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Tools for the Modern Domestic Engineer?

A while ago, I came up with the tag line for Cook Clean Craft "Tools for the Modern Domestic Engineer". I loved it as it captures my background as a chemical engineer and the in-jokes about housework engineers have. But the more I think about it, the more I realise this blog doesn’t live up to it’s tag name. I’m just not using my engineering skills in my home making.

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I’ve been in emergency mode more or less since my second child was born (and she’s 3½ now!). I’ve been fire-fighting, doing whatever task seems like the highest priority, not having a plan and certainly not working life a stereotypical “efficient engineer”.

It’s time for me to step back and look at the bigger picture. Time to think about what “domestic engineering” means. I worked in a few different roles in my engineering career. Let’s look at what skills I learnt that I can use in my current role as a home-maker.


My first job out of uni was an Area Process Engineer at a minerals processing plant. My job was to ensure my area of the plant was meeting its targets for production rate and product quality. Each morning, I reviewed plant data, such as temperatures, pressures, flow rates and laboratory test results. I’d work out what was going well, and what needed some tweaks to meet my targets. When the day-to-day routine work was done, I was responsible for minor projects to further improve my area’s operation – lower costs, increase production, improve product quality.

Hmmm, so let’s think about that – each morning I analysed what was working well, what wasn’t working and worked out what jobs I needed to do to meet my targets. Hang on – why don’t I do that at home? Why don’t I have a list of parameters that I need to meet, that I can measure myself against? Wouldn’t that be what a domestic engineer would do?

Later in my career (man, that makes me sound old), I worked on major projects (huge, multi-billion minerals processing plants). My role was to look at the best way to design my section of the plant, most efficiently, at the lowest cost, while still being functional and easy to operate. Designs needed to provide flexibility for plant maintenance and cleaning, but only just enough (so you didn’t spend more than you needed to).

Day to day, I would ask myself is this the most efficient way to design this? If we rearranged things, did things differently, could we do more with less? Is the design operable? Is the theory fine, but can it actually work in the field?

What would an engineer do

So why don’t I design my home this way? Think about what would make my house more efficient – what do I need to spend money to make things run better? What do I have too much of that impedes smooth operations in our home?

It’s time to apply my engineering thought processes into my role as a "domestic engineer". Each week, I’ll share with you how I’m bringing engineering principles into my home life. I’m not sure where it’s going to lead me, but I’m looking forward to the journey.

What skills from your previous roles do you bring into home-making?


  1. I’m looking forward to following along on your journey. It sounds interesting!

    And a side note, my eldest seen the picture in this post of the alumina refinery and said ‘hey, that’s Dad’s old work’… Hubby was a supervisor in an Alumina Refinery back in QLD, I just thought it was funny that C recognised something like that.

    1. That’s funny Amy! The photo was of a QLD refinery (since I don’t have photos of the ones I’ve worked out and I found that photo with no licence requirements!). It’s a small world/industry – we probably know a few people in common!

  2. That is so interesting Narrelle,
    I am an engineer too but I still work with my 4 kids that I try to homeschool some.
    I never thought about appling engineer tasks at home, and while I read your post, I see that I should!!! I am excited about your next articles about the subject!

  3. Great idea for a series of posts Narelle. Looking forward to seeing your solutions to every day family life. Maybe I could use a few of them over the fence to calm the chaos!!

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