The first difficulty lies in taking for granted that successful housekeeping is as much an instinct as that which leads the young bird to nest-building, and that no specific training is required. The man who undertakes a business, passes always through some form of apprenticeship, and must know every detail involved in the management; but to the large proportion of women, housekeeping is a combination of accidental forces from whose working it is hoped breakfasts and dinners and suppers will be evolved at regular periods, other necessities finding place where they can. The new home, prettily furnished, seems a lovely toy, and is surrounded by a halo, which, as facts assert themselves, quickly fades away. Moth and rust and dust invade the most secret recesses. Breakage and general disaster attend the progress of Bridget or Chloe. The kitchen seems the headquarters of extraordinary smells, and the stove an abyss in its consumption of coal or wood. Food is wasted by bad cooking, or ignorance as to needed amounts, or methods of using left-over portions; and, as bills pile up, a hopeless discouragement often settles upon both wife and husband, and reproaches and bitterness and alienation are guests in the home, to which they need never have come had a little knowledge barred them out.
In the beginning, then, be sure of one thing,—that all the wisdom you have or can acquire, all the patience and tact and self-denial you can make yours by the most diligent effort, will be needed every day and every hour of the day. Details are in themselves wearying, and to most men their relation to housekeeping is unaccountable. The day’s work of a systematic housekeeper would confound the best-trained man of business. In the woman’s hand is the key to home-happiness, but it is folly to assert that all lies with her. Let it be felt from the beginning that her station is a difficult one, that her duties are important, and that judgment and skill must guide their performance; let boys be taught the honor that lies in such duties,—and there will be fewer heedless and unappreciative husbands. On the other hand, let the woman remember that the good general does not waste words on hindrances, or leave his weak spots open to observation, but, learning from every failure or defeat, goes on steadily to victory. To fret will never mend a matter; and “Study to be quiet” in thought, word, and action, is the first law of successful housekeeping. Never under-estimate the difficulties to be met, for this is as much an evil as over-apprehension. The best-arranged plans may be overturned at a moment’s notice. In a mixed family, habits and pursuits differ so widely that the housekeeper must hold herself in readiness to find her most cherished schemes set aside. Absolute adherence to a system is only profitable so far as the greatest comfort and well-being of the family are affected; and, dear as a fixed routine may be to the housekeeper’s mind, it may often