A Foreword of New Year

This is the second article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 10, 1905, and is about ringing in the new year with a clean house and a clean score!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

A Foreword of New Year

The Real Resolution

IF EVERY reader of this page were called upon for a candid expression of opinion as to the observance of New Years Day those who have never given the latter much thought would be surprised to learn how many are disposed to regard the anniversary as a bore, and the festivities connected with it as a mistake.

Christmas frolics have left us jaded, and blunted our appetites for pleasure. Christmas giving has depleted our purses. We have no money left for Near Year presents, and if we had, the impression is so general that these are the “Arriere pensee” of conscience stricken donors, recalled by the receipt of Christmas gifts to the fact that sundry of their dear 500 friends were overlooked by themselves at Yuletide – that there is scanty grace in giving.

Memory and Tears.

As to the patent and pious resolutions enjoined as a conventional ordinance by ancient and goody-goody appointment the most serious-minded of us dismissed the habit of formulating them when age and experience had showed us the emptiness and inefficiency of spasmodic righteousness.

The dawning year, as a true poet of the last century sang –

“Is a time for memory and for tears.”

Each heart knows for itself the bitterness and the sweetness of memories that crowd upon it at this season, and to each his own griefs are scared. I have no sermon today for my dearly-beloved and loyal constituency – only a word of cordial good cheer, a hearty “god-speed,” and then a brief practical conference with my fellow-housewives.

A pleasing custom prevails in some families of having the house swept, scrubbed and garnished before the coming of the blessed Christmas Day.

As one youngling phrased it: “It would be a shame for Santa Claus to come to a dirty house!”

Another put it more aptly:

“Everything should be in order upon Our Savior’s birthday!”

I confess to the same feeling with regard to the Near Year that the thrifty housemother has as to the “shiftlessness” of carrying the week’s wash over into the next Monday, and leaving Saturday’s mending incomplete when workbasket and thimble are laid aside for the rest of Sunday. There may be a tinge of superstition in my aversion to the thought of seeing the sunshine on New Year Day through dingy windows. The impulse to clear decks for action during the last week of the old year is natural and commendable. As the warm-hearted, hot-headed heroine of “hitherto” longed, in her unhappy childhood, to “rub out and begin all over again,” we would, if possible, forget the mistakes, and rid ourselves of the drawbacks of the past year, and press forward to cleaner – therefore, better – things.

Begin with your bookshelves. Unless you are given to periodical weedings of your library you have no right conception of the quantity of “trash” you have accumulated in a twelve-month. Books that are not worth a second and even a third reading are not worth keeping. If you can get rid of them in no other way, sell them by the pound to a junk dealer or old clothes ma. If you do not mean to have your magazines bound, sort and ship them to a hospital or soldiers and sailors’ home – or, failing these, send to me (inclosing stamp always) for the address of some one of the many who hunger for reading material they have not the money to buy. Sufficient unto the year is the rubbish thereof. And whatever may be the title of a book which nobody reads, and which nobody ever will read, that book is rubbish, be it bound in calf or in paper.

Next, attack closest and drawers, and rid your house and would of what you have kept for months – maybe for years – because they were not fit to give to anybody, were of no earthly use to yourself, and yet were adjudged by some abstruse law of economics to be too good to throw away. Were your thrifty soul to depart from the workaday world tomorrow, the entire collection of cracked and broken china, out-of-date collars and cuffs, scraps of unmatchable stuffs, remnants of forgotten gowns, and mortified bonnets would be consigned to the flames by your heirs and assigns. Spare them trouble and spare your memory from disgrace by cremating the ungainly and unprofitable assortment before the bells ring out the false and ring in the true.

If, in the course of righteous work, you happen upon some forgotten article that would be of real service to the poor widow you visited at Christmas, consider that you have found a bit of her property and restore it to the owner.

I promised not to preach; but you will not take it amiss if I counsel you to carry the New Year cleaning up and clearing out work into a higher sphere than that of pantry and bookshelf? Get rid of old grudges and family feuds, of unholy enmities, mean jealousies – all you would not have cling to your soul were you sure this year would be your last on earth. “Rub out and begin again!” Don’t resolve to do it, but do it – and at once! One right deed is worth ten thousand inactive resolutions.

If there be in God’s world one fellow being to whom you would not hold out a helping hand, if he or she were in need convict yourself at the bar of conscience of sin, and repair the fault.

Begin the New Year with a clear score. Don’t wait to be dunned by remorse.

Let the midnight bells that tell the death of the past, and the birth of the future, ring in for you –

“The larger heart, the kindlier hand.”

And so, as Tiny Tim – happiest of the household, although a sickly cripple – has taught us to say:



Four Dollars a Week Enough
Housemothers in Conference With Marion Harland
Little Talks With Discontented People – No. 1
The New Shades for Lamps and Candles

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