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Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,980 ratings  ·  346 reviews
The classic bestselling resource for every American home.

Choosing fabrics, cleaning china, keeping the piano in tune, making a good fire, folding a fitted sheet, setting the dining room table, keeping surfaces free of food pathogens, watering plants, removing stains -- Home Comforts addresses the meanings as well as the methods of hands -- on housekeeping to help you mana
Paperback, 1st Scribner trade paperback edition (US/CAN), 896 pages
Published 2005 by Scribner (first published November 4th 1999)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  2,980 ratings  ·  346 reviews

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Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I have a sick obsession with reading books about how to manage a home. That said, I have really enjoyed this book because the premise is solid. The author doesn't avocate principles of order and cleanliness so that the neighbors will think you're great or to assert her domestic divinity (MS). She has some really sound advice that points toward creating an environment that makes your house a home where people feel they have a place. As always, I applaud women who give dignity and purpose to what ...more
Debra Cleaver
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference-books
i secretly like to tend house. shut up. i'm not interested in your comments. anyway, this book tells you how to take care of your house, your clothes, and your everything else. and it's kind of funny. and realistic. this woman won't go all martha stewart on your ass and tell you you're a bad person for not ironing your sheets. she'll just tell you you _could_ iron your sheets if you realy felt like wasting your day. and then she'll tell you to wash your sheets in hot water, not cold, so that the ...more
Apr 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who can learn from an obsessive compulsive lawyer
I got this book in a used bookstore for five bucks. I NEVER would have paid full price for it, but for five bucks, I figured it was worth it. Full disclosure: I am a slob. If there is something in my path, I will step over it for months before it will occur to me that I could pick it up. Before obtaining this book, I had no idea what a dustmite looked like or how many billions of the little critters I have squirming around in my pillow every night. It never dawned on me that my living room drape ...more
Nov 18, 2019 marked it as to-read
What happened is we moved to our first grownup house, here in the suburbs. It has a guest room and a garage. There's twice as many square feet. We have a yard. We've lived in cities all our lives. We have no idea what to do with any of this.

Like we have this guest bedroom, right? And this past weekend my in-laws came to stay in it, and everything was a disaster. The bed was dirty, because our dog loves the guest bed for whatever reason. (To be fair, he loves all the other beds too.) We put new
Jul 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: home, top-picks, recession
"Each day I long for home/ long for the sight of home." -The Odyssey.

The entire home industry, in its maneuver to sell us household goods by selling the promise of home itself, is some kind of Kincadian nightmare.* Despite peddling keys at a relentless pace ("How about this Hot Chocolate Pot? No? Never mind then; how about this cute little cabin of maple syrup?"), it will never unlock the glowing house full of loving people and hot food. "It comes down to the product versus the promise. It's no
Oct 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Ah ha! Now I know where Heloise gets all her answers for her magazine column! This is an exhaustive collection of instruction and information on everything relating to housekeeping. There is a 100 page section of fabric composition and care alone. If you don't know how to wash dishes this tells you step by step - yea that's a little silly - and there are three different ways you may fold socks in case you are wondering about that with pictures! Some sections are common sense and some are very te ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Housekeeping interests me and I’m often eager to learn more. This housekeeping tome is definitely informative and useful. The author, a Harvard educated attorney and part-time professor, takes on a rather academic approach to housekeeping.

The beginning of the book was inspiring. She talks about housekeeping having become a dying art, and rather than focusing on perfection, the emphasis should be on making the home welcoming and clean.

I would love to be able to do most of the things that the au
Debbie Petersen Wolven
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone starting out in a new home, and the rest of us as a reference
I actually enjoyed this book. It was enlightening to finally find out the answer to why the homes of so many others are cleaner, how they seem to know as if by magic what foods, spices, and whatever else belongs in the kitchen should be there and their expiration date; how to properly launder clothing and sheets; how often one should vacuum; what that appliance that sits on the ironing board is for...etc. I have used this book as a reference when stumped by various situations caused by children ...more
Apr 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
This was a recommendation from a friend. Literally, every detail imaginable about keeping house. A few things are a little over the top - (i.e. bring an ice chest with you to the store in order to bring home perishables safely - who does that??) and if I could actually do everything the book suggests, I would have to quit my job, stay home, NOT have kids and spend every waking minute keeping house. It's hard to understand how the author, both an attorney and philosophy professor is able to follo ...more
Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mendelson approaches housekeeping from both a practical and philosophical perspective - with the occasional scientific explanation thrown in. She goes into immense detail on just about every aspect of home-making imaginable; from a discussion on types of fabric, to how to organize a pantry, to a dismaying examination of microbes found in food.

IMHO, her focus on sanitization borders on obsession; I began to wonder if she had stock in Clorox, as she recommended bleaching towels and bedding to wit
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pv
This is the most complete, detailed, up-to-date home reference I have ever seen. Unlike most home-themed books published today and in the past, this one relies on research, not on the author's opinion, or the way her mother did it. That's not to say this book is impersonal; the author frequently talks about the different ways her grandmothers kept house and shares little tidbits from her life that relate to the subject at hand.

This book has gotten a lot of complaints from people who say it sets
Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
It is a book I have used countless of times. It has everything in it: How to do all basic sewing stitches. How to iron a dress shirt and how to fold sheets. How to make up a bed with hospital corners. How to choose proper sizes for sheets, tablecloths, and other household linens. How to set the table for informal and formal meals. Expert recommendations for safe food storage. The most exhaustive and reliable information on fabrics, textile fibers, and their laundering, and drying. A thorough exp ...more
Courtney Clark
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Is this the kind of book you read cover to cover? No. But I did anyway. Yes, it's mostly and at it's core a reference book, but it's a reference book put together with such a passion for the subject it's a joy to read. I won't follow every routine and suggestion but I will probably re read the introduction yearly. It stole my heart.
Pam B.
Feb 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life. Having a pleasant/orderly home has always been important to me but, until I read this book, I thought the only way to really achieve this goal was to hire a regular housekeeper, which I did. Home Comforts showed me that I was not an abject failure at all things home-related (as I previously thought) but rather, that I had a SERIOUS prioritization problem, e.g. periodically/randomly obsessing on organizing closets while dust bunnies collected in visible areas or dishes ...more
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is hands down the best homemaking book I've ever read. I expected to just thumb though it, but I found myself wanting to read it cover to cover.
It is the first comprehensive homemaking guide that did not fill me with guilt that I've been doing it all wrong and instead made me feel like I wanted to get up and clean my oven and then bake something in it.
I have Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook, and it is very comprehensive, and had tons of checklists and pictures, but is very cold and im
Rebecca Huston
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: keepers, non-fiction
An interesting, well-written book, if a bit anal-retentive, on the art of keeping house. While the author does get a bit over the top and rather hyper about the details, there is still an awful lot of very good information in it. And she's not nearly as smug and annoying as Martha Stewart.

For the complete review, please go here:
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-life
I re-read this from time to time. Not cover to cover because it is more of a reference, but it is also beautifully written!
Bambi Moore
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
This book is practical instruction on caring for the home and its contents. I had aspired to read it all the way through (it's huge) but there are just too many portions that don't apply such as caring for silver. However, this book is an amazing resource and I turn to the index often for quick help. It covers the care of just about every possession a home could contain, as well as cooking, decorating, laundering, etiquette, table-setting and much more. This book showed me how little I really kn ...more
Nov 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: all-time-faves
I don't know who is crazier? Me, for thouroughly enjoying every last page of this 800 page masterpiece about housekeeping, or Cheryl Mendelson, the crazy woman who wrote it?! This book was so hard to put down. It has taken me months to finish but I HAD to finish it. Every last word of it was surprisingly captivating! I originally checked it out at the library to browse over a few chapters that interested me (mainly the laundry sections) but I found it to be so well written and everything so well ...more
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: want-to-own
I learned that my mother knew what she was doing, she just couldn't get us to do it when we were kids. So although she probably thought she wasn't a good housekeeper, she knew an awful lot about making beds, keeping bathrooms and kitchens clean, and cooking.

As I read this, I was so appreciative that I didn't have to learn this kind of stuff from a book, as well-written as it is. I liked how the author told stories of her girlhood learning how to fold sheets and set the table with her family. I
Lisa Lewis
Mar 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Okay, here is how much of a geek I am:
1. I have actually read etiquette books for pleasure
2. I took reading advice from the newsletter sent out by my former realtor
These are the factors that brought me to "Home Comforts", a very interesting reference book on all things related to having a pleasant home environment. The author is a thoroughly modern woman with an old-fashioned view that there is a correct and desirable way to do most everything around the house. She has researched and compiled th
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A book not only about HOW to make a home, but WHY it's important. Cheryl Mendelson is a lawyer and university professor who loves the simple comforts of home, but as a professional woman felt she needed to keep that side of herself a secret. From the first sentence, I was hooked: "I am a working woman with a secret life: I keep house....When I want a good read, I reach for my collection of old housekeeping manuals. The part of me that enjoys housekeeping and the comforts it provides is central t ...more
Jun 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dirty people
Shelves: own, reference
This must be the only housekeeping manual written by a philosophy Ph.D. and Harvard Law School J.D. She's also practiced law and taught philosophy at Columbia. And she's really, REALLY into homemaking. The book is very pleasurable reading, even though you know (because you know?) you could never possibly be as anal as Cheryl Mendelson, and because she's a good writer. Some of her advice is just common sense: Don't buy celery "that is limp, splitting, or woody." "Crocheted antimacassars are quite ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: house-organize
Outstanding book about "keeping house." It is a comprehensive guide about housekeeping. They should pass it out in all schools along with healthy-eating cookbooks. Why? Knowledge is power and this explains the whys and hows of living in a clean, pleasant environment. Don't all children deserve to be raised in a comfortable home? Chapters are:
Beginnings; Food; Cloth; Cleanliness; Daily Life; Sleep; Safe Shelter and Formalities. Loved the section on "Caring for books" in the Daily Life Chapter.
May 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone needing help organizing or cleaning their home
Recommended to Courtney by:
I've had this book for about two years and don't feel like I've finished it. Its not because its bad or hard to read, it just has so much information that I like to go back and re-read the same sections repeatedly. The author's tone is very familiar and makes you feel like a friend or family member is giving advice. The tips on stain removal are excellent and the lists are very helpful. Overall this is a great resource for all things home related.
Lisa Vegan
Jun 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want a good reference for everything related to housekeeping
Includes so many seemingly esoteric techniques for every possible aspect of cleaning & maintaining a house/apartment and all of the possessions in it. Very helpful reference with instructions I’ve seen nowhere else. Useful for both the novice/hopeless as well as those already skilled at housekeeping. ...more
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Housekeeping porn. It will make you crazy, though -- thinking about all those microscopic mites in your mattress, etc. In another life I hope to come back as a person capable of achieving the housewifely standards of this book.
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As one of my main jobs right now is homemaker, I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about making a warm, clean home for my family. Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House is a bit daunting (837 pages with an additional 60 pages of notes and index) but I committed to reading 20 pages a week and I'm so glad I did. Yes, the book was very dry but if there is anything you want to know about cleaning, laundering, the fabrics that make up your home, why society does certain thing ...more

The tone of this book is condescending and the information is poorly conveyed. Nothing comforting or comfortable, more like being lectured to by someone who’s pretty sure you’ve been wrong about everything in your life.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a great resource for anyone just setting up their own home or those, like myself, who have avoided being a proper adult for almost 2 decades. 😂
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