29 Jul 2008


The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments so that nothing be lost. I mean fragments of time, as well as materials. Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be; and whatever be the size of the family, every member should be employed either in earning or saving money.
-- Mrs. Child, page 3, 1832 The Frugal American Housewife.

Gathering up fragments so that nothing may be lost; time , materials, people, family.

Isn’t that what we are seeking to do every day, to make the best use of everything including time.

I look around and see so much I want to do, need to do.
I seem to be happily busy all day long.
I am forever thinking of wonderful new things that I want to cook or sew or knit, new plans for the garden, new books to read, music to discover, new ways of seeing old familiar things.


When you are at home and not contributing a pay packet to the family economy your job is to contribute by saving money, by avoiding waste and making and seeing the beauty in all the small things that make up your home so that your awareness and care of the small things becomes obvious to everyone and so the family life and home is enriched.

I have been thinking lately about what I learned from my mother, all this talk about the housewives of old, even holding certain eras up as a shining example of how to run a home. Really I need only to look at my own mother to learn everything I need to know.


My mum was born in 1931, the second last of a family of eight children in a small mining town in the north east of Tasmania.
Her father although he was a mine owner was not an educated man and wasn't in favour of any of his children gaining an education and thus knowing more than him.
When she was 12 she won a scholarship to go to the nearest large town to attend high school. Only two other members of her family went to high school the rest left school at 12. She moved to town and lived in a flat with two of her older sisters, a 15 year old and a 17 year old.

She left school at 15, she wanted to be a teacher or an air hostess but her father refused to pay for any more education and so she went to work in an office. She married my dad when she was 22 and when she had her first child in 1956 she left work to become a housewife and mother. She stayed at home until 1973 when she went to work a few hours a day in the office at the primary school where her three children had attended.


By her own account she loved being a housewife, she kept our home clean, comfortable and pretty, she cooked wonderful meals and was always baking, she sewed her own clothes and sewed for me and my sister because she thoroughly enjoyed it and says she never thought of buying clothes for us. We always had something new to wear, so many pretty little cotton dresses and skirts and blouses. She loved to knit, though unlike her silly daughter she only ever had one garment on the go. We had lots of lovely cardigans and jumpers, even knitted skirts.

She kept a beautiful garden, though she wasn't into growing vegetables she did have fruit trees and still makes delicious jam.


Although she did not feel equipped to help us with our school work, thinking herself poorly educated, she worked hard for the school by joining the Mother's Club and doing lots of fundraising.
She unselfishly helped and supported her children in everything they attempted and is fiercely loyal still as the three of us make and learn from our adult mistakes.

She always looked slim and trim and kept up with fashions without being ridiculous. I would say she has always practised restrained eating, always eating what she fancied but in small portions and making sure she had plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. She loves to cook for her family and always sets a pretty table, with a tablecloth at every meal. She always has fresh flowers in the house from her own garden.

When she started working it was because she wanted to, she had been doing volunteer office work at the school and they offered her a paid job. She says she felt " it and a bit" when she had some money of her own to spend and what she didn't save she spent on clothes and shoes for herself or her children, or so it seemed to me.


Without fuss or hand wringing she has just got on with her life, making sure her home was a haven of comfort, acceptance and peace for her family. My children say she is the kindest person they know and she is truly a wonderful grandmother, sacrificing her own freedom at times to care for her grandchildren rather than see any of them in child care.

I know she thinks she has lived a little life, she still lacks some self confidence because of her upbringing but truly she has been a wonderful example not only to her children but to her grandchildren, and I think to many others.
She does what she does with good grace and is always helpful and kind.

When I think today that there isn't enough time in the day to do everything I need and want to do, I try to think about the home that mum made for us and how she always had time.
She just got up and got things done, she didn't faff around with schedules or lists or searching to find someone who could give her the answers. She just got off her bottom and got things done and mostly she was smiling while she did it and looked good. She was involved with her community, she took time to visit friends and family, she managed to find time to keep fit, she raised three healthy responsible children and maintained a loving relationship with her husband, my dad, for the past 55 years.

Superwoman, no.
A self-effacing, hardworking loving kind woman who set her priorities and stuck to them, yes.
A good example of how to be a successful housewife, wife and mother.
She has always collected the fragments and brought them together to make something beautiful and useful.
She has always said ( and I used to scoff) that the woman sets the tone for a home, and not keeping a decent home for your family and yourself is just laziness.
I used to think she was being harsh and old fashioned but I'm coming round to her way of thinking.
Of course there are seasons and circumstances when keeping up is more difficult but I certainly feel more relaxed and centred when my surroundings are peaceful and I know what's for dinner.

Thanks Mum.

27 Responses to “Gathering”

  1. What a lovely tribute to your mum!
    I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago and I absolutely love it.I really enjoyed seeing your Vintage patterns, especially the Skipper doll clothes. We must be about the same age. :) Although I live on the other side of the world (GA, USA) we still seem to have lots in common.
    Please keep up the good work!

  2. That is a beautiful tribute to your mum Jenny, I hope that she gets to read it too.

    I love the mosaic in the first photo, did you make it?

    I've just shifted my thinking to "I save us money so I can stay home", rather than I don't go out to work. It makes me feel better, as though I am contributing financially.

    cheers Kate

  3. Thanks Jenny for your beautiful post to your Mum. As a child (at times) I felt akward in my 'home made clothes', now as an adult and Mum myself, what a loving childhood I had, it sounds similar to yours. You inspire me daily with your blog -thank you.

  4. Hi Jenny :) This is lovely! What a blessing to have a precious mom and one you can be so very proud of. How I would love to have you and your precious mom over for a cup of tea and a chat. Love to you, Q

  5. Hi Kate, my sister made the mosaic.

  6. lovely tribute to your mom.wanted to stop by and wish you a lovely week..I have not been by your blog in quite some time.
    anyhow..your mom sounds like a really sweet lady.

  7. "Her children arise and call her blessed."

    I loved reading this, Jenny. It is so inspiring.

  8. I loved the quote!

    Your Mum was and is an inspiration.

  9. Hi Jenny - how lucky you are! I was raised by a single mother who also loves cooking, sewing, knitting and all the domestic arts, but never had time to do this because she always had to work outside the home full time, to take care of me. As a result I didn't learn to boil an egg until I was 20. At 22, just a few months ago, I became a wife and was faced with the mega mission of running a home. I just turned 23 and we're expecting a baby in January - all of this can be overwhelming! But I'm doing my best. I was blessed by being the wife of a sweet, loving, kind, patient, dear man who overlooks my shortcomings and doesn't complain if he runs out of clean shirts once in a while. :-)

  10. Beautiful tribute to your mother! My own mother has been a housewife too, but I never got a sense of satisfaction about it from her. One day I might ask her about it and hopefully know how she really felt about that life before we left home and my parents retired.

    Christine from the NL

  11. Lovely tribute to your Mum's wonderful that her legacy is being continued.

    Love, Tina :)

  12. I really enjoyed reading your encouraging piece about your mother. In fact I am enjoying many of your thoughts on day to day life. I hope that your concerns about not having a job outside the home have gone now. (I read in some of your previous blog posts.)
    I just regret that I can't get your photos on my screen....

  13. That is such a lovely post about your mum.
    You say your mother always had the time to do what she needed to do - I find that seems so with older generations. My mother and even more so my grandmothers seem to have time to do baking, sewing, knitting and keep the home tidy. I wonder why we sometimes feel rushed, perhaps its because we try to fit just too many things into the day. There are definitely lessons to be learned from their approach to life.

  14. What a beautiful tribute to your mom. You are so lucky to have a mother like her.


  15. A wonderful tribute to your mum, Jenny!
    It was inspiring and makes me take a step back and reflect on my own upbringing...
    Thank you.

  16. You were so blessed. Some of us weren't raised with such good examples. Hug your Momma today!

  17. Wonderful mum you have Jenny! I hope one day your children would write the same about you (and mine, about me)

    Your mum has obviously lived a truly,"successful" life, in everything that matters.

    I wish we could see a picture or two of her.

    Have a lovely week,

  18. What a lovely tribute to your mother and an inspiration on the central role of the woman in the home.

  19. Lovely, lovely post. Thank you for sharing your mother.

  20. I also stay home to run things here, and I'm always re-inspired in what I do when I hear from others how much they appreciated what their mothers did. I hope someday my kids will see the value that my husband and I do.
    Thanks for sharing.

  21. I am still recovering from dental surgery but I had to stop and comment. (It is much easier to read than to type right now.) :)

    What a lovely post about your mother! My mum always had to work outside the home and I missed so much of the education one usually gets about keeping a house. I had to learn everything later, as a new bride.

    The women of that generation had such a work ethic, whether they worked at home or outside the home (my mom was widowed at a young age).

    Thank you for the reminder. I love your writing.

  22. What a beautiful inspiration your Mother is to the homemakers of today.
    Mrs. Sensibility

  23. This is a lovely tribute to your mum, Jenny. I think your mum is right, the women does set the tone for the home and to do that well she must exhibit the kind of strength and graciousness your mum has.

  24. Good evening Jenny
    Lovely thoughts of your Mum. I didn't really appreciate all that my Mum contributed to our simple but happy family life until I had my own family.

  25. No wonder you are such a treasure with a mother like that. Truly, the apple did not fall far from the tree :)!

    Beautiful essay. Thank you so much for sharing it with us all.

  26. Jenny, that brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful tribute to your mother. She sounds like a wonderful example to us all!


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.