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The Art of Domesticity

Life is too short for you to be the caretaker of the wrong details.

–Alexandra Stoddard

This week I read some interesting commentary and controversy around the blogosphere surrounding this book here. The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket. I have not yet read the book, but it looks lovely and I am sure it is well worth reading! While most of the buzz was supportive, a few sour folks were a bit critical about celebrating domesticity, especially when it comes to enjoying the apparently less than chic gentle art of knitting and baking. You can read one of the most critical here. I couldn’t believe how rude the writer of the article was! Grrrrr……

For me, this whole topic of how to live simply in a fast paced world is quite intriguing. As many of us are, I seem to be caught in the middle between the allure of the gentle art of domesticity and the martial arts of daily tasks! Yep, sorry to say, my life is often characterized by me karate-chopping my way through life’s aggravations instead of quietly knitting my children’s socks.

Not surprisingly, life in 2007 can turn even the the simplest of pleasures into a more complicated web of daily tasks. For those who turn their craft into a book or a business, life quickly takes a turn from gentle to more stressful, and life is simple no more.

Even if you don’t have a business, these days we all have the opportunity to blog about our projects. From dealing with crashing computers to learning the not-so-gentle art of Photoshop, blogging about the gentle arts can be enough sometimes to make you want to kung-fu your monitor.

None of our grandmas had to deal with that sort of frustration! They just invited their neighbor for a quilting bee by handing a tasty assortment of baked goods over the picket fence. Doesn’t that sound utterly delightful? It does to me. No cell phones and no computers. No taking an entire day posting about what you did yesterday. There must’ve been a lot less aggravation in that gentle way of connecting. But, at least we are still connecting, with people all over the world every day no less!

So what is a girl to do? Just because life has become a rat race for women, should we give up the gentle art of domesticity to accomplish even more “interesting” things? Oh, my, I sure hope not! I think Jane is on to something by refusing to live like a rat in a maze every waking moment. She is allowing herself the joy of simplicity for at least some precious moments in her day! Far from wasting time, she is savoring it. I think by defining the kind of life we want, we can trim out the excess the world throws at us. It is all in the choices we make for balanced living. Our home is the one place we can create the kind of life we really want.

Can’t a girl have a successful blog, publish a book, have a family, AND make quince jelly & knit if she wants to? Good grief, why not?! Go Jane! I don’t even know what quince jelly is, but I just might try it. Savoring quiet moments can renew your mind and energy in a way that cramming in more chaos can never accomplish. Jane is a smart lady.

Photo (above) and concept from the Purl Bee, instructions for the swatch portraits can be found here.
Thanks to laissezfaire for reminding me about this project and to Liberty Post Gallery for the link to the naysayers article!


  1. rosieswhimsy

    Sounds like a great book… that would receive a resounding “Amen” from me!

  2. Amanda (aka Cottage Contessa)

    I believe a woman can have it all, and by that I mean whatever she believes her “all” is, as it’s different for each of us. I grew up in a home of very successful business women, my mum & sister both, but I myself crave and am trying to be more like my grandmother. I spent a lot of time with her while she babysat me, and her gentle ways, her art of “homemaking”, of nurturing those she loved, helped me to see that things like knitting, baking etc are things to be valued equally as much as anything else. I have never heard of this book, but it sounds like something I would love, and I simply must hunt down a copy ASAP! lol Thank you sweetie, you always make me sit back and think about things, not just go through the motions. Love your blog!
    Amanda (aka Cottage Contessa)

  3. Vee

    “But the media isn’t to blame, Ms Brocket. It is you and your ilk…” Ackkkk! Well that writer paints with a pretty broad and judgemental brush.

    There is room in this world for every kind of woman…the one who prefers to do it all, AND the one who thinks she can only do one thing well. It’s just not okay to disparage others’ choices.

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

  4. Betty

    I think there is room in the world for all of us….I love to stay home….I am never bored. I can’t get everything done that I want to….I’ve had a working career and now I stay home……

    Thank you for visiting with me and taking the time to comment…..please come again….Betty

  5. Erin

    I say Amen to that. I find a certain peace and tranquility when it comes to the gentle arts of homemaking, sewing, knitting, crafting etc…For me, it is a great sense of accomplishment when I know that my family has been taken care of, my house is clean and my husband and children are healthy and happy. For me, being there for them and some knitting along the way are what it’s all about and I wouldn’t have it any other way! And besides, I’m loving those fabric filled embroidery hoops on the wall. Just another domenstic idea for me!! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful week!!

  6. Terri

    Oh, what a debate! I love your post and your perspective. It is all about balance and doing what you love and not being apologetic about it. I have the fancy 6-figure career and while it is challenging and rewarding and I wouldn’t easily give it up, I do yearn to spend more time at home and to do simple creative things like improving my photography, styling my house, and making Christmas crafts. I’m not ashamed, and rather I’m delighted that I am being, finally, true to myself and allowing myself to let back into my life the pretty little things that really make my heart sing. I am BOTH people. I am all career-serious and also in love with my home life. I don’t have kids and don’t feel the need to, yet, but I like the rustle around in my nest. I’d love to be independently wealthy and do it all the time. It doesn’t mean I’m not successful, nor bright, nor letting down female-kind. I am a staunch feminist and also a proponent of family values.
    A lot of the time, I do wonder how all those crafty, domestic goddesses fund their enterprises. Rich husbands do come to mind, and I envy that, that someone else pays the bills while I slog along at the office. But so what! I doubt their life is perfect, even if their blog is. And if their life is perfect, good for them. Their perfection may irritate me sometimes, but most of the time, I just take away the inspiring bits and the good ideas, and mostly admire them more for their brains and wit and creativity, followed by their sewing/decorating/cooking ability.
    I am amazed by the domestic goddesses I see here. Most of them are smart, talented, and blessed with the time and energy and opportunity to refine their lives. I wish I had more time for it, and can’t fault them because I’d love to have their talent and perhaps their big houses and their circumstances!! But, I’d never trade my life for theirs, but I will listen to them talk and learn from them and take away their good ideas and use them to improve myself and my life!

    I’d love to buy this book, even if it alternately annoys me (how is she so perfect?) and inspires me (I know she isn’t perfect, but boy is she creative!)

  7. tongue in cheek

    Jane’s blog is a feast for the eyes, so certainly her book will be well loved.

    In a perfect world everything would be roses without thorns…Or do the thorns make the roses more beautiful?
    My Mother use to say,”The more you do the more you do when you are motivated by passion and desire.”

  8. Robin

    I too enjoy caring for my house because I know I have been blessed with a house to clean and children to muss it up! LOL

  9. Sophiehoneysuckle

    Great post-I’ve been curious about that book, so I’m going to click on your link to find out more!

  10. the feathered nest

    I planted a Quince tree about a year ago. So I’ll send you some jelly as soon as I get some quinces and learn to make jelly :)


  11. Pat

    Wonderful post, Melissa! I went away for the weekend and need to be upstairs, in the studio, doing wedding work….but I prefer to be here, catching up!


  12. Abby from The Blissful

    My favorite quote from your post today is this:

    “Our home is the one place we can create the kind of life we really want.”

    And that looks different for everybody. Our culture, (through home magazines, home improvement shows, etc.) tends to glorify the Marthas and the Katie Browns while making it all look so easy. And maybe it is for some of us! But my opinion is that none of us should feel “less than” for not pouring every ounce of creative energy we can scrape together into making our homes a photo-ready panacea of warmth, peace, and domesticity-in-action. Now, would I LOVE to cultivate a home like this? *Of course*! I’m not knocking it, just saying that unfortunately, it’s not realistic for every woman at all times during her life.

    Thanks for giving us something to chew on today. :)

  13. AJsMom

    Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to just concentrate on your home and making it wonderful! But, some of us find that we have to work in today’s world to be able to keep our homes. I just wish I could find a happy balance between the two.

  14. Neutral Dwelling

    What a great quote that you chose from Alexandra Stoddard. Isn’t that the truth? It’s all in the details- I try to balance both- work and at the same time foster a wonderful home environment with that easy laid back feeling. :)

  15. Design for Mankind

    Go Melissa. I’m so on board with everything you’re saying here.

    Thanks for bringing this conversation to mind.

  16. Cre8Tiva

    savoring quiet moments…how wondrous…thanks for reminding me…a BIG congratulations for the best nod…i know it is deserving cause i love your blog too…so it has to be the best…LOL…you have it girl…keep it up…you’ll have your own book deal…the orient express and ian…now that is inspiring…blessings, rebecca

  17. Rhoda

    I didn’t read the article, but I think it’s all about balance too. My mom was a total stay at home mom & a real domestic diva. She did it all..cooked, sewed, cleaned house & ran things in general. I so want to be like that too, even though I’ve worked all my life outside the home. I’ve enjoyed being at home as a domestic goddess for awhile & now am back in the workforce. There’s a time & place for everything. I hope to one day be home again, where I will revel in all things domestic. In the meantime, I’ll work & find the time to do all those little domestic things that are so important to keeping a family going.

    Congrats on the Top 10 designer blogs award! You deserve it.


  18. Kathleen Grace

    I think the book sounds very interesting. I think the problem comes in if/when we feel that we MUST do it all, the career and the domestic goddess, look I make all my own everything, roles. We have to find what works for us and let the other things go. There is always a trade off, when I craft my house can go to pot, and when I work and focus on housecleaning I dont get to do the little extras that can make life fun and interesting.And then there are also relationships to keep up. So I do the little extras and my friends have to try to ignore the dust bunnies and occasional clutter. I think the author of that article is feeling a pressure to do it all, I know I can’t. I just do what I can.

  19. Elizabeth

    I’ve got to read this book! This is such an interesting conversation, I’m really enjoying reading all these comments. I’m always interested in the fact that most of the current generation is trying to get back to something more simple, I know I am.

  20. Penny, Mosaic Artist

    Well, I want to have that “perfect” life. The one where I can knit gorgeous sweaters, cook gourmet meals and run my business. The media, whether it is news, fiction, magazines or books does tend to make the perfect life look easy. We all know it isn’t. So, I enjoy browsing thru the perfect life and picking and choosing the perfect life for me.

  21. Ruth Welter

    You know, to each his own. Men and women alike can choose how they want to live, what they want to be, do etc… who is someone else to say that another person’s choices are wrong. You have to be true to yourself in life, not let other people put you in boxes.

  22. Sweet Cottage Dreams

    I do believe that there aren’t any right or wrongs in how we choose to do things .. how we cook, decorate, etc…although I would prefer not to have to create a dinner each night. The “Art” of domestication is individually interpreted. We are all unigue, and like Penny mentioned, have to pick and choose and find what “fits us” and what is the most comfortable. I need to get Jane’s book. Her blog is so sweet! xo, Becky

  23. ginny

    I have been a busy owner of a retail store, a wholesale business, a zine and an annual event for ten years. Now I just have a small web business and consult. If you ask me, it is not about how much one does, but about nurturing your loved ones, laughing, feeling good about your self, however that may transpire.

  24. maryam in marrakesh

    I am absolutely loving that Purl Bee image. I only wish I could make something so beautiful!

  25. Carrie

    For me the emphasis is on the words ‘gentle’ and ‘art’ — this is what we need in our frazzled world today. To cultivate the things which enhance the domestic aspect of our lives is extremely important.



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