I picked up this guide to natural housekeeping at the library, like many of my other books. And again, I was drawn to the title first without knowing much about the content of the book. I flicked through it quickly and liked the photos so it came home with me for a proper read.
Before I get into the content of the book, a few words about the author.
Christina Strutt is the owner and co-founder of Cabbages and Roses, a homeware store with rustic and floral designs and prints in the UK. She has also published a number of (other) books such as “Living life beautifully” and “At Home With Country: Bringing The Comforts Of Country Home”. Her primary focus in her writing is vintage fabrics and designs.
About the book
“A guide to natural housekeeping” is an introduction to natural ways of cleaning, growing food, and homemaking in general. The sections are cleaning the house, energy consumption in the house, the kitchen garden, a well-stocked larder and food storage in general, herbs and their usefulness for human health, and homemade gifts. Very nice photographs illustrate the content of the book.
The introduction to the book gives a very good insight into where Christina stands and how this book came about:
The book “encourages us to shop locally, seasonally and sustainably, supporting local farmers and independent shopkeepers. If we all adopt this lifestyle, it will have a huge impact on our planet – that of being gentle with it.” (p. 14)
I liked that approach and kept reading.
In particular, the first chapter, the one on natural cleaning, has inspired me to a couple of posts on this blog.
My assessment of the book
I got the book because I read ‘housekeeping’ as ‘cleaning’ only. My expectation was a book which addresses this aspect in more detail. Unsurprisingly, I was disappointed.
Overall, I like Christina’s approach to life and sustainable living and I always applaud people diving into it. And for that, the book does a good job. The beautiful photography enhances this message and gives the reader an idea how beautiful natural housekeeping can look.
The problem with beautiful pictures is that it can (and in this case does) replace the content. Although Christina writes in the introduction that she lives by everything she writes, it addresses many issues only superficially.
In particular, the section on energy consumption left me puzzled. She addresses a number of very important issues such as the contributions of air travel to CO² levels. But she does not offer very practical solutions. “Living like our forefathers” cannot (and is not) the answer to our current energy crises. This chapter, in particular, made me wonder if the content of the book is as relevant to my life as I assumed in the beginning.
I appreciate most other sections of the book. I trust their content and recommend them as an introduction to natural cleaning, gardening, food storage, using herbs, and gift making. In particular, the section on medicinal herbs encouraged me to look beyond conventional medicine and use our herbs more.
Overall rating of the book
The book “A guide to natural housekeeping” is a good introduction to more sustainable and natural ways of living. Christina addresses many issues and, while (and because) speaking from experience, presents an authentic account of varies possibilities.
For me personally, the book was lacking in a number of areas. It is a good introduction to many issues but does not go into enough detail on most of them. Every chapter can fill entire books by themselves and most of them deserve more room than they are given in the book.
I understand where Christina comes from and applaud her for sharing her knowledge. After all, that’s what I’m doing as well. And for that, I recommend the book to anyone interested in a beautiful introduction to sustainable living. However, if you are interested in the details or don’t have the skills, space, and resources she has, the book creates more aspirations than it can actually inspire lifestyle changes. If you come across the book, give a read, copy down ideas you like, and fill the gaps with more research.
Full bibliographic information: Christina Strutt: A Guide to Natural Housekeeping. CICO Books, London (UK) 2012.