Best advice for keeping home
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The Butler Did It1 of 11
By Elizabeth Jenkins
Whether you live in a studio apartment or a lavish Downton Abbey-like estate, certain principles always apply when it comes to keeping house—or so says the butler, Stanley Ager, who managed the English castle St. Michael's Mount for nearly 30 years. In his book The Butler’s Guide to Running the Home and Other Graces, Ager reveals his white-glove secrets. Here are 10 ideas to help you get a jumpstart on spring cleaning. (Carson and Mrs. Hughes would be proud.)
Create a House Agenda2 of 11
Running a household without a staff of servants? "Write up a schedule for routine tasks such as polishing furniture and cleaning silver," says Ager. "If the appearance of your possessions does not let you know that it is time to care for them, your calendar will." (Indeed.)
Clean Correctly3 of 11
In addition to properly caring for chandeliers, lampshades and floors, Ager urges readers to respect their books by dusting them weekly with a dust cloth, or with the attachment on a vacuum cleaner. He recommends starting from the top shelf and paying special attention to the books' spines and top edges.
Keep a Wine Log4 of 11
"A large house always had a wine record book and anyone who has more than two dozen bottles of wine should keep a similar record," writes Ager. "If you are interested in wine, you should keep a book showing which wines you like and what they cost, so that you know what wines to buy and whether or not the price is right when you come to buy another bottle." If you have mostly given up paper journals in favor of digital records, consider downloading the top-rated app Hello Vino.
Stow Potables Properly5 of 11
Follow Ager's guidelines and make sure wine, beer and liquor have been stored properly prior to the event. "Tightly capped and stored upright, a bottle of spirits will last for a year after being opened," writes Ager. Wine, on the other hand, should be kept at a cool, even temperature and lie flat "so that the corks are kept moist and in good condition."
Go Through Your Closet6 of 11
Early spring is the perfect time to go through your closets, tossing all of those wire hangers that come home with your dry cleaning and are cluttering your closet. Ager explains that not only are wire hangers weak, but they are likely to rust and leave marks on fine materials. "Wooden hangers are ideal," he says.
Take Stock of Cleaning Supplies7 of 11
Ager's must-have cleaning supplies include aerosol polish for furniture, a good scrub brush for wooden tables, a bucket of water and a drop of ammonia for the floors, and a soft, long-bristle brush for lampshades. For cleaning brass and pewter, he recommends a commercial brass polish, and for silver, a creamy, non-abrasive polish.
Have More Than Enough8 of 11
To make entertaining less stressful, Ager encourages hosts to be prepared. If you are planning to host six guests, he recommends having two extra placesettings on hand. "For your own peace of mind, have more than one replacement," says Ager. "If somebody drops a fork on the floor, you shouldn't have to go out and wash it, then bring it back."
Record Valuables9 of 11
"It's wise to have a record of the valuables in your house for insurance purposes," according to Ager, who writes that in his active butler days, the lady of the house kept a catalogue of the artwork, silver, china, glass and linens in the home. While this may sound daunting, try tackling it one room at a time. Then whenever something of value enters your home you can simply add it to your existing list.
Store for Keeps10 of 11
Ager believes glassware should be lovingly stored. "I wouldn't dream of placing a glass upside down on my shelf," he writes, as an example. "A glass stored this way will draw up moisture and become cloudy after a time." Sterling silver, he says, should be kept at 65 degrees in a soft lined drawer or tray. "Store all knives, spoons and forks on their side. Never put one on top of the other because the bottom piece must take all the weight, and silver can become scratched if it is stacked." For the same reason, he says china plates and saucers should be protected by a sheet of of tissue paper.
Pay Attention to Details11 of 11
Impress your guests with a beautiful table featuring artfully folded napkins. Ager's folding methods can make humdrum linens look luxe. When folding, Ager says you must "be firm and deft so as not to crumple the napkin more than you have to. Use your thumb or palm to press the crease in at each stage."