Written by Dyami Millarson
What has housekeeping to do with travelling and language-learning? More than one might think! Since I have been travelling abroad on my own from 2012 onwards and I have been staying in others’ home and others have been staying in my home, I learned that having some basic housekeeping skills is vital. Furthermore, there were a few housekeeping tasks that I noticed were basic in any modern household around the world. The general rule with basic housekeeping tasks is that one should never postpone any of them.
Clutter in the household is enemy #1. It is surprising how stuff can collect in a household within just one day. The longer one waits, the more it builds up. Therefore, the main housekeeping mission is to instantly address this issue, particularly in the living room and one’s own bedroom.
Whenever walling around the house, scan the areas for unwanted stuff that is lying about and pick it up immediately before it gets worse. Decluttering must be done constantly. It is a small task when one never postpones it, seizing every opportunity to instantly put all stuff back in the place where it belongs. This keeps things livable.
My father told me there is a saying in Dutch where he is originally from that says: ‘If your house is a mess, then your spirit is going to leave you.’ (Als je huis een bende/troep is, dan gaat je geest je verlaten.) This old saying demonatrates how important it is to keep things tidy, for a messy homestead is not good for the mind; it influences the soul.
2. Keeping the kitchen clean and tidy
The kitchen is where one’s food comes from, so one should make a significant contributing to keeping this sacred space clean and tidy. A kitchen’s hygiene may influence one’s daily health significantly, which is why one should pay particular attention to taking good care of the kitchen.
One of the easiest things one may do is swipe the kitchen clean with kitchen paper towels with some water and detergent. I am not a fan of using chemical detergents, because whatever one uses in the place where one’s daily food is made may also get into one’s food somehow and one may also inhale it while cleaning (the detergent better not be too poisonous for humans).
Detergents with natural ingredients (and most importantly: non-dangerous substances) may be advisable and are nowadays available in most urban areas.
3. Keeping the floor clean
When I travelled the world, I learned that not every family owns a vacuum-cleaner. one should politely ask the host family what they use to clean the floor. If it is not a vacuum-cleaner, then one may need to ask them to demonstrate how they do it. Waiting for the family to do all the floor-cleaning is usually not really an option. One should take action immediately and learn how it is done, so one may contribute.
4. Doing the dishes
After breakfast, lunch and dinner, there are going to be dishes. Some needs to do them. When staying with a family, one should definitely assume helping out with the dishes is a basic task that ought to be carried out without second thought. Moreover, it is very polite to offer doing the dishes (particularly if they household owns no dishwasher) and one may easily contribute to the household in doing so. Whether or not the family owns a dishwasher, helping out with the dishes is truly appreciated.
5. Tidying one’s own bed
Taking care of one’s own living space is truly a basic. Wherever one stays, be it the living room or one’s own bedroom or even the bathroom, one should not leave a mess. After waking up, one should not leave behind a messy room carelessly. One of the first things may be to tidy one’s bedsheets.
Vital while staying abroad is that one be as self-sufficient as possible and that one do not postpone essential housekeeping tasks. Ideally, the host family should almost not notice there is one more member in their household. One can do this by making daily contributions as listed above, and there is much more that one may do.
However, the list as given here is a good start for living with a foreign family abroad, and it needs no elaboration that it is also good for living with one’s own family at home. Good housekeeping helps keeping the relationship with any family good. Therefore, whatever one may learn abroad may also be a pleasant surprise to one’s own family when one returns home.