Almost every town in America has at least one house that everyone in the community knows and gossips about. In this colorful drama, the house is located in a small town in Washington state. Ruth and Lucille live there with their eccentric aunt Sylvie. At first the two teenage girls think it is fun living with someone who doesn't supervise or discipline them. But eventually Sylvie's habits derived from her life on the road come between the sisters. Lucille is embarrassed by her aunt's behavior — the stacks of old newspapers in the kitchen, her unkempt appearance, and her strange visits to the bus depot and a nearby mountain lake. Ruth, on the other hand, identifies with what she interprets as her aunt's individuality. When well-meaning members of the community try to take her away from Sylvie, Ruth must choose the kind of life she wants for herself.

Christine Lahti gives the performance of her career as Sylvie, a lonely, gentle woman who lives by her own rules but must learn to love again. Sara Walker is affecting as Ruth, a gawky, shy girl who respects her aunt's vagabond spirit. Andrea Burchill is just right as Lucille, an adolescent whose desire for a normal life is so strong that it leads to a drastic separation from her family. Although the pacing and the weirdness of Housekeeping may put some viewers off, those who stick with it will find themselves rewarded by its interesting observations about adolescence, family ties, normality, and the yearning to hit the open road.