I Lived Like A 1950s Housewife For A Week

I’ve been wanting to try this out for the past couple years, and I figured lockdown during Covid-19 was the perfect time: taking the rough schedule of a 50s housewife and seeing what living that life is like. Of course, life would have been different for everyone in this era, but I wanted to try it out all the same. Throughout the past week (Monday-Friday, let’s not get carried away), I tried to follow a rigorous schedule as closely as possible, and documented my journey on instagram stories (you can rewatch it all on my highlights).

First of all, here are the sources I used. I got the schedule I tried to follow here – apparently it comes from the Bride’s Reference Book, published in 1948. I also took some advice from this blog, which got its schedule from The Good Housekeeping Housekeeping book, published in 1947 and available here in the public domain.

Schedule

  1. Throw back the covers
  2. Open up the blinds and windows
  3. Freshen up
  4. Make and serve breakfast
  5. Clean up breakfast
  6. Complete a 10-minute exercise regime
  7. Shower, do hair and makeup, get dressed
  8. Gather a basket for tidying. As the rooms of the home are tackled, pick up items that aren’t where they belong and place them in a basket. Redistribute them where they should be as you enter a new room
  9. Straighten up the living and dining room, including picking up potential clutter, light dusting, fluffing/straightening pillows, and watering plants or flowers
  10. Make the beds
  11. Tidy the bedroom, including light dusting
  12. Hang up any clothes that may be about or ensure dirty ones are in the hamper
  13. Do a light tidy of the bathroom including removing and replacing used towels, refilling toilet paper and soap (if needed) and cleaning the sink and basin area including soap dishes
  14. Review the menu for the current day and the next and compare it to what’s currently available in the home. Make note of anything that needs to be prepared ahead of time or marketing (shopping) that needs to get done
  15. Begin long-advance preparations for dinner (such as making dessert)
  16. Wipe down kitchen work surfaces and inside the fridge
  17. Dispose of garbage
  18. Rinse dish cloths and hang to dry
  19. Sweep or mop the kitchen floor
  20. Handle errands that might take you out of the home (such as marketing, volunteering, going to the post office, getting an item fixed, etc), bookkeeping, correspondence, or indulge in a hobby
  21. If returning from the grocery store, wash vegetables, wrap them and put them away. Place rest of groceries or purchases in their proper place
  22. Have a quick lunch
  23. Start advance food conditioning like crisping vegetables or thawing frozen foods
  24. Handle weekly chore for the day (more on that below)
  25. Set the table for dinner
  26. Arrange the living room for evening enjoyment (such as “the Mister’s” newspaper, book, and cigarettes)
  27. Do a quick sweep of the floors and ensure entrance ways are clear
  28. Prepare a special dish for dinner
  29. Freshen up before the husband returns from work. Consider changing into something more festive if the day dress is plain
  30. Set out a tray with equipment for making cocktails, should “the Mister” want to serve drinks before dinner
  31. Greet husband “gayly”
  32. Serve dinner
  33. Clear table and wash dishes
  34. Pour boiling water down the sink to ensure pipes are flushed
  35. If necessary, pack the husband’s lunch for the next day. Set aside a lunch tray in the refrigerator for yourself if having leftovers
  36. Set table for breakfast
  37. Ensure breakfast foods are available and do any make-ahead preparations for it
  38. Enjoy an evening of relaxation

 

I got my “weekly chores for the day” from the second blog I mentioned:

  • Monday: Grocery and Kitchen
  • Tuesday: Laundry
  • Wednesday: Bedrooms and Bathrooms
  • Thursday: Linens and Living Room
  • Friday: Groceries, Defrost Fridge, Dining Rooms & Halls
  • Weekend: Free Day/Family Day

 

 

Monday

The day started off fine, minus the fact that I overslept and so my day started at – shock – 11am. I completed steps 1-8 fairly easily, minus the fact that my husband made breakfast. Step 9 was where things got tricky – see, my house wasn’t in a state to begin with where I could just “straighten up” the living room.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d recently done a clear out and it was looking miles better than it has done in the past, but there were still quite a few bits and pieces that took significantly longer to tidy and sort through than the schedule anticipated. I also got distracted and played Plague, inc. for 3 hours midway through the day, which didn’t exactly help with my timing budget. By the time I got to step 10, “make the bed”, it was already 7pm and we had had dinner. As a reminder, step 22 is “have a quick lunch”, so I was slightly behind the game.

One thing I found was that these steps were very uneven – some took hours, some didn’t need doing at all. For example, step 12 “Hang up any clothes that may be about or ensure dirty ones are in the hamper”, was irrelevant as I’d already done this. But step 13, “do a light tidy of the bathrooms”, took hours as I decided to clean them top to bottom (given how long it’s been since the house had a proper “deep clean”). By the time I got to step 14, “review the menu for the current day”, it was 23:30 and I decided to clean the kitchen counters and call it a day.

Overall, the first day went well – sure, I hadn’t managed to cover all the tasks, and I didn’t even get close to my “weekly chore for the day” which would have been a deep clean of the kitchen, but I had managed to deep clean several rooms in the house, and get rid of clutter that had been causing me a headache for months. I also decided that given this was Day 1, everything would of course take longer – deep cleaning is a much slower process than maintenance.

 

Tuesday

I got up slightly earlier, although my 10am start was still much later than a 50s housewife would have got up. Once again the first few steps were easy.

Barring what I’m going to call “irrelevant” steps, I actually got to step 19 before lunch, which I was super happy with.

I then realised that, other than my daily chore (laundry), everything else on the list was an “irrelevant” step. I don’t set the table because my husband and I eat in front of the TV (like animals). There’s no need to arrange the living room for “the Mister’s enjoyment”, or to set out a cocktail tray in case “the Mister” wants a pre-dinner drink. I won’t be packing the husband’s lunch for the next day as we are in quarantine and eating at home and also he isn’t a child and can buy his own damn food if he’s out. Setting the table for breakfast the night before feels like it will accomplish nothing more than blocking anyone from using it and making the plates slightly dustier (yum). So I decided to revise the list. It’s annoying scrolling through task after task that seems so convoluted it’s like crossing the bridge to get water (Danish expression – very fitting in this case I think). Here is the revised list:

 

  1. Throw back the covers
  2. Open up the blinds and windows
  3. Freshen up
  4. Make and serve breakfast
  5. Clean up breakfast
  6. Complete a 10-minute exercise regime
  7. Shower, do hair and makeup, get dressed
  8. Gather a basket for tidying. As the rooms of the home are tackled, pick up items that aren’t where they belong and place them in a basket. Redistribute them where they should be as you enter a new room
  9. Straighten up the living and dining room, including picking up potential clutter, light dusting, fluffing/straightening pillows, and watering plants or flowers
  10. Make the beds
  11. Tidy the bedroom, including light dusting
  12. Hang up any clothes that may be about or ensure dirty ones are in the hamper
  13. Do a light tidy of the bathroom including removing and replacing used towels, refilling toilet paper and soap (if needed) and cleaning the sink and basin area including soap dishes Whoever finished the roll should refill the toilet paper, any other system is ridiculous
  14. Review the menu for the current day and the next and compare it to what’s currently available in the home. Make note of anything that needs to be prepared ahead of time or marketing (shopping) that needs to get done Quarantine, enough said. Also, way to overcomplicate things
  15. Begin long-advance preparations for dinner (such as making dessert) If we ate dessert every day we would come out of this quarantine looking like balloons
  16. Wipe down kitchen work surfaces and inside the fridge This is a weekly task, not a daily one
  17. Dispose of garbage
  18. Rinse dish cloths and hang to dry Dish cloths should never need to be “rinsed” as I only ever use them for drying clean things – any cloths that actually get dirty need to go in the washing machine, not be “rinsed”
  19. Sweep or mop the kitchen floor
  20. Handle errands that might take you out of the home (such as marketing, volunteering, going to the post office, getting an item fixed, etc), bookkeeping, correspondence, or indulge in a hobby Nothing will be taking me out of the home in the near future
  21. If returning from the grocery store, wash vegetables, wrap them and put them away. Place rest of groceries or purchases in their proper place “If returning from the grocery store” let me stop you right there
  22. Have a quick lunch
  23. Start advance food conditioning like crisping vegetables or thawing frozen foods I don’t use frozen food and I have no idea what crisping vegetables is but it sounds like needless hassle
  24. Handle weekly chore for the day
  25. Set the table for dinner I touched on this earlier but dinner is consumed on the sofa and we are not ashamed
  26. Arrange the living room for evening enjoyment (such as “the Mister’s” newspaper, book, and cigarettes)
  27. Do a quick sweep of the floors and ensure entrance ways are clear
  28. Prepare a special dish for dinner
  29. Freshen up before the husband returns from work. Consider changing into something more festive if the day dress is plain No thanks
  30. Set out a tray with equipment for making cocktails, should “the Mister” want to serve drinks before dinner We drink whenever we want to, tray or no tray
  31. Greet husband “gayly” He is already at home
  32. Serve dinner
  33. Clear table and wash dishes
  34. Pour boiling water down the sink to ensure pipes are flushed
  35. If necessary, pack the husband’s lunch for the next day. Set aside a lunch tray in the refrigerator for yourself if having leftovers No one needs this
  36. Set table for breakfast Literally, why
  37. Ensure breakfast foods are available and do any make-ahead preparations for it “Ensure breakfast foods are available” sounds like someone wanted to explain what they contributed to the group project and oversold how much work they actually did
  38. Enjoy an evening of relaxation

 

Wednesday

Wednesday was the hardest day – the house already felt tidy, and every inch of me just wanted to enjoy that and take that day off. But I persevered, making sure to take long breaks and procrastinate at every opportunity. Forcing myself to go through with my 10 minute exercise regime was actually probably the most helpful thing in making me actually get on with things. Still, this wasn’t the most productive day.

I found the basket in step 8 most useful when I had things like laundry to fold and distribute around the house, and I also noticed that having a set day to do laundry every week meant pairs of socks were less likely to get separated in the wash. I was actually quite surprised to see pairs hanging neatly together when I was collecting them, rather than an individual stray here and there.

When it came to dusting the living room, I was really going through the motions – it felt entirely pointless to dust something two days in a row. What I quickly noticed was that I had actually missed a plethora of spots and my previously clean duster ended up looking quite grim by the end. I came to the conclusion that my constant sneezing attacks may in fact be due to the lack of dusting in the house.

Since I’d already deep cleaned the bathrooms two days prior, I decided this was an unnecessary “weekly task” and just did a quick wipe down of the surfaces. I also unblocked the sinks.

By the time I got to task 19, “sweep or mop the kitchen floors”, it was almost 3pm and I decided after careful consideration that the floors could go fuck themselves and I would be eating my lunch now. I did manage to mop the floors after lunch, both kitchen, living room, and hallway, and it really did make quite a big difference to the house. I think mopping the floors every week is actually a good idea.

Thursday

Thursday felt like the opposite of Wednesday. I got into the flow of things and everything just felt easy. I actually got started on my task for the day early, which was washing the linens (and dishcloths and whatnot). I also made two soups from scratch that would last for the next few days. The reason Thursday went so well was that a lot of the “bigger” tasks had already been done, and “straightening out” the various rooms became quite a low-effort task.

I was even planning on doing the patio with my newly purchased pressure washer, but unfortunately realised we were missing a functioning hose and so had to postpone this delightful activity.

My biggest “realisation” on Thursday was that the linens need a separate, assigned day. If you just do a wash whenever things get dirty, you will always prioritise clothes over linens – that’s just the way things are. I had dishcloths that hadn’t been washed for months lying around, and often half my laundry basket is taken up by sheets and duvet covers. This stuff doesn’t get priority, so I highly recommend having a specific “linens” day. I’m going to keep mine to Thursday, as that worked out nicely.

 

Friday

In honour of this being the last day, I decided to go through the full 38-step list point by point and document my opinion on each one. Never had I been so thorough with that list. If you’re interested in my ramblings, as I mentioned above go check out my insta story highlights.

I didn’t learn any massive nuggets of wisdom on Friday, as 90% of my day was spent documenting every single point on the list, but this did solidify exactly what was wrong with the existing list, and how I would change it.

It made it clearer to me what the best and worst things were about this routine, and which bits I wanted to try to keep in my daily life.

 

Thoughts on the Week

Overall I really enjoyed this week of chores. Quarantine was the perfect time to try something like this out, and I absolutely love having a clean and tidy home in general, so I sort of expected to enjoy it, but I can definitely say it was worth it and I’m very glad I did it. It also made my flat feel like a proper home. Again, this was something I was expecting, as I do think the art of home-making is under-appreciated and really important to having a wholesome and happy home life, but it’s still something else to actually know what that feels like in your own home.

Finally, I think this is something anyone can do. Let me elaborate on that: there are only so many hours in the day, and of course if you work full-time it’s essentially like having another job on top of that, so if you literally don’t have the hours in your life I would recommend getting a cleaner in at least once a month for the “deep clean” parts of the routine, but other than that, most of the tasks didn’t take long at all and it was just a case of building them into a routine and making them a daily habit.

 

The Simplified Routine 

Here are the parts of the routine I found most helpful, and the checklist I’ll be trying to follow from now on:

  1. The “morning” part of the routine, a.k.a. waking up, throwing the covers back, opening the windows, freshening up, serving and cleaning up breakfast, doing 10 minutes of exercise, showering, getting dressed.
  2. Gathering the basket and tidying things up. This really doesn’t take long, particularly as the more you do this, the more you end up just putting things in their place to begin with.
  3. Straightening up the living room, bedroom, and bathrooms. For the previous two rooms it’s things like folding the throw neatly that goes on the sofa, fluffing the pillows, dusting, and making the bed (I don’t understand why that’s a separate step above), and for the bathrooms, just get a cloth with some surface cleaner and wipe down the sink and potentially the shower / bathtub.
  4. Sweep, or hoover the kitchen floor. The kitchen floor seems to be the one that gets dirty the quickest for me, which I’m assuming is why they recommend sweeping it daily. I do recommend doing a quick run with the hoover or with a dustpan and brush to get rid of any bits of food that have landed on the floor or any dead leaves from plants that ended up there. It only needs to take a few minutes.
  5. Weekly chore.

This of course doesn’t include things like wipe down kitchen surfaces after meals, which is quite an obvious one, but I think if you’re cleaning your kitchen floor every day you’ll automatically end up wiping down the table as well!

These chores can easily be divided up if there are multiple people in the household. Or, depending on your hours, step 1 can be done in the morning and steps 2-5 in the evening, or you can get it all out the way before lunch if you’re working from home. It can legitimately all be done before lunch by one person, particularly if you start at a reasonable time like 7am rather than my more leisurely 10am lockdown starts. BUT, this stuff has to be done daily in order for it to be a quick task. It might even be worth doing a deeper tidy on a Sunday evening in order to start the week right and to make sure these things won’t take too long throughout the week, depending on how much free time you have.

 

Simplified Weekly Chores

I haven’t yet gone into much detail about the weekly chores, so below are my tips for what needs to be sorted on a weekly basis.

  • Monday: Kitchen
    • Oven, hob, & microwave
    • Check fridge for expired products and if it’s looking grim take things out and clean it properly
    • All the nooks and crannies that need wiping down
  • Tuesday: Laundry (clothes)
    • Just washing and hanging – folding etc. happens in step 2 above whenever they’re dry
  • Wednesday: Bathrooms
    • Clean mirrors and taps so they sparkle
    • Bleach toilets
    • Clean bath/showers
  • Thursday: Linens
    • Just washing and hanging – folding etc. happens in step 2 above whenever they’re dry
  • Friday: Floors & sorting
    • Sort through some part of the house that needs it. I’m sure something needs sorting – don’t pretend it doesn’t!
    • Mop all the floors in the house

If you’re a freelancer like me, this is a fantastic way to spend the quarantine – I highly recommend. If you don’t have a time limit I suggest trying to do it “properly” and seeing how you get on – that way you can figure out what works for your home and what doesn’t!

 

Let me know what you think and whether this is something you’d try or not!

Milette xoxo

 

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Efrat says:

    Wow. That sounds like hard work. Could you also get into the mindset of a 50s housewife, who saw this as her life’s vocation?

    Like

    1. miletteriis says:

      Yes, definitely! I can 100% see why people felt such a connection to their home and their surroundings – it literally is a job, it’s just unpaid. But I think in many ways it’s much more rewarding than say cleaning a café or someone else’s home for a salary.

      Like

  2. I Nailed it or Failed it says:

    I kind of want to try this next week! But need to add homeschool my 5 kids ages 2-9 in there. We will see!!!

    Like

    1. miletteriis says:

      Ah yeah I feel like kids would completely screw with the system – let me know how it goes!! 🙂

      Like

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