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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