I recently came upon a Youtube video where a young woman talked about her enjoyment of the 50's. She truly lives like they would 70 years ago, from the outfits to her daily chores. She recently took on the challenge of completing all the daily tasks of a 1950's Housewife. It was interesting seeing her journey.
However, before getting into this challenge, something we need to acknowledge about the time period is how truly awful it was for women. The 50's included some of the worst history of spousal abuse, and women were not allowed to have careers, bank accounts, mortgages, and truly ran every aspect of the house. Although women began working during World War II, gender roles were quickly reestablished post war. In fact some say that you have to be 'truly mad' to believe that the 50's was the peak for housewives. You can find more about this HERE.
BUT, one thing that women in this era NAILED was taking care of a home. The woman's job was to take care of everything in the home, from raising children, paying the bills, grocery shopping, cleaning (a lot), and cooking all the meals. For the past two years, I have taken a pause in my teaching career to raise my children. As a detail oriented, perfectionist (it's the Virgo in me) I found myself struggling at being a 'housewife'. It felt like there was a million things to do, but no time to do it. Between carpool, chasing an 18 month old around, and the never ending cycle of cleaning, saying I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I truly thought that I was drowning and failing as a stay at home mom. And here is the funny thing, my husband worked 8 hours a day and would still find time to help with housework and play with our kids. (He truly is the best.) So what was I doing wrong?!
When it came down to it, the main problem was a little thing called decision fatigue. Research says that the average mom makes 35,000 decisions a day. Read that again: 35,000 DECISIONS. What happens when you make so many choices? Decision Fatigue. You become so completely exhausted and overwhelmed with all your choices that you become grumpy, unmotivated, and not very pleasant to be around. So even though the only person who was putting any pressure on me to be 'perfect' was myself, I felt like a failure.
I sat down one night, contemplating how to give myself grace, but still feel successful at the same time. It's easy for people to say "give yourself grace", but when you're a perfectionist it isn't that simple. I gave up on brainstorming, turned on Youtube and up came the video mentioned above. It was then that the realization hit me, being a homemaker WAS my current job. What was something that every job had? Daily tasks and duties that needed to be completed. When I was a teacher, I juggled what felt like a million different tasks with no problem. What was the difference? With teaching I had a clear outline of what the tasks were and when I should do them. I understood that grades needed submitted every Friday and lesson plans every Wednesday. It was mapped out so that I would succeed. So, it was time to get to work at building those duties as a homemaker.*
*When I mention being a "homemaker" or "housewife" I am referring to being in charge of the home and it's upkeep. That doesn't include also being a mom. Being a mother is the most beautiful, fulfilling role that I have ever been blessed with. This story is only referring to the overwhelm of trying to raise children AND do all the housekeep on top of that.
There are two books that guided me through this process: The Good Housekeeping: Housekeeping Book and Good Housekeeping The Best of the 1950's. Both of these books outlined the daily schedule and tasks of the average housewife. They also included guides on how to do each of these tasks to perfection. (As in I now know how to get stains out of ANY fabric.)
From combining the two here is what I learned:
Each day there was a focus on deep cleaning of one room in the home.
There were tasks to be completed in every room each day.
Seasonal tasks were also essential in the maintenance of the home.
Using these three things, I created templates on daily, weekly, and seasonal tasks for each room. I also created a calendar that outlines what room is the focus of each day. There is also a sample daily schedule of what the average homemaker in the 1950's followed.
So what was the average week like?
This was considered the 'reset' day of the week. Major cleaning wasn't expected, other than the daily checklist. Monday's were spend planning meals for the week, buying groceries and washing all produce. The only other focus was to completely a weekly deep clean of the kitchen, which included tasks like cleaning appliances, and waxing the floor.
Laundry Day! But not ALL the laundry. Tuesday's were spent cleaning the family laundry, meaning just the clothes. Towels and sheets were saved for later in the week. In my research they said that average families in the 1950's had only two loads to do during this day. I would say to realistically plan for one load per person, so for my family I end up doing 4 loads on this day. But don't just wash them, fold them and put them away! I love the Marie Kondo style of folding and organization, it keeps everything looking neat.
It's all about the bedrooms and bathrooms today! Complete those weekly checklists on top for these rooms on top of your daily checklist. I was never one for dusting and sweeping everyday, but now I find it so therapeutic. I love entering a room and knowing that it is dust free. With a Great Pyrenees and a calico as well, these weekly deep cleans and daily sweepings have eliminated our shedding problem. I found Wednesdays to be the busiest of the week. With three bedroom and two and a half bathrooms, expect to be cleaning most of the day.
Remember those sheets and towels we left out of our laundry day on Tuesday? Well, today is the day! Clean those sheets, and put fresh ones on the beds instead. Finish all the towels and put them away. Thursday is also the day for a deep clean of the living room. We will be getting all the dust bunnies from underneath the couch and leave everything sparkly clean.
To end our week, we will spend today cleaning out our fridge and meal planning for the weekend. If you need to go to the store, this will be the other day to do it. Our room focuses will be the dining room, halls, and stairway.
And that's it! Weekends were spent with families or friends. The only tasks were the daily checklist.
It has been two weeks since I began treating my home like a 1950's housewife and here is what I have found:
I am no longer overwhelmed. Knowing that I have certain tasks to do every day has made my decision fatigue decrease immensely. Rather than seeing a million different things that I need to do, I now have "blocks" of time to worry about them. I know that every Monday my kitchen will get cleaned, Tuesday's are for the family laundry, Wednesdays are for Bathrooms and bedrooms and so on.
My house is cleaner. By completing my daily checklist, my house always seems to be clean. The kitchen that was once piled in dishes and clutter is now bare countertops and glistening floors. No more doing dishes at the end of the day to only realize that there is more than one load present. The only real thing that I add to my list every day is cleaning up toddler toys and straightening up our loft.
I feel successful. Every day I have a visual check list completed of all the things I accomplished. My home is clean, my family is well fed, and surprisingly I am spending MORE time with my children and husband. My checklist gets done fairly quickly now, and rather than working ahead I play with my kids, have date nights with my husband, go to the gym, or just chill. It's amazing. There is a sense of peace in my mind now.
It is safe to say that the cleaning schedule will be sticking as a routine in our house, minus the gender roles. The entire family has joined in on knowing what tasks need done every day. Tonight at dinner I began washing the dishes and rather than everyone going their separate ways, my husband washed the table, my oldest daughter helped clear the dishes, and even 18 month old Blakely grabbed her play broom and began sweeping the floor. We all live in our home and now we all truly take care of it.
I hope that you all find these downloads every bit as helpful as I have! You can find them with the link below!