# Daily Connoisseur # homemaking

13 Life-Changing Homemaking Secrets from The Secret Garden

 My homemaking series continues as we uncover the thirteen life-changing homemaking secrets from Frances Hodgson Burnett's, The Secret Garden

The following are the thirteen homemaking secrets I derived from The Secret Garden:

An excellent home life can be lived on any budget. Being wealthy doesn’t necessarily equal an excellent home life. Home life is more about comfort than it is about luxury. In chapter 6, “There Was Some One Crying”, Martha talks of the moorland cottage she grew up in with 14 people who lived in four little rooms and never had quite enough to eat.  Even though Mary grew up in the lap of luxury, she was attracted to comfort, which was something her parents tried to buy her, but were not successful at providing. 

We should actively cultivate the characteristics of a successful homemaker.  Martha describes her mother as sensible, hard-working, good-natured and clean. No one could help liking her whether they’d seen her or not (p.58). When Martha is going home to her on her day off, she can’t help jumping for joy when she crosses the moor. As a mother and homemaker, we want to have these characteristics. Everyone in the town, rich or poor, admired Susan Sowerby because of her great character. These are not necessarily the attributes our society appreciates. Think of the “Real Housewives” series, which honors beauty, fame, and wealth. The counter-culture values of Susan Sowerby are great characteristics of a successful homemaker. 

When you are feeling like complaining as a homemaker, ask yourself this question: “How do you like yourself?” (p. 59 ) This is something we can ask ourselves when we feel irritated with the other people in our household. 

Homemaking is joy and wellness.  Martha went away in high spirits as soon as she had given Mary her breakfast. (p. 59) She was going to walk five miles across the moor to the cottage, and she was going to help her mother with the washing and do the week’s baking and enjoy herself thoroughly. Even though Martha was a maid by profession, she still enjoyed cleaning and homemaking. She takes this time to enjoy visiting with her family and serving them. When we view our homemaking as joy and wellness, it will become more enjoyable. 

The week’s baking was done once a week. Martha's family did the baking once a week (p. 59). It’s a good idea to designate one day a week to do the baking. I burn-out on baking bread because the thought of doing it everyday is tiresome for me. But I could rally around a “baking day”, especially if the children help me and we have fun doing it. 

Boredom awakens children’s imaginations. Page 63 reads, "Living as it were, all by herself in a house with a hundred mysteriously closed rooms and having nothing whatever to do to amuse herself, had set her inactive brain to working and was actually awakening her imagination”. This tip relates to parenting. We are a culture that is afraid of boredom. Our children are placed in front of screens to quell this boredom. They are not allowed to feel bored. This kills creativity. It was boredom that “awakened" Mary’s imagination. 

A cozy home full of nice smells from cooking and baking is good enough for a king. Martha reports back from her weekly outing home, helping her mother with the washing and baking (p. 65). She describes her home life as “delightful”. "And the cottage all smelt of nice, clean hot baking and there was a good fire, and they just shouted for joy. Our Dickon he said our cottage was good enough for a king." Even though the family was living in reduced circumstances, they felt their life at home was good enough for a king because of the atmosphere created by their mother. 

Children were taught the value of tidiness. When Mary meets Mr. Craven for the first time, she is expected to tidy up her appearance (p. 106). Children should be able to run around and get messy, but it is important for children to understand when to look tidy and respectful and to know when that is appropriate. If they do this as children, they will do this as adults. 

Children need liberty to cultivate their imagination. This parenting philosophy is in contrast to the helicopter parenting technique that is popular today. On p. 110 Susan Sowerby’s advice to Mr. Craven was: “Give her simple, healthy food. Let her run wild in the garden. Don’t look after her too much. She needs liberty and fresh air and romping about.” Susan Sowerby is described as “sensible and good-hearted” by Mrs. Medlock and she and Mr. Craven agree that she knows what she is talking about.

They drank “beef tea” to calm down and feel better. On page 165, beef tea was served to Colin and Mary to promote calmness and well-being after all of the excitement from Colin’s tantrum. I like looking at drinks from the past, such as the Cambric Tea in Little House on the Prairie. I did some research on beef tea and found that it was traditionally made from rump meat. 

A homemaker wakes up early to be truly inspired. On page 196 in the chapter, “Ben Weatherstaff”, the glory and inspiration of waking up early is described. Successful homemakers tend to wake up early and take inspiration from the new day.

Successful homemakers are problem solvers. On page 230, Dickon praises his mother and says she always sees "a way out of things". Good homemakers are problem solvers and enjoy finding solutions to problems. 

Care about what your children care about.  Mrs. Sowerby’s care and attention to their secret garden gave them a warm, supported feeling (p. 254). The children were delighted in her presence. She went out of her way to make the children feel special and to convey that she cared about what they cared about. We must remind ourselves of this as both parents and homemakers. 

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If you enjoyed this post, check out my Little House on the Prairie homemaking videos. You can find them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


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Comment of the Week
Unknown writes:

These are my absolute favorite kinds of videos that you make. I know that they must take a lot of time and effort on your part, so I want to let you know that it is much appreciated! Also, you've inspired me to make the pumpkin bars. They look so good!

Thank you! I'm so happy you enjoyed making the pumpkin bars. And I appreciate your kind words about my videos.

I hope you enjoyed today's homemaking video. What did you love about The Secret Garden? Let us know the insights you gained from reading this book.

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Celia said...

I could do a day of baking. Seems more doable than they thought if everyday. but how in the world did people keep their things fresh back then and today? My bread is stale within a few days.

Nancy said...

Would you please share the brand of your yellow teapot? I would so appreciate it.
Thank you,

Luba - Healthy with Luba said...

The value of being tidy was something my mom emphasized. I am so grateful!

To be sensible, hard-working, and good-natured, and clean are definitely my goals, aling with riding early.

You continually inspire me, Jennifer. Thank you!

Adventures said...

What an inspiring study of The Secret Garden. My kids have read this book and now I plan to as well. So many parallels here between this large family and Laura Ingalls and her family from the Little House series. Time spent at home, strong family bonds, and future memories are cherished because of the love, care and attitude conveyed. I especially appreciate the reminders to question how much do I like myself when struggling with a poor attitude, and to let the kids have time to be bored, think and create. The last "secret" really stands out - that even long after we are gone, we can leave behind a legacy of working together as a family and beautiful homemaking for future generations.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hi ladies, thank you for commenting!

Celia- I wonder the same thing... That would be interesting to research!

Nancy- thank you! I cannot remember where I got the teapot and the brand has worn off. I bought it over 13 years ago because it reminded me of Madame Chic's teapot. I'm so sorry I can't remember. It was likely at a department store.

Luba- Thank you so much!

Adventures- That's true, there are many parallels with Laura's family! I enjoyed the comparison.

Have a wonderful evening, ladies!

~ Jennifer

pneu said...

I so enjoy hearing your thoughts on familiar and much-loved books. You inspired me to get the audio version of The Secret Garden and snatching moments to listen during my full days feels like a warm hug. The reading experience is very much enhanced by listening for the parts you chose. And the anticipation of what’s coming is so wonderful. I find myself thinking with a thrill, “Soon she’ll meet Dickon and then she’s going to hear Colin crying and then there will be that moment when he lets her examine his back AND IT’S NOT CROOKED(!) and the garden is growing every day and she’ll come to understand that she’s loveable through learning how to show love.” Happiness. Thank you for spurring me on to revisit this book, Jennifer.