber or corn broom covered with an "apron" of soft clean cloth, such as cotton flannel.
3. The dusting attachment of a vacuum cleaner (see illustration, page 159). If you have this attachment, use it, by all means, because it eliminates any scattering of dust.
Work from the top down, giving special attention to high mouldings (page 168). There is one exception to this rule: if cobwebs are present, whether they are spider webs or dust cobwebs, remove with an upward lifting stroke to avoid streaking the walls. Cobwebs of any sort are sticky, and if they are pulled down against the wall they will leave a trail of dirt that is hard to remove.

For ceilings, the book says:

The care of ceilings depends on the way in which they are finished. Regular dusting is essential and the tools used for dusting walls may be used for ceilings also. If ceilings are high, be sure to choose a safe, sturdy stepladder or step stool to stand on.

My suspicion here is that the necessity for weekly dusting of walls and ceilings was far more pressing in the book's time, when home heating methods were much more likely to cause a build-up of sticky residue. Though I notice dust and occasional cobwebs, I've never noticed any build-up on non-kitchen walls in my house. To get a modern perspective, I consulted Martha's weekly living room cleaning instructions:

*Fluff and rotate sofa cushions.
*Discard magazines and catalogs on coffee or side tables; store those you want to keep
*Dust surfaces and objects, including furniture, light fixtures, and electronics
*Vacuum upholstery and floor

That's a pretty dramatic difference! I decided to do my best to follow the old-school instructions and see how it goes. This is what I started with:

View from the kitchen/non-room:
lr from kitchen before.JPG

View from the front entrance:
lr from entry before.JPG

Detail of the television console:
tv console detail before.JPG

As instructed, I first removed everything that wasn't supposed to be in the room or would get in the way of dusting. I put it all in a basket to deal with later. I also brought my orchid to the sink for watering. I didn't have lamp bases or globes that required washing, so I then brought in my cleaning tools. I had to stop briefly to re-assemble the vacuum cleaner, since Mark removed the washable filters last time he used it and didn't put them back. After I had my cleaning supplies ready, I used the vacuum cleaner's long brush attachment to brush the ceilings and walls. There was no visible dust or spider webs on anything, so I'm not sure how necessary it really was. I skipped the radiator step, since we don't have any. Then I dusted everything with the lemon oil cloths I made on Day 4. They worked OK, but didn't seem to really do anything different than a normal microfiber dusting cloth would do. Once everything was dusted, I washed the picture window. Then I took all the cushions off the couch and vacuumed it really well, including all the crevices. Yes, there were crumbs. I put the couch back together and vacuumed the floor, then put the things in the basket back in their places or in other rooms or threw them away, as was appropriate.

This job took about 35 minutes altogether. The results look like this:

lr from entry after.JPG

LR from kitchen after.JPG

tv console after.JPG

As I did this task, I realized something I hadn't quite been aware of before. I really don't like this room. I find it utilitarian, boring, and a little sad. And it bums me out to realize I spend most of my waking hours in a room I don't enjoy. So, I think I'm going to have to figure out how to make something more of this space. Ideas would be welcome!

8 Comments

Did you vacuum up poor Atticus???
(kidding)
It looks great!

You did a great job, but I have to agree. That room doesn't really fit you and M. You need more funk and spice, particularly in a room you spend such a quantity of time in.

I would add color, lots of it!

I know you have a ton of great art, so I would start there. I'd love to see your living room as bright and colorful as your office (and I think it's kind of funny that your office has so much personality, but you don't work in there!).

After you've added some art, I would pull a color palate from there and then move on to curtains, pillows and maybe a rug. What about a coffee table? You could find a fun and colorful antique piece.

Grace - how much altering can you do? Will the landlord(s) agree to some fairly substantial alterations? Have you thought about moving the paintings to over the couch, hanging the tv and putting in (or building) a console that runs the length of the wall? Something with shelves & storage underneath a fairly substantial surface? (Although thinking about it, you wouldn't have to move either the pictures or the tv if you did that.)

I have an idea... it'll be on the way to you on Saturday!!! :)

As I am trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my front living areas, it occurred to me that part of the problem of my room not seeming like the cozy nest I want it to be is because everything in the room is lined around the perimeter. Your room does the same. I'm wondering...and I don't know because I'm just experimenting in my own home...if maybe bringing pieces (or adding pieces) out from the walls would help.

I also recently read that once you figure out what you want a room to be used for, you should create "mini destinations." So if you want a space for reading, make a cozy reading nook. If you want a place to watch TV, then make a comfy place for that, and so on...

If you make any changes it would be fun to see them. :) I'm really enjoying this series of posts.

Hi! This is my first time commenting here, but I'm really inspired by this project you're doing--both to implement it in my own home and to think carefully about modern priorities, gender dynamics, etc.

That said, here's what I'd do in this room:
-Swap the TV console and couch, then move the two paintings closer together (centered over the couch). That way, when you walk into the room (judging from your "view from the front entrance" picture), the first thing you see is a cozy couch and those colorful paintings.
-Move the two rice-paper lamps to either side of the couch, to give a soft glow/reading light in the evenings.
-Get throw pillows (or cover the ones you have) in colors that pick up the great hues from the paintings. OR add a throw blanket to the back of the couch or hanging over one of the arms, to add a similar splash of color.
-do you have a runner or long piece of fabric you like? I'm envisioning something long and thin you can drape over the console that will soften it up/bring a touch of color to that area.

Thanks for the great read!

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