Friday, September 03, 2010

'The Art of Tidying', for girls in 1886,

A room that needs tidying.

‘One of the few anecdotes intended to prove a warning to my heedless youth, which I can now remember, related to the homely subject of tidying up. It was to this effect, and was short and sour. Miss Smith had long been engaged to be married to Mr Jones. That gentleman was invited to sleep a night at Mr Smith’s house, and coming down to breakfast he passed his intended wife’s bed-room, from which she had gone down, leaving the door wide open. There he saw such a scene of confusion that he felt sure his home would not be a comfortable one under Miss Smith’s management, and so he broke off the match.
“Mean man!” all you girls cry in chorus; and I am not the least commending Mr Jones’s behavior; I am merely telling you what effect on his conduct the sight of that untidy bed-room had.
My own view of untidiness is that it is an indication of a very inferior mind – a mind lacking in imagination, lacking in the sense of the appropriate, lacking in will-power.

It sees that the armchair cannot be used to sit on because a skirt lies across it; the floor cannot conveniently be trodden on because a wrap would trip up the feet; the sunshade must be removed before the smaller chair can be taken from the wall; and the children may catch their heedless little heads against the corners of the open drawers.

By acting thus the untidy girl shows herself lacking in the sense of the appropriate. I strongly suspect she is the kind of girl I meet with a fur cape on her shoulders in July, and thin summer shoes on her feet in December. In common language, she never knows “what’s what”.

Let it be every woman’s ambition to lead a perfectly beautiful life, and to do that she must try to cultivate a very beautiful mind; for surely we know that the outward is only a picture of the inward, and that a little drop of water can contain a miniature picture of the world; therefore all great results can be accomplished in a very small space, and every little life, in any humble sphere, be so exquisitely lived that it would be a fit subject for a poet’s verse, a painter’s picture of home-life, or a heart-refreshing biography from the pen of a loving friend.’

Image and extract from: Power, Helen, ‘The Art of Tidying’, Cassell’s Family Magazine (annual), 1886, p172-173