Please help me make a home the English/ American way! - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-24-2011, 12:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I was brought up in a non English country and now I live In USA since 6 years. First four years I spent as a student..now I am a mom to a toddler and suddenly I have realized I know nothing about making a home here:(. I was never a good homemaker..but whatever I learnt as a girl from my mother, it's not applicable anymore here. We had no gadgets, no hard floors, no carpet, no tub,no blinds..lol...and we had maids!!! , coz labor is very very cheap.

Anyway, I digress.... I have very specific questions actually. I want to understand where to store what to make my home look neat. We have very little furniture coz I am a minimalist, but we have stuff now coz hubby isn't that minimalist.

So, my first question : is buying furniture to STORE things away a wrong decision? Is it just adding clutter? Right now we have a mattress with no headboard etc, a tall wooden bookshelf, a dining table bought few weeks back finally, and a couch. We are not poor....I just didn't buy all those years coz I thought it's not needed. We live in a apartment , so that's a factor too. But now after few months of extreme frustration at how messy my house looks, I have decided to buy furniture. To store away everything! Am I gojng the wrong way?

Next question: where is one supposed to store? I am lost in trying to understand what's a hutch, vs a dresser, vs. Armoire. Are there specific furniture to store particular things? I want to do this right , please:) the apartment has standard cabinets in kitchen and bathroom and a walk in closet...but even after lot of decluttering those are not enough.
how do I go about getting my house to look like in the magazines!innocent.gif

Thank you very much in advance!

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Old 07-24-2011, 01:43 AM
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I think a lot of this depends upon the stuff you have -- the stuff that you need to keep for DH's comforts and so on.

 

So, dressers and armoires are generally for clothing and linens. There are armoires specifically designed to house televisions, or that can do either (either store clothing/linens and/or store television and related components). 

 

Hutches generally store dishes. There tend to be two kinds of hutches -- those that are the old-fashioned cupboard kind that will hide everything, and those which have some form of open (either open or with glass doors) shelving in order to display items. This is generally where people display their fine china (also called porcelain), their crystal, their silver, and so on -- if you have those sorts of items. Some people use "country styled" hutches in more pragmatic ways -- storing their jarred goods (eg, jars of flour, sugar, etc; home-canned foods, so on). 

 

Bookcases tend to be 'general' in that they can house books, toys, or any manner of things that you may want to store. 

 

Now, of course, there are -- technically speaking -- no rules. My friend uses an old kitchen hutch (country style) as a desk. The shelves hold her books and various supplies, and then the table/counter aspect is where she works, and the drawers and shelves below also store the different items that she needs to store. I have used an armoire to store craft and art supplies. I have used a dresser to manage files, stationary supplies, and so on. 

 

And of course, you could look to see if your closets could be better organized with simple shelves and bins that you may be able to pick up for less at a shop like target or similar. 

 

At the end of the day, how you do your home is really up to you -- it's what you want to do, wht you think looks nice, and what works for you. Even if it's not "typically american." It's ok that it's not.

 

And for inspiration, just start looking at design/decorating magazines. There are many. Find a style that you like, and start working with that.

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Old 07-24-2011, 02:13 AM
 
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My first comment: There's no obligation to organize your house in the standard US manner. I understand that you're in the US, and you want to fully understand how houses in the US are organized. But you should also feel free to decide that you just don't like something, and to change it.
 
Also, no one's house looks as good as the magazines. :) It's fine to use magazines for inspiration, but don't feel like a failure if you don't achieve that standard.
 
I'd say that, yes, it's normal and fine to buy furniture to store things that you _need_. For example, you need at least some clothes, and many items of clothing aren't conveniently stored in closets, so it makes sense to buy storage furniture for them. Similarly, bookshelves, a file cabinet, a desk, and so on, are usually reasonable purchases for storage of a reasonable amount of stuff.  I generally feel that most objects should be stored in a specific place designated for that purpose.
 
Of course, "reasonable amount of stuff" is hard to judge without experience - it's entirely possible that your husband has too much stuff.  People do frequently buy storage furniture to store things that they'd be better off getting rid of.
 
For the specific items that you named:
 
- A dresser, also known as a chest of drawers, a chest, or a bureau, is a piece of furniture with several drawers in it, generally intended for storing clothing, usually kept in the bedroom. I'd say that most people have these. It's not unusual for each person to have their own, for their own exclusive use, though in an apartment you may not have space for this. (We have one wide one with two columns of drawers; I use one side and he uses the other.)
 
- An armoire, also known as a wardrobe, is also intended for storing clothes and is also usually in a bedroom. It's usually a tall cabinet intended for hanging clothes, and is therefore effectively the same as a closet. This is much, much less commonly used than a dresser, and if you have closets, you probably don't need one. (Edited to add: Oh, yes, I forgot the use of armoires for television/video/stereo gear. That is much more common.)
 
- A hutch is usually used for storing dishes and other tableware, and is often stored in the dining room. It might also be used for storing breakable decorated objects such as fancy tableware, fragile figurines, and so on. As a minimalist, I think that you don't need one of these - having so many dishes that you have to store lots of them outside the kitchen is, IMO, not a very minimalist strategy.
 
For general advice on housekeeping, I'd suggest the book _Home Comforts_ by Cheryl Mendelson, a very long and thorough book on housekeeping. On the subject of bedrooms, for example, the book tells you exactly what furniture the author considers necesssary for a bedroom, and what additional furniture might also be useful. She recommends types of bedding and how and how often to clean it. She  suggests daily and weekly tasks for cleaning and maintaining the bedroom. And she expresses her opinions on issues of privacy, the appropriate uses of a bedroom, the special case of the one-room apartment where the bedroom is shared with the living room, and so on. She's _detailed_.
 
But I want to emphasize that her housekeeping standards are very high. The author may tell you to do something once a week, and you might find that people normally do that once month, or once a year, or never. But at least the book will let you know that that particular housekeeping task exists, and give you a good idea of how to do it. This gives you a starting point for asking other people about their usual practices.
 
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Old 07-24-2011, 01:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much ..both of you. I can take it from here:joy

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Old 07-24-2011, 01:40 PM
 
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These days, it's very trendy to re-purpose items for non-traditional uses. The old rules don't really apply anymore. For example, old wooden ladders are used as magazine or towel racks. Work benches from carpenters' shops are polished up and used for kitchen islands. Bedroom armoires house televisions and computer work stations. No one will question if you use a piece of furniture in a way that's different from what the label suggested in the furniture store.  

 

You might want to browse some decorating sites like Apartment Therapy, Door Sixteen and Remodelista for interesting storage solutions (warning: it can get addictive). 

 

Have fun and be creative. It's your living space, so you should let it reflect your personality and experiences smile.gif . If it does, then you'll know you've done it right! 

 

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Old 07-25-2011, 03:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You are so right! You know i have no problems with being a non comformist in other areas. I dont dress, eat or even speak to comform to society rules. The thing is I am not a born good homemaker like many of my friends are, so that's the reason I think I feel the need to make my home look " model american " lol!
Thank you for the websites.....now I can spend the non existent free time to browse through those..smile.gif

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Old 07-25-2011, 10:14 PM
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most people these days are not good homemakers -- by yester-year standards for certain. I mean, the things ladies used to have to do to keep home  -- it's an amazing amount of work. as far as i'm concerned, we have it *way* easy.

 

the most important aspect of homemaking, in my opinion, though -- is that your home is happy and healthy for you and your family. clean, neat, functional and warm -- as you define it. 

 

after that, nothing else matters. 

 

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Old 07-26-2011, 06:57 AM
 
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I live in the middle of a suburb of a large city - a fairly conventional, traditional area. When people visit our home, the piece of furniture that elicits the most admiring comments is an antique Japanese tansu, originally used to store kimonos. It has lots of drawers. I use it for extra pieces of china and serving dishes, table linens and a few odds and ends.  Nothing traditional about it!  Perhaps there are furniture items from your heritage that you can adapt for your home. 

 

For homemaking, I hear that it can help to create a few simple cleaning routines (says someone who has never been able to stick to one redface.gif ). I think that if you have young children, you have to be realistic and gentle with your expectations of what you can accomplish. I think that you are on the right track - keep things minimal and find some effective and practical storage solutions for the stuff you need and want.

 

When you are looking for storage, since you have a toddler, I'd look for some child-friendly solutions like open-shelving and buckets for toys and books. That way, you can teach them to help with cleaning up and organizing, and it will become routine as they get older. Again, that's the theory. Yesterday my teenager proudly showed my her room after a massive cleanup - the first in a month or two. I know it will look that way for a couple of days before it's back to being a big mess.

 

 

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Old 07-31-2011, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am in no way hopong to be like yesteryears...seriously those were true superwomen.

Thanks for the encouragement and advice redface.gif

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Old 08-01-2011, 02:39 AM
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my cleaning routines are very simple. one day, one room/chore. luckily, my house is tiny, so it's way easy. i'm also a minimalist, so it's even way easier.

 

to 'tidy' my home -- literally, if my whole house is a mess -- takes less than 45 minutes. to clean my whole house (assuming it's tidy) -- which means scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom (and includes scrubbing things like the fridge and oven) and wiping any mold that might be growing on windows, floor boards, or any shadowed/hidden places (because it's super wet here and one day it's clean and then you look and it's like 'how did mold get there? crazy mold! it's never where you expect it) -- takes about an hour. it's a small house. seriously small.

 

so, monday is bathroom. this is everything, including wiping otu the linen closet, scrubbing the ceiling (mold!) and the floors, and everywhere you can imagine that would need to be scrubbed: 20-25 minutes. tuesday is kitchen (see above). wednesday is dust, vacuum, wipe down walls, floorboards, and windows. thursday is closet day (that's a rather large room) i simply declutter, make sure there's no mold, tidy everything up, organize, and so on. friday is gardening and exterior work. it's a seriously small space too. i mean, seriously. but it's fun. keeps me out of trouble.

 

every day is tidying -- which doesn't take long and I do it throughout the day so that it takes even less time. 

 

i am full of homemaking awesomeness. i kid. i read about women 50 years ago -- or women 150 years ago here in NZ. and those women were MAD homemakers. You see, they had to wear victorian dresses (the work dress) with the apron, and watch the rug rats and do the laundry in cauldrons on the camp fire which, btw, was outside and it rains here all the time. and she also had to make the daily bread, and multi-course meals from scratch-ola with limited stuff to use (dude, seriously! things were shipped from england. kwim? and then there's the local produce. which is awesome, but not what they were used to. though the NZ wood pigeon -- keraru -- is the size of a turkey, so things go both ways) for about 25 people or some such. A-MAZ-ING. 

 

so, i don't complain. well, sometimes i do.

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