There is something rather comforting and appealing about old-fashioned homemaking these days. Our lives are jam-packed with modern life and all that entails and sometimes it’s just too much. We long for simpler times. The image of a homemaker in her apron going about her daily tasks in a peaceful and routine manner, uninterrupted by the lures of Facebook and Instagram can sound positively delightful at times.
Now, we all know that things weren’t always as rosy as they appeared in the sitcoms of the 1950s and early 60s. And I, for one, would not want to give up our modern appliances and improved opportunities women enjoy today. However, what a treat it can be to choose a few old-fashioned homemaking tips and methods to add to our modern life.
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Old-Fashioned Homemaking Tips
Let’s take a peek into the past and see if we might find a few old-fashioned ways of keeping house that can make home life a little sweeter.
1. Boil dish cloths
Instead of sponges that must be regularly replaced lest they get smelly and germ-ridden, Grandma used dish cloths to wash dishes and wipe down kitchen surfaces.
I use a clean one each day, rinse well in hot water and allow to dry over the edge of a galvanized bucket in the laundry room. Once a week I do a load of dish cloths, rags and other similar items. I use the longest cycle, hot water and some bleach. I know that bleach is not good for the environment but want to make sure dish cloths are clean and disinfected.
But in “olden times” women boiled their dish cloths to get them clean and germ-free. It seems so obvious but have you ever done it? I haven’t. But I’m going to start. Just boil for 15 minutes in a large pot, allow to cool, wring out excess water and wash as usual.
2. Add bluing to laundry
Are your white sheets or other linens looking a bit yellow and dingy? Have you ever tried adding bluing to the wash? This was pretty common in our grandmothers’ day and for good reason – it works!
I’ve done this but it’s been ages. I still have a little bottle of Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Liquid and a couple of sets of sheets that are no longer bright white. I think I need to give this old-fashioned method a go soon.
3. Use liquid starch in the rinse cycle
If you want to give an especially crisp finish to ironed items, consider adding liquid starch to the final rinse cycle and iron while still slightly damp. This can be especially nice for curtains, tablecloths and of course, men’s dress shirts.
4. Hang clothes on a clothesline
One of my fondest childhood memories is the fragrance of Grandma’s sheets whenever I spent the night. The combination of Downy fabric softener and line drying in the desert sunshine made her sheets smell better than anything I’ve ever experienced.
I keep saying it but hopefully THIS will be the year I get David to put up an old fashioned clothesline for me. Not only does it make laundry smell divine, it’s eco-friendly, as well!
5. Sweep instead of vacuum
It’s handy to use the vacuum on all floors, even hard-surfaced flooring. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing it that way. But there’s something almost meditative about sweeping a floor with a broom. If you’re in the habit of always using the vacuum, consider occasionally using a broom instead. Start in the furthest corner and carefully sweep every inch, slowly and methodically. You just might find it as soothing and relaxing as a ten minute meditation.
6. Try a carpet sweeper
A few years ago I bought an old-fashioned carpet sweeper. I did so because we occasionally get ice storms that knock out electricity. Once, we were without electricity for a whole week! David eventually bought a generator and he thought it was funny when I asked if it would run the vacuum. He looked at the instruction manual to see how much power a vacuum needed, only to find that appliance wasn’t listed. Apparently I’m the only one who wants to vacuum in a power outage.
So that is why I bought a carpet sweeper. But it’s also pretty handy for picking up visible debris in traffic areas between regular vacuuming.
7. Use a dust mop
I have a long entry hall with dark ceramic tile. Shiloh’s white fur seems to collect in clumps on the floor and a good, wool dust mop – like Grandma used – is perfect for picking up the fur without sending it flying.
8. Air the bed linens and bedrooms each morning
Rather than making the bed immediately upon arising, take a hint from old fashioned homemaking tomes and air the bed. Turn the bed covers back over the foot of the bed, open a window and allow the room and the sheets to air for a little while. This allows perspiration to evaporate making a less hospitable environment for dust mites. I like to spray the sheets with a little of my DIY lavender linen spray before leaving the bed open to air for an hour or so.
9. Use tea towels instead of paper towels
Do you pull off several sheets of paper towels to dry your hands every time you wash them in the kitchen? Have you ever wondered what people used to do before the advent of paper towels? Tea towels/dish towels are the answer. Lay out a fresh one every morning (or more often if needed) and dry your hands on that instead. You’ll save money and it’s far better for the environment.
10. Use cloth napkins and “real” dishes
Rather than paper napkins (or paper towels which seem to be a rather common substitute these days), invest in some pretty cloth napkins. They are easy to toss in the wash each week, look much prettier on the table and again, they save money and trees.
Can you imagine Donna Reed serving dinner on paper plates? Of course not. While there are certainly legitimate reasons for using paper plates on occasion, don’t rely on them on a daily basis. Even if you don’t have a dishwasher, plates are the easiest item to wash anyway. Take your meals up a notch and use real dishes.
11. Bring back the old “rag bag”
If, like me, you decide to eliminate the daily use of paper towels, you’ll need a substitute. That’s where the rag bag comes in. You’ll need old rags for cleaning and mopping up messes. Are your wash cloths, bath towels or dish towels getting a bit raggedy? Add them to the rag bag, cutting them into smaller sized if necessary. You can also cut up old t-shirts as well. And the very best rags…especially for dusting? Old cloth diapers.
You don’t have to put them in an actual bag. I have a plastic storage box under my sink which is where I keep my clean and folded rags. I even separate them according to their condition. I keep at least a few rather disreputable looking rags for very dirty, greasy or gross cleanups and then just toss them afterwards. The rest are washed in very hot water once a week, although I just might start boiling them.
12. Borrow a few old-fashioned cleaning products from the past
There are definitely some cleaning products we should leave firmly in the past. My mom recalls her dad washing the kitchen walls once a year with TSP (trisodium phosphate). He was a smoker and avid cook so the walls of their tiny kitchen definitely needed regular scrub downs. But there are much safer options these days.
Likewise, we wouldn’t want to go back to scrubbing clothes on a rub board with lye soap or cleaning floors and steps with carbolic acid.
However, there are a few old cleaning products worth considering. For instance, Bar Keeper’s Friend dates back to the 1880s and nothing works better on my white enameled cast iron kitchen sink.
13. Keep a well-stocked sewing basket
Even if, like me, you don’t sew, it’s still wise to have sewing basket stocked with a few basics. We all occasionally need to sew on a button or make small clothing repairs. If you keep a few basic colors of thread, needles, needle threader, thimble, etc. in a sewing basket or box, you’ll be able to maintain your clothing quickly and easily.
14. Wear an apron
Homemakers of the past nearly always wore aprons while cooking. That’s a no-brainer for protecting your clothes from food and grease stains. But consider wearing one while doing your daily cleaning, as well. Again, this will protect your clothes but more than that, an apron is a visible signal to you and your family that you are working. Plus, they usually have pockets which can be handy for collecting small items you find lying about as you clean. And they are cute!
After reading this list are there any of these you might consider adding to your homemaking life? Are there any you already do?
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