Old School Housekeeping
I L-O-V-E the post WWII era in America. It is my absolute favorite time period in history. I love the energy, the advertisements, the clothing – I love that Billy Graham started a massive revival in America in the late 30’s and just did nothing but gain momentum through 1950. I love movies from that time period, and as I shop flea markets and thrift stores, I’ve discovered that I love the decor.
One of the things I find is an absolute fascination to me is how kitchens were stocked, how cooking was done, how housework was accomplished, and the tools that were used. I started researching for a series of books years ago and just really discovered a love of the era.
One of my favorite books is America’s Housekeeping Book, a book compiled in 1941 by the Herald Tribune Home Institute. It’s a 607 page book on all things homemaking and housekeeping in regard to how to set up a home, how to care for a home, how to decorate a home, how to clean a home, how to do laundry. — even how to care for HVAC, plumbing, utilities, etc. This book is beyond FASCINATING to me. When I have a few minutes and just want to read something, I often just pick this book up and skim it.
Recently, I sat down and read, without skimming, the housecleaning section. I’m going to type out, verbatim, a section of the housecleaning. This is incredible to me.
This is the order of work for the DAILY care of the living room:
- Open windows top and bottom for free circulation of air.
- Pick up and replace small articles belonging in the room, such as books, magazines, music, games, records, cards, etc.
- Gather up on a tray to take out: used ash trays, articles belonging in other rooms, plants or flowers to be tended. Collect trash in waste basket.
- Carry out tray.
- Bring in cleaning equipment: hearthbroom (if not kept at fire-place), carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner (according to need), dust mop, cleaning basket.
- In season, clean out fireplace, lay fire, sweep hearth.
- Dust high objects, if necessary: mantels, high shelves, window frames and sills, tops of bookcases, secretary, highboys, etc.
- Dust radiator covers if necessary.
- Brush upholstery if necessary. Straighten covers. Plump up pillows.
- Dust furniture and low objects if necessary. Treat stains or blemishes as they occur.
- Dust exposed wood floor with dust mop if necessary. Use carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner on rugs or carpets.
- Final touches: Straighten draperies, shades, curtains, etc. Take out cleaning equipment and waste basket., Return clean ash trays, accessories, flowers, and waste basket. Close windows.
This is the DAILY work. If you look in my cleaning schedule, you’ll see that it about covers my WEEKLY work — dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, etc. Every room of the house has a similarly thorough routine.
Here is the order of work for daily cleaning routine:
- Open windows in bedrooms, top and bottom, on arising for free circulation of air (except in completely air conditioned houses.) Throw back bed covers, including top sheet, on all beds.
- Clear away dishes and misplaced articles from dining room after breakfast.
- Rinse and stack dishes, pots and pans in kitchen. Put away food.
- Put living room in order (see steps 1-4 in living room outline for details).
- Give all rooms regular daily cleaning, in the following order:
- Living Room
- Second Living Room
- Dining Room
- Upstairs Hall, if any
- Stairs, if any
- Downstairs Hall
I’m so curious about it. This was an era before television, computers, some phones, mommy groups, play dates, working remotely, etc. I’m curious if women just felt like they had to fill those hours in the day with housework, or if there is truly something to be said for being that thorough every single day in your home. If it was done daily, and a good rhythm was established (note in the order of cleaning that the steps in and out of the room are even given), my entire house could be cleaned in just a morning. Instead, I do a room or a group of rooms a day, do my daily chores, and spend the rest of my (kid-free) time in front of a computer, working.
So, if I didn’t have two blogs, a career as a novelist, and distractions like social media and Netflix streaming — I wonder if this is the kind of daily schedule I’d keep. Because, I have to tell you — it appeals to me. It really does. Maybe that makes me weird, but it always has.
Are there any other weirdos out there like me?
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don’t know about you but have you ever noticed how much disarray there is when you aren’t home and come back? I swear it’s awful…and then I realize why! I haven’t been home picking up/tidying/cleaning all day!
and that is more like my weekly than daily…if i wasn’t running around everywhere else!
What an awesome post!! I also share your zeal for post WWII era EVERYTHING! Our home is decorated in soft aquas, greens and light oranges. I am going to print this list off and use it as my new cleaning order list. I’m also going to start looking for the book you mentioned! Thank you again for posting this, I’d love to see more!
I know exactly what you mean!
I don’t think you are weird at all! As women it is in our genetic make-up to care for the home while the husband works. I work full-time, so my house is dusty and dirty when it comes to deep cleaning. Yes, it is tidy, dishes done, laundry done, but I do not clean windows, dust plants, wash curtains, etc on a regular basis. Maybe twice a year… at best! When I am home with my family in the evening, I would rather spend time with my family rather than fret over dusting. A lot families I know have a housekeeper that comes over once or twice a month to deep clean. We cannot afford that, but it is common these days.
Very cool. Thanks for sharing.
You are not alone. :-) I’m weird too.
I wish I were a little more weird. ;)
This is the type of daily clean my Grandma does. It takes her a couple of hours, but the house is always clean. I aspire to be like that, but must admit spending time with my daughter (and the fact I run an in home childcare business) leave me with less time than I would like. If it weren’t for my business we would be in a different boat, but I do wish hubby’s made more when they got married, had kids, etc… I wish being a stay-at-home-mom was more valued in today’s society and made more possible! Then I would love to go to the gym in the am, clean the house for 2 hours a day and spend the rest of the day playing and cooking (and blogging and crocheting in my free time!)
I would love to be able to keep house like this, but I home school six kiddos and that takes most of my day. When the school day is done supper is begging to be cooked. That leaves me very little time to clean like I would like to. Someday….I keep telling myself :) As far as feeling valued in society today–I try not to worry about it. As long as my hubby and kids value me, I feel complete. Their opinions matter most!
I’m with you on this. I love that era. That book was a real find!
I love that book and it’s sister book “America’s Cookbook” that was also put out in 1943. I have copies of both that belonged to my grandmother, along with some of her other cookbooks – my favorite cookbook of hers is “Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia Of Cooking” from the 50’s, it is huge! I too am obsessed with Post WWII era stuff, especially homemaking books and cookbooks… they are just jam-packed with so much useful information.
And, like Dana Kay (previous commenter), our home is also decorated in soft aquas, greens and light oranges :-)
oooh – I bet that America’s Cookbook is awesome! A good friend just gifted me with the “Household Searchlight Recipe Book” dated 1936. It is WORN OUT and covered in writing from the original owner. I LOVE it.
That post WW2 time period is indeed one of the most glorious in history. It’s fascinating to see how habits have evolved over some decades. It’s easier for us today to do all those daily chores with access to superior technology.