9 books that changed my frame of mind about chores

9 books that changed my frame of mind about chores

A few weeks ago, I shared the tiny domestic tasks that are saving my life right now (mostly laundry, with a side of spice drawer reorganization). These small projects have provided a satisfying sense of control and a great sense of accomplishment over the last several weeks.

It may not come as a surprise that my recent obsession with the best way to remove a lipstick stain was inspired by a book. I have a long history of domesticity reading enjoyment. It’s not just the comfort of reading about house and home that draws me in—it’s the philosophy around small tasks and care-taking that inspires me.

After hearing that many of you are leaning on home projects for distraction during the gloomiest month of winter, I decided it was time to share a few books that have shaped my view of household chores, work, and yes…laundry.

Many of these books mix personal stories with practical tips and how-tos, while others focus on the philosophy of domesticity. I revisit their pages when I encounter a tricky cleaning project or when I simply need a dose of calm.

Whether you need advice, motivation, or inspiration, I hope you find a title to enjoy today. (And I’d love to hear about your current, or planned, household projects!).

9 books about the domestic arts

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work”

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work”

Author:
“Quotidian” means “ordinary,” or “everyday,” and in this slim volume (88 pages!) Norris affirms the inherent worth of the mundane tasks that consume our everyday–the cooking, the cleaning, the dishes, the diapering. “What is it about repetitive acts that makes us feel that we are wasting our time?” Norris asks. Yet she insists that our daily activities are anything but trivial, and have the power to shape our souls, if we let them. More info →
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Home Comforts

Home Comforts

Why is it so soothing to read about other people's household routines? This is the best book you've never heard of on housekeeping. Mendelson's enthusiasm for housekeeping is delightfully contagious and occasionally veers in unexpected directions: I still regularly pull the book off the shelf when I'm not sure how best to tackle a household task and read it just for fun every once in a while. More info →
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Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized

Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized

Author:
Pinsky, a professional organizer by trade, was accustomed to storing her clients' things out of sight in handsome cabinets and pretty baskets. Then she had a child with ADHD, and her typical approach just didn't work. After years of trial and error, she discovered what did work for her highly distractable and easily overwhelmed child. In Pinsky's world, simple is more important than pretty, practical is more important than aspirational, and clutter is the devil. I come back to this again and again (despite my lack of an ADHD diagnosis), especially when my home begins to feel like it's spiraling out of control. More info →
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What Are People For?: Essays

What Are People For?: Essays

Author:
I adore Berry's evocative, deceptively simple style. Reading his poems and essays makes me feel grounded and grateful. This collection of gentle advice isn't specifically about the domestic arts like laundry, cleaning, or mending but it certainly applies to all of the small chores and tasks that make up our lives. Berry questions our modern consumer culture and presents proverb-like musings on the nature of work and leisure. More info →
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Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done

Author:
This book isn't exactly about how to accomplish household chores (not at all!), but Vanderkam offers tips for getting it all done without feeling stressed, which makes me feel better about enjoying a fifteen-minute audiobook-and-folding-laundry session. She examines highly productive people who—despite their commitments, obligations, and successful enterprises—feel like they have all the time in the world, and investigates what exactly they’re doing that causes them to feel that way. The seven mindset shifts presented here are full of stories about real people, which makes this both helpful and fun to read. More info →
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Welcome Home: A Cozy Minimalist Guide to Decorating and Hosting All Year Round

Welcome Home: A Cozy Minimalist Guide to Decorating and Hosting All Year Round

Author:
There's no one I trust more for guidance on making my home livable, welcoming, and beautiful. Myquillyn's new book walks you through the seasons of the year, highlighting simple and gratifying ways to decorate (yay) and host (eventually) in tune with the rhythms of the year. Even before I finished Welcome Home, I was putting Myquillyn's principles into action—and enjoying the process. (Note: this would make a lovely gift book for HGTV fans or new home owners.) More info →
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Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens

Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens

Mendelson's enthusiasm for housekeeping is delightfully contagious. Visually, she loves the look of freshly folded clothes and ironed linens. The tactile act of caring for your various woven and knitted home items is more than practical: it's comforting joy-filled. Mendelson combines practical tips with personal narrative and philosophical musings. I reach for this book when I need a reminder of how to care for a specific type of fabric or when I need a quick dose of soothing advice. More info →
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Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore

Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore

I read this back in October and loved it from page one. So much so that you'd better believe it'll make an appearance in the upcoming Summer Reading Guide (really!). There’s so much STORY bound up with laundry, who knew? When he writes about laundry, Richardson must also discuss Kentucky ancestry, or the family barbecue sauce legacy, or the time he was called to the church to scrub a Sharpie stain out of a bride’s dress. I experimented with his ways of doing things—like washing athletic clothes, or even sweaters, right in the washing machine. And when my clothes got really dirty, I found myself flipping to Richardson’s notes over and over again to figure out what to do. I never thought I'd get so much satisfaction out of doing laundry. Coming March 30. More info →
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Restoration House: Creating a Space That Gives Life and Connection to All Who Enter

Restoration House: Creating a Space That Gives Life and Connection to All Who Enter

Author:
Kennesha Buycks' blog has provided me with design inspiration and vicarious project completion (so satisfying), and now her book sits on my coffee table for whenever I need a dose of soothing home decor images or practical tips for a new improvement project of my own. With advice for creating inviting spaces for your friends and family (that also make you happy), Buycks helps you feel at home wherever you live, no matter your budget or design goals. More info →
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Has a book ever changed your mind about a routine, habit, or method? I’m eager to see your recommendations in the comments.

P.S. Need a reboot? Here are 15 books for fresh starts and new routines or restart your life with these 12 nonfiction titles.

9 books that changed my frame of mind about chores

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45 comments | Comment

45 comments

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  1. Aubree says:

    The book The Lazy Genius Way changed the way I did laundry to the point that it is now my favorite weekly chore and I look forward to being able to fold it!

  2. Jessica H says:

    It’s not a book, but Lindsay Brigham’s article “Duty, Being, and Building with Dirt” (on the Circe Institute blog) helped recently to change my mindset about daily chores. My husband and I live in a small two-bedroom apartment, and I teach music lessons out of our home. Unfortunately this means that our our primary living space (kitchen/dining/living room, bathroom) are also my studio for 3-4 days out of the week. A good portion of my morning is spent in putting that space into order so that it looks professional and neat for my students. This article helped me to re-frame this round of morning chores from being annoying and tiring to being part of the loving care that keeps our household beautiful and even livable.
    From Lindsay Brigham:
    “If…I deem “regular upkeep” to be an opportunity to embody care—that is, to embody virtues like patience, kindness, longsuffering, forbearance, gentleness, love—then I will consider all recurring duties as a gift and vocation. I will tread the round of daily chores with calm content, looking out for ways to freshen them with creativity and beauty.”
    https://www.circeinstitute.org/blog/duty-being-and-building-dirt

  3. Julia says:

    Adopting Myquillyn Smith’s mantra “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” has been life changing as well as life giving! All of her books have provided such inspiration and practical application for a Cozy Minimalist home.

  4. Deborah says:

    I love Kathleen Norris’ writings. This little book is great, I highly recommend it, but it certainly needs updating! “Woman’s Work” was what I did while raising my family, while holding down a career. Just about did me in. My three sons, however, do as much woman’s work as their sweet wives. Running the house hold is indeed art and science, now for both man and woman.

  5. Brittany says:

    My husband is reading What Are People For? It was a Christmas present someone gave me! 😉 I would also add Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts to this list. She really helped me find peace and joy in the ordinary everyday.

    I just wrote a blog post about 8 Simple Design Tips to help tell your family’s story with your home decor. Our surrounds really do evoke feelings within us and having a calm, organized home helps me so much!

    https://themiraculousjourneyofbooks.com/simple-design-tips/

  6. Jenni says:

    Thanks Anne for the list. “Home Comforts” was my first “how to keep house” book when I got married, many, many years ago and is still my favorite. It also reads like literature. I love all clean house books and a current read that has been insightful but very funny is “How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind” by Dana K. White. And if you listen to the audio read by the author herself it is a real treat.

  7. YES, this is totally one of my I-thought-it-was-just-me reading niches! I am totally obsessed with books about housekeeping and homemaking and whatnot (and I hope you don’t mind that I’m dropping a link to a round-up I did of some of my own favorite titles, none of which overlap with yours, coincidentally, though we do share some of the same authors like Myquillyn!).

    Since I published that round-up, I’ve gotten even more, like have you heard of Alexandra Stoddard? And I just picked up Thomas Moore’s The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life the other week secondhand, so I’m excited to see how I like that. Definitely adding some from this list that I haven’t read yet!

    https://www.toloveandtolearn.com/2019/03/05/15-books-to-help-you-get-your-house-in-order/

  8. Julie Fleming says:

    A Simplified Life by Emily Ley is a beautiful book that changed my life as a busy mom. She makes some really good points about the importance of prioritizing and enjoying the everyday moments with the ones you love, including mealtime prep, laundry and other chores.

  9. Robyn G Vandewalle says:

    Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Peterson is a lovely little book I repeatedly checked out from the library when I had a houseful of young children. She writes with warmth and gentleness about the everyday tasks of life.

  10. Suzy says:

    Do any of these books talk about the “joy” of washing dishes? I don’t have a dishwasher, and doing dishes is my least favorite chore, I really hate it! Only two of us, and I put it off for days….

    • Leanne says:

      I used to hate washing dishes also. I do have a dishwasher now but for awhile, mine wasn’t working and I had to come up with a plan.
      – I determined to wash all the dishes every night
      – I set a timer and tried to beat it and was amazed that it didn’t take as long as I thought.
      – During the summer months, I enjoyed looking out the window over my sink at the great outdoors
      – I used that time to be by myself with my thoughts, dreams and gratefulness for all I had
      – I LOVED getting up in the morning to a clean kitchen and that made it all worthwhile.
      I think it’s about the attitude we have in doing any job that makes it easier and it becomes something you don’t even think about hating. Good luck!

  11. Rivkah says:

    My favorite inspirational book is an old one – The Honor Girl by Grace Livingston Hill. It may be hard to find. It is set in the 1920s-30s, I believe, and tells the story of Elsie, whose mother died when she was little, and she was sent to live with a wealthy aunt. When she is about to graduate from high school, she returns to her original home and sees how her father and brothers are living (like unhappy bachelors). She begins a series of covert missions to bring order to their home while they are at work, and gradually, seeing their appreciation, comes to want to make a happy home for them full time. It is a very sweet story, and has been a reread every few years, for me.

  12. Emily says:

    I’ve owned Home Comforts for years. My favorite household task is laundry. I may have to read some of the laundry books on this list. I used to love watching the home organizing British show “Life Laundry”. What a great title.

  13. Andi says:

    I read the ADD Organizing book many years ago and it’s so, so helpful!! I felt like I had finally found a book that understood how my brain worked.

  14. Kara says:

    The mantra “you set the tone for your home” has helped me keep my wits about me when I’m feeling overwhelmed by household tasks. It’s not my job to pick up every mess, but it is my role to stay calm in the midst of chaos! If I keep it together, it creates space for my family to keep it together as well.

    And I love Laura Vanderkam’s work!

  15. Christina says:

    This is a fun book list! But fun doesn’t quite seem the right word…just reading your descriptions makes me feel more relaxed about life. A calming book list, perhaps 🙂

    I’m interested to read Off the Clock because it sounds like it would actually fit with my list of favorite books on productivity, technology, and relationships: http://alookatabook.com/2020/12/07/5-books-on-technology-productivity-and-relationships/

    Cal Newport’s Deep Work has changed my mindset about approaching work tasks, as well as Rest: Why You Get More Work Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung Kim-Pang. Those are both on that list.

  16. Samantha says:

    I know it’s already been mentioned multiple times but The Lazy Genius Way was my quarantine read and it was probably the best home book I have read. I also love The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson.

  17. I love this topic. I just responded to one of your posts yesterday saying that I wanted to reread The Quotidian Mysteries thanks to you, and here it is in today’s post! 🙂 And I’m thrilled you included Wendell Berry in this list. I haven’t read this one by him yet and am moving it up “The Berry Queue,” as I like to call it.

    Anne – I don’t know how you keep coming up with such unique topics and lists after all this time, but I’m so glad that you do! I’m thankful for all of your writing.

    • Liza says:

      Just so you know, I started reading this because I am currently procrastinating on laundry! 😂

      I have the Home Comforts book and I love flipping through it. Sometimes I love the routine of housekeeping and sometimes it’s an exercise in futility. For me, when I think about doing to serve my family, it’s easier and more enjoyable. If I think of it as my “job”, then I hate it.

  18. Mary Smith says:

    I’ve read Home Comforts. I bought it years ago when I was a newlywed and it helped me immeasurably. It’s currently on a stack on my mantle as home decor. I threw out the book jacket because the hardback cover is so pretty. I can’t think of a better place for a book on homemaking.

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