OT....The demise of domesticity?

yoyobon_gwJanuary 6, 2014

This is OT but I'd like to hear from others about this.

As I was ironing my pillowcases this morning I began to wonder whether the art of homemaking or domesticity has become a thing of the past.
I recall my own mother ironing everything. Of course that was in the 1950;s when clothes dryers weren't widely available and she hung all her clothes on a line.
She also had a schedule of fall house cleaning and spring cleaning .....even the walls were washed down.

When I was a Home Economics major in education while at college I had to spend 8 weeks in what was called "the Home Management House" ,,,, a large victorian home where we lived and practiced the skills of homemaking .
There were many other girls there as well and we were responsible for a different housekeeping task each week.
And once in the rotation we had to plan a party for members of the community.
Our efforts were evalutated by a live-in proffessor.

I wonder if today's women have the same ethic for keeping house.
I know many who would think I'm crazy for ironing pillowcases or napkins.

I'm at the other end of my 60's..........a baby boomer.
Is it just my era?

What do you think?

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My goodness, what a palaver to get back on to this site. I had to get DH to go through several possible combinations on the 'address bar' (if that is what it is called) before he could find one that would allow me to sign-in.

Yvonne, we must be 'much of an age' and I think I learnt my rather underdeveloped housekeeping skills from my mother . . . who had little time for the domestic arts . . . and would have been much happier sailing round the world in a tramp-steamer or taking a long journey on the Trans-Siberian railway.
I don't think anyone in the UK goes in for 'Spring Cleaning' any more, 'though in the days of coal-fires and terrible smogs in industrial cities it would have made sense.
I still hang clothes outside on the line, weather permitting, and I do iron but draw the line at underpants and socks.
I think 'old fashioned' cooking ie using basic ingredients and providing a nourishing meal from scratch is fast becoming a thing of the past.
I realise that many people lead busy lives and have little time for anything than open a packet, stick it in the microwave and . . . ping.
And very many people over here wouldn't recognise a napkin or know what to do with it.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 3:48PM
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I am older than both of you! I was raised by my working Mother & Grandmother who didn't want to take the time to teach me how to be a 'housewife'. Their comments were that it was much faster to do things themselves-including washing the dishes. So when I got married housework was hit or miss-especially cooking!
I have learned over the years to be a better 'homemaker' even though I worked.
These days even in retirement I have a housekeeper that comes in twice per month and does things like the floors, bathrooms & kitchen etc. and I try to keep up with the rest, although she will do extra projects if I ask especially when I have family come to visit & need to get an extra bedroom ready.

I don't do much ironing these days, but I do iron pillowcases and napkins - I have an aversion to paper napkins and plastic utensils!


    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 4:10PM
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As the oldest in my family and with a teacher-mother, I did the family ironing in the days of wringer washing machines and outdoor drying, regardless of the weather and the coal soot that drifted onto the clothes on windy days, from early on. I still don't mind ironing, but I do appreciate all the fabric that only needs pressing these days (and spray starch for those few things that need it).

My mother didn't care what chores we did, and I had rather clean than cook. My 4-1/2-year-younger sister, on the other hand, would rather cook than clean and was old enough to help by the time I went away to school. Consequently, she was always a very good cook, and I was, let us say, not. I learned by trial and error to avoid starvation, but in my early married days we used to have a lot of tomato soup and tuna fish sandwiches.

Now, I'm not sure that it isn't just laziness, but I do have a young woman who cleans for me every other week. I'm a neatnik so I keep things tidy, but the dust just has to land where it likes and wait for Kacie. My stepdaughter who helped me with putting Christmas stuff away started chorusing with me, "Kacie will get it" for the residue.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 4:45PM
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I find the home arts to be comforting and satisfying. It is quite different, though, from the days when women were expected to make housekeeping their life's purpose. For me, it is an activity I enjoy, not my fate. I enjoy knitting, sewing, putting things into order, even doing dishes. But I would not want a life restricted to these activities.

Like some others here I iron napkins. I only use paper ones when we have an outdoor party. I actually make my own napkins sometimes, linen preferred, but cotton is okay. Hate polyester.

I also hang my clothes outside. I did not do this when I was working outside the home. Fabrics and clothing last a great deal longer this way, but it does take more time than using the dryer.

We also have an occasional housecleaner, but my DH and I seem to do an awful lot of cleaning on our own. I'm happy to report that he does a good share of the cleaning and cooking. I have no complaints there. In fact, he is an excellent cook.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 5:12PM
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I am a housekeeping failure.

I have never ironed a pillowcase in my life. I use very good quality paper napkins with proper linen etc for special meals. Napkins are like socks, when I do finally try to round them up, to iron them, some have escaped and are never found again. I tried to do this at Christmas with my special tablecloth and found I had 8 out of the ten napkins I needed so back to the paper ones. But I did make very creative napkin holders with ribbons and pinecones and my table was decorated originally and beautifully.
Friday is my chore day, because I do like a clean house but definitely do not enjoy washing floors, vacuuming (did I spell that right?), scrubbing pots, etc. I consider the toilets the beasts in the house and attack them like they are firebreathing dragons with chemical arsenals and scrubbrush weapons. I have to put on "housecleaning" music, and then I am a woman on a mission. "Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!"" You get the idea.
By the way, if ever any of you want some therapy and would like to clean my house, let me know and I will send you airfare. Please bring books though.

This post was edited by janalyn on Mon, Jan 6, 14 at 20:05

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 5:48PM
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Me thinks I have opened a can o' worms with this one !

I am going to assume that all the responders are older than 50?

Here's a question:

Where do we learn how to " keep a house" ?
Is it from observation or participation ( okay , let's call it what it is.....conscription! ) or perhaps as a positive consequence of growing up in an unkept house?

I wonder.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 6:10PM
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I can't think of when was the last time I ironed something. I have a high tolerance for wrinkles and fold creases from living out of a suitcase most of my adult life.

Conscription is definitely the word for how I learned housekeeping. I come from a long line of Hausfrauen, paragons of domestic virtue. I am the first failure in our family.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 6:41PM
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I iron hankies .. sometimes. :)

As for cooking,DH does it all (except holiday dinners) - otherwise, we'd subsist on cold cereal and peanut butter sandwiches.

I have someone come in to clean the house too.

I'm just shy of 60, and disdained domesticity when I was growing up! I did like crewel work though, but that's about as domestic as I got!

I did get taught - the daily dusting, and to swipe with the grain of the wood with a soft cloth, and all that stuff. My mom did the sprinkling and ironing when I was a girl, but I never progressed much beyond the 'flat stuff.' I did have to drag out the iron when rayon was popular about 10 years or so ago, but I've learned that if you set the dryer on 'air' and tumble for a long time, the wrinkles are mostly gone.

Maybe when I retire I'll re-discover the domestic arts. But then again, maybe not. :)

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 7:29PM
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I grew up with a mother whose house was immaculate, all done by her. Used to say you could eat off her floors; its just you didn't want to eat anything she cooked.
as a result, I'm a good cook who hates housework. If it says it needs ironing, I don't buy it. I let my W&D do the work, that's why I bought them. Dusting? I say if you can't write your name in it, it isn't ready. That's a little exaggerated, since I do have someone come in every 2 weeks, so it can't get very dirty. My DH & I keep the house picked up, so it always looks tidy, and that goes a long way for the impression it gives.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 2:43AM
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Clothes driers seem to be used _much_ more in the US than here - it may have something to do with our climate, but also at least 50% of my clothes say 'do not tumble dry'. I hang stuff on the line unless it is likely to get wetter, although if the weather is dodgy I will put the undies and socks in the drier, as they take a while to hang out (and get off the line if it rains).
I wasn't allowed to cook at home as our kitchen was very small and my mother didn't/doesn't like anyone in there with her. I am much the same except for family members. I had to learn to cook pretty much when I got married. My DH is a chemist and thus a good cook, and he often cooks for me on weekends.
My mother used to sprinkle the washing that needed ironing and roll it up, and I was allowed to iron square things, so pillowcases, hankies, napkins, tea towels and that was about it. I don't think I ironed a shirt until I was married at 21. I still iron quite a lot - all T shirts and shirts, jeans, pillowcases unless they are going straight back on the bed (mostly they do). Ironing is probably my favourite household chore, as I will put something on the TV and it has a kind of calming effect. I am pleased to say my elder son irons his shirts. The younger one has just moved out and his girlfriend isn't an ironer. However he wears a lot of T shirts that really do need a press, and said he would iron for himself, so I will be interested to see.
I don't like dusting, vacuuming, floor washing or cooking, although I am competent at them all. I am seriously thinking of getting a cleaner.
I also don't do gardening. As a Libran, I hate getting my hands dirty and thus only like pruning, but my DH won't allow it as I tend to get carried away :) This dislike of dirty hands extends to food handling and I love the disposable gloves that let me touch raw meat and knead dough without feeling ill.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 6:05AM
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My mother was Sicilian and was a extremely meticulous housekeeper. However, I do not recall that she was a wonderful cook. Her forte' was baking.
We were never allowed to eat in the living room or take food into my bedroom. Perish the thought !
Oddly, I was never included in any housekeeping chores.
It makes me wonder how I developed my sense of how to keep a home clean and tidy.......I will guess that I absorbed the whole system by observation!

However, could there be a genetic predisposition to cleanliness and order? ( or is that where OC comes in??)
My son has always been neat and clean . He never saves anything and is a de-clutterer.
My daughter was never neat or orderly. Messes never bothered her and it was always a point of contention to keep her room in order.

I sometimes suspect that messiness is an outward sign of
emotional chaos.

Do you keep inside your car as tidy as your home?
Do you form an opinion of someone if their car is a ttraveling trash can inside?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 6:56AM
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My husband is meticulous about the car! He keeps it washed, dusted and the interior immaculate, even though it stays in the garage unless being driven. I am not even allowed to keep a small box of Kleenex in it!

I suppose I should add that he has a 1980 Toyoda truck that he drives and he is not nearly as particular about that!


    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 12:17PM
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Years ago when I was a flight attendant in London, I rented an upstairs room from a very nice German woman. Her home was immaculate - I mean every square inch. She insisted I keep my room tidy, and I tried, but I could not approach her standards and she would throw up her hands and tackle it herself. Oddly, I didn't mind. When she finished you could literally eat off any surface, including the bedspread.

At one time I lived in a tiny house in a Polish neighborhood in Chicago. You have never seen such a tidy street. Tiny little homes with tiny little front yards. Folks would literally trim the grass with scissors. Once I mentioned to my next door neighbor that I had spent several hours looking for something. A few days later she asked about it, and I told her that I had found it that morning, under the bed. She got a look of horror on her face and said something like "You haven't cleaned under your bed in three days?" I stammered that my blankets were stored in a box under the bed and I rarely move it, which caused her to throw up her hands in alarm. Not only didn't I clean under the bed often enough, I stored things under it! The Horror!

I'm afraid I could not, even with great effort, approach the ability and drive of these women to keep their homes clean.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 5:48PM
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I think there is a sort of cultural ethic regarding housekeeping in different countries.
At least, there used to be.
Perhaps it has been lost in these latest generations?

I remember traveling through Germany and Switzerland 30 years ago and being amazed at the pride these people took in their property. It was not an unusual sight to see woman sweeping the gutters in the street outside their home.
In Switzerland I recall seeing an older man sweeping the streets and sidewalks with an enormous dignity and sense of pride. It did not feel as though this was menial.

As a child I remember going to my aunt's apartment and being aware of how very, very clean and neat and orderly her home was.
I could never figure out what she did that made it feel that way.
Even in her older years her home was always so.

If I could say I envy anything it would be that ability to create such a clean and orderly home.
It's a mystery.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 6:24PM
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Yoyo, I do think there is a genetic predisposition to cleanliness and order. My youngest brother and I are born neatniks--even our childhood toys were neat. In fact, my mother used to relate the story that when I was four, my two-year-old cousin visited and messed up all my play area except a doll neatly wrapped in its blanket, in its cradle. After she left, I told my mother she must not have seen it or else she would have messed it up, too.

On the other hand, my sister and other brother were never neat, and their surroundings reflected that. My sister does now keep a very pretty house, but her heart is not in it. As I said upthread, though, she is a marvelous cook. When her first child was little, I asked where her dry training pants were. Looking in the specified drawer, I found a tumble of underwear and socks that had to be stirred through to find what was needed. Gave me the heebee jeebies just to look at it.

Let me hasten to add that I am not of the German persuasion. I worked with a woman who washed her walls twice a year. My walls have never been washed; in my opinion, that's what paint is for.

And in answer to your questions, yes and yes.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 7:00PM
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Siobhan, I'm laughing in recognition of your German landlady. I had one in Germany who gave me a dressing down for neglecting to dust the top shelves in my closet regularly which were over my head and it didn't cross my mind to inspect them twice weekly. Because the attic access was in the ceiling of my closet, she also expected me to climb up to it, push the panel open, and dust the attic floor around the opening. She gave me a brush, dustpan, and dust cloths for that purpose. I meekly accepted them and made a note on my to-do list: Dust attic at least once a week.

My mother and grandmother were of the school that nothing but air should be under a bed.

I actually prefer a house that's not too neat and clean. I'm uncomfortable in surgical sterility or in a museum-quality or House Beautiful-type set piece, too afraid I'm going to mess things up to live in it. Clean, tidy, and orderly enough is good enough for me. Besides that, there's the obsessive-compulsive aspect that I suspect some of my relatives had/have developed, which they could not/cannot conceive of as being in any way pathological.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 7:16PM
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Oh boy....there's another place I forgot, the drawers.

I always believed that clothing put into drawers should be folded neatly and placed in proper places.
The horror of opening a drawer ( someone else's) and finding a jumbled mess of unders , socks etc makes me want to sit down and organize it !
Is that borderline something???

I have decided that disorder is actually upsetting to me on some deep level.
It makes me want to organize the mess....and I get great pleasure from doing that.
There is a sense of satisfaction to setting things right.

Is that a symptom of an over-controlling nature....or simply a sense of organization?

I hate getting into someone's car that is dusty and dirty inside and having to move old mail or empty cans/bottles on the floor to make room for me.
It makes sense to me to clean up what messes you've created as soon as you are finished with the activity.
A place for everything.....etc.

When I leave for vacation I go through the house and clean up and vacuum.
I really dislike returning home to any kind of mess.

I also find it less enjoyable to sit down to a good book or knitting or whatever if the room needs vacuuming !

Oh my gosh.....am I discovering a compulsion here?
Or am I just wanting to enjoy my activity guilt-free...knowing the work is done.

Too much introspection is too much !

OR......perhaps I should have become someone's cleaning lady ( beside DH's .....ugh)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 7:28AM
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Oh dear... where to begin?

Perhaps with ironing.. I have a four-year-old ironing board that has never left the basement and, in fact, still lives within the plastic sheathing when it was wrapped up at the factory. It is "for emergencies only" apparently, and an emergency that dire has yet to arise.

I am a fabulous cook... homemade everything, including breads and soups and sauces.

My kids, upon punishment by death, have finally stopped drawing smiley faces in the dust that sits on my bookshelves. I do not mind dusting and I do it and prefer to have it looking brisk but now that I work full time, it just doesn't always happen.

I like things tidy and cannot go to bed unless things are put away properly including the plumping of the sofa pillows. My kids, now that I work full time, have really really pitched in and help out in hundreds of ways. As has my fiancée. In fact, he has totally taken over the laundry and does a better job than me.

As I get older, I find that I am lowering my standards on a lot of house-y stuff. Time is precious. I will get the house tidy but not perfect, and turn my energy toward things that I enjoy doing like making breads or reading or gardening. Not only that, I want less stuff as the years go by (I am 46). I do not want dustables and smelly candles and dish towels with cute holiday themes that I store in a cupboard 50 weeks per year. I just don't want it anymore. Give me good and beautiful stuff that I can use and enjoy until it is used up, broken, worn out, and then I will get new beautiful stuff to use everyday and repeat the cycle. I no longer judge myself by the perfection of my house. Beautiful and tidy, yes. Perfect? Nope. Not even on my radar.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 7:42AM
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PAM.....Oh, you are a young pup !
I think your priorities are exactly where they should be.
Of course, I'm old enough to be your younger mother :0) and as such am overly generous with my opinions !

My generation inherited the notion that there was "good" china/silver/crystal and "everyday".
Fortunately I have let go of most of that nonsense.

My new mantra: Use daily or sell it .
And I have, including all the wonderful Waterford MIL gave me through the years.
I'd rather have an assortment of odd mismatched vintage stemware and enjoy using them than rent space in my hutch for "precious" things.

Declutter your closets , your shelves your relationships and your life.
If it is no longer relevant and no longer gives you pleasure, get rid of it.
And thus....enjoy more deeply that which remains.

Thus ends the daily sermonette ......lol.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 8:12AM
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Gen Xer here.

The only things I iron are tablecloths, blouses (of which I have only one) and the occasional pair of pants. I take care to buy clothes that don't need ironing because ironing is my second least-favourite household task (after washing dishes). My grandmother on the other hand used to iron even her dish-rags.

As a young woman, my mom went to a householding school where she learned all the skills considered necessary for a good housewife, but she was a neat freak already. Her house is always spick and span to the point that she is going nuts over keeping the parquet floors clean and shining. She used to wash the walls and dust the ceiling before every Christmas, but has stopped because it makes her fibromyalgia worse.

I did not inherit those genes. I keep things relatively clean, but tidying is not a strong point. However, when I have guests coming, I can clean and tidy the apartment to an acceptable level in 30 minutes flat and do a minor spring cleaning in an hour, a skill learned when I used to clean houses for a living.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 10:01AM
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Wow. Your mum went to householding school? Impressive! Is that along similar lines as home ec or cooking classes? In UK growing up, we had cooking classes (but nothing much seemed to stick, I'm afraid). My parents had a cleaner come to the house five days/week so as kids, we rarely were asked to do anything domestic. (Hooray!)

I have only really become slightly more domestic in the last few years - perhaps it's an age thing. It's also definitely a cold-weather thing. I would rather do anything else than cook when it's summer!

Thinking back on this, my parents did not encourage any domesticity from any of us kids. I think they wanted us to set our sights "higher" than domesticity (not that there is anything wrong with that)...

I'm still not great, but at least I like vacuuming the house now! We have a housekeeper visit 2/month which is definitely a marriage saver. :-)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 1:55PM
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Yoyobon, organizational skills are in great demand in some fields, you know. (I'm a picture straightener, too.)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 7:31PM
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Lemonhead, think home economics, cooking classes, cleaning, sewing, embroidery, knitting, crochet, weaving, making clothes, etc. Basically all the housewifely arts that could be taught. It was a boarding school with strict rules - letting boys into your room or drinking could get you expelled and there was a curfew.
This was in the late sixties and she would have been around 19 or 20. At that time and earlier, it was considered a fine thing for young women who didn't plan on going to college to have been to one of these schools.

Householding schools were common in Scandinavia (and I think in Germany as well) well into the 20th century and some still exist. There is one (or maybe two) still open in Iceland, but they are no longer exclusively for women. Back in my mother's day they were actually called "housewife schools".

Incidentally, my first home ec teacher at school was the former headmistress of the householding school my mom went to. I think she must have been in her seventies by then.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 9:33AM
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My major in a state college ( 1964 ish) was education with a major in Home Economics. However, the program had a Science minor.......and the Math, Economics and History classes were killers.
The classes in Home Ec. were in a Home Ec building and when we were in it we had to be "properly attired".
No slacks at all.
This was a huge problem because the college is in the coldest snowbelt of the state. And I had no car and walked to classes in subzero weather. I'd wear long pants then change in the restrooms before going to class!
The professors were uptight biddies.
And of course we also had curfews.....and no boys in the dorm rooms ( that was unheard of !!)
Thankfully I graduated just on the cusp of the late 60's upheaval .

My first teaching position involved having to work along with an older nasty teacher who was very strange.
I remember one day she opened an oven in class to take out biscuits and the heat from the oven melted the front of her wig !!!
She came into my classroom to wailed about it and I had all I could do not to laugh.

Through the years I found the concept of Home Ec. changing drastically . In our state it became mandated and every student had to take the class through 7 and 8 grade.
The name was changed to Home and Careers and then to Life Skills.
We taught not only nutrition and sewing but also budgeting, child development, life skills and decision-making/problem-solving, career choices etc.
Unfortunately now it is becoming less valued although young people seem to need these skills more and more.

I've always felt that creating and managing a home was one of the most important things you could do for yourself and a family.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 10:10AM
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When I was in seventh grade, age 12, I was in the very last mandatory "Home Economics" class. Up until then, the boys were automatically enrolled in Shop, where they tooled leather and learned to use power tools, and the girls were slotted into Home Ec, where we sewed and boiled eggs. Unfortunately I had a family tragedy early into the semester and was terribly behind for the rest of the class. The teacher wanted nothing to do with me, but luckily my classmates pitched in to tutor me. Unfortunately, they didn't know much about the things they were trying to teach me. I didn't really learn anything, but I already knew how cook quite well. Sewing was a complete loss, but I can do simple repairs, having been taught basics by my grandmother.

As I said, after this year all the classes were optional and theoretically open to both sexes. It was quite a while until the courses developed into a class called Life Skills that was strongly encouraged for everyone.

I wish I had learned at least some basics about handling money and budgeting. That would have been useful.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 10:45AM
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Donnamira: You mentioned that you ironed hankies. Does anyone actually still use hankies? I can still remember those, as I used to have to iron them when I was a kid also. There were the fancy ones that someone had crocheted lace edging around.Those were the hardest to do. My aunt was a nurse and I can remember that she always had a fancy handkerchief pinned on her uniform.

My sister, who worked fulltime and had three children, (this was in the 50's) always had about half of her refrigerator devoted to dampened and rolled items to be ironed.

Although I never was a good housekeeper, I've found that the older I get, the lazier I get. I hate to vacuum these days, but since I have a long-haired dog, it is necessary once in a while, usually when company comes. But since I almost consider myself a recluse, that doesn't happen very often. I'd consider getting someone in to help, but I'm too 'cheap' to do that.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 10:56AM
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I was never one to iron sheets, but on the whole, I never minded ironing provided I had the time to do it. I recall in the 80's when everything was linen for summer and it seemed all I did was iron, as I was working full time.

On the other hand, I hate dusting and hoovering (as the Brits call it). I don't mind washing dishes. Like ironing, I find it somewhat therapeutic and soothing, especially if I can listen to music while I'm doing it.

I remember seeing folk in Holland washing down their sidewalks with brushes, soap and water, daily. I found this remarkable. After traveling in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia, I was impressed with the contrast of all the dirt in the USA when I returned home, having lived a year in France.

In Virginia, I used to take my laundry to be done by a German lady. She was perfection: precise, meticulous, and took great pride in her work.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 10:58AM
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I admire countries who have such pride in their environments.
Something less lovely has happened in the USA.
People seem to think it's not their job/problem/duty.

Remember in the 80's when you 'gave a hoot and didn't pollute' ? No one would think of throwing anything out a car window to litter the roadside.
Now....it's commonplace again.
Why do we need a "give a hoot' campaign to remind us not to be mindless slobs?

And here's shout out to smokers: "Who do you think comes along and cleans up all your stinkin' butts that you dumb out of your car as you are waiting at that red light??"

Children in school leave garbage and messes on the cafeteria floor saying " Let the janitors do it, that's what they get paid for."

What has happened?
Are we so entitled , always thinking someone else will take care of us?
I don't understand any of it.

I suspect it has to start at home....in the family car....at the famly dinner table....talking about values and ethics and how to be good citizens....and what we should and shouldn't do.

I feel this is the paddle-less canoe up the creek scenario.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 11:20AM
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I agree that there has seemed to be a cultural shift in the US re littering, leaving messes, etc. I noticed in the north European countries littering was never seen, even with kids.

I also agree that everything begins at home, by setting a good example by parents, etc. I think this issue is just another manifestation of the general, overall breakdown of values in America in recent decades. We have become a selfish nation, with a coarsening of our prior values, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 11:27AM
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Wood mentioned normal people sweeping their streets etc. - funny that you mention that as my mum (now late 70's in age) has just taken on this job. I'm not how this whole situation evolved (my mum sweeping her street), but I'm glad that someone is taking care of the environment.

Perhaps some of the world's problems are because "It's not my problem" is quite a common excuse?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 1:31PM
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Do you really think families still eat at a dinner table? The only one of my step-grandchildren who could sit down and eat a meal at the table decently was the grandson who lived most of his first four years in our house. He now has four children of his own, and they have a kitchen table that looks well used. Maybe I have had a wee bit of influence in my life after all.

My adopted grandson that I wrote about on Frieda's thread took "Life Skills" as a high school senior. He had fulfilled all the required courses and took it more or less as a lark. He fell behind on making his apron (didn't everyone make an apron as a first sewing lesson?) and the teacher let him bring it home to finish on time. He sewed every stitch, but I stood behind him and directed most of them. "We" got an A- and were both proud. He didn't like sewing, but he enjoyed cooking and makes a mean omelet. The class also had a unit watching a taped Dave Ramsey Financial Peace seminar that really took with him, so much so that he lectured his best buddy about saving some of his summer job money. I think it is a good thing for all youngsters to get at least a smattering of household skills.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 7:15PM
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maxmom, i much prefer hankies to tissues, they are much softer and less likely to irritate. But nowadays i must find them on ebay! I have one or two from my grandmother with the lovely crocheted edging. She gave me a white one with white lace for my wedding.

In my day, boys were assigned to the shop class and girls to home ec, which I hated. But my class was one of the first where some of the girls asked for shop instead. We had rotating sessions of art, music, and home ec/shop. I got stuck with the cooking class in 7th grade, but the next year when home ec was sewing, I was moved to another group, so the rotation gave me the art session twice and no home ec session. Yay! I've always been hopeless with a sewing machine - all I have to do is look at it, and the thread becomes impossibly tangled and knotted.

"Life skills" is a new one on me - I learned all that stuff from my parents!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 8:50PM
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I still keep a hanky in my pocket, and iron them. There is usually one in the pocket of what ever trousers I put on. I use tissues most of the time, but a hanky doesn't fall apart :) They are still available to buy easily here in Oz.
I also did Home Economics for 3 years in high school - our first lesson was the Oslo lunch, which was a hard boiled egg with salad. I also remember Scotch Eggs, and the only other thing I can recall is making coconut ice for Christmas one year. Sadly the ingredients we were given to cook with were often a bit second rate.
We also did a bit of washing, ironing, and in the third year, child development, home design and health which included a make up session. We had to make something, and by that time I was a keen knitter at home, so made a rather complicated jumper and got an 'A' :)
The boys did Woodwork and Metalwork (now called Tech studies). My DH said he made a bedside cabinet, small stands for speakers and a metal pencil box and metal magazine rack, among other things.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 3:34AM
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Perhaps hankies are tough to find around here, as a lot of people prefer to *sniff* all day. (Grrrrr.) I frequently hand my co-worker tissues as a "hint"...

I like the thought of housekeeping, and am happy to read non-fiction about its history and other aspects. I'm just not the greatest fan in the world of doing it. I love it when it's done though, and I'm much better than I was.

Luckily, DH is very good at this kind of thing and has been a patient teacher throughout which has been enormously helpful.

I know that my two American nephews are good at cooking everyday meals, not so sure about the London one. I know he's good at cooking cakes, but everyday supper food - not sure. I hope so (for his and his future partner's sake).

Below is a link to one of my favorite domesticity books... Not that many instructions but a lovely meditation...

Here is a link that might be useful: The Art of Domesticity - Jane Brockett

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 9:55AM
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When at school we did 'Domestic Science' which was really just cookery. I can well remember my first lesson was 'rock buns' which certainly lived up to their names. Second lesson was pastry-making. Not easy as I had never cooked at home, only used to being my Mother's skivvy washing up, peeling spuds etc.
My brothers did the usual woodwork, tech drawing etc at school.
Nowadays little proper 'cookery' or needlework is taught
I was expected to make beds, dust, wield the 'hoover' etc and didn't enjoy it.

I really think parents should make children 'help' in the house and not sit about being waited on like little Emperors, although this probably goes against the grain of modern parenting where kids must be entertained 24/7.

How many of you notice a change in attitudes towards the amount of 'help' men give around the house.
When I was a young child (late40's50's) my Grandfather lived with us and did nothing except eat, sit and read the paper and sleep. My Mother claimed when she first 'joined the family' he was unable to get clean clothes out or put stuff to be laundered. His sisters and Mother had waited on him hand and foot and even cleaned his football and cricket boots! Difficult to believe he had been quite a sportsman in his day.
He would let the fire go out rather than put a shovel of coal onto it and used to get me (aged 3-4) to make phone calls on his behalf . . .
My father was able to cook 'basic' meals and was good at noticing what needed dusting/cleaning and would drive my Mother mad by telling her about the wives of friends, all paragons of virtue, who were up every day at dawn polishing, cooking vast meals, cleaning the oven every week . . . and apparently telling everyone about it.
My DH is able to cook and makes excellent bread but is less interested in cleaning and is the world's most untidy person who never throws anything away.
My older son and s-in-law are very domesticated and can do as much, if not more than their wives, from child-care to ironing.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 10:51AM
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I definitely notice a change in attitude between my parent's generation and the next. My DH, as mentioned, is wonderful at housekeeping and cooking and doing the groceries and actually "likes" it. I have picked up tips from him in terms of being tidier around the house and he has picked up tips from me about being a bit more organized.

It's been win-win really.

And yes Veer - I wish mum and dad has forced us to be more involved with housekeeping -- but I liked it at the time. And TBH, it's not like my sis and I were swanning around the house like queens looking at ourselves in the mirrors - we had two swimming practices a day (plus dryland training) and we were on every imaginable sports team so time was not wasted!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 5:02PM
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I meant to say that my dear old dad, on the other hand, did not ever do anything to help around the house. I can't remember him vacuuming, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry or even making a bed. I don't know why my mum allowed this but perhaps things were very different then.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 5:07PM
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Hankies.....ah, yes.....the fashion staple of every cafeteria worker in the 1950's !
Remember they'd all sport one in the pocket of their uniform ( yes back then they wore uniforms). And the hankies changed from season to season and holiday to holiday.

I can remember people would tuck a lovely hankie into a birthday card or a special remembrance card.

Our large deparment store of the 1950-60's had a special section for hankies ! They were displayed in a glass counter in colorful array.
When you'd enter the store during the holiday season there would be a gowned woman on a raised platform playing music on an organ ! ( not this blasting hideous music that many mall stores now feature).
You'd go from floor to floor in an elevator with an elevator attendant in full uniform. She or he would announce the floors then before pulling back the big brass gate they'd adjust the height of the car so it was level with the floor !
As a child I thought that must be a wonderful job !

I have to chuckle....even today that sticks in my mind.
As I'm holding my three year old grandson and carrying him downstairs by sitting and hiney bumping all the way, I'll say " Going down,,,,,Ladie's lingerie" LOL.
He loved it and would squeal " Ladie's Laundry !" ( of course who even knows what lingerie is any more !).

Every department store always had a wonderful tea room where the ladies would stop for lunch during a shopping trip on the town.

And what did you call the main street of your town?
We referred to it as " downtown" in one city.....and "overtown" in another town close by and the third of the Triple Cities was " up town". And we all knew by the label which town it was !

My MIL used to say she was going " over street" .

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 5:33PM
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My lack of domestic arts would amaze you! I got out of doing much around the house until at 27 years old I was finally in my own place with an undomesticated husband and two small children. I had to remember what I had seen done.
I still can't bake more than a bacon and egg pie and luckily I managed to get someone to do the housework when I had jobs or we would have been knee deep in dust.
Now I mostly buy ready made meals or make a pressure cooker stew and salads in summer. A home help does the mopping and vaccing for me.
Hankies aren't difficult for me to find as most charity shops have donated fancy boxes. I now have some pretty Swiss cotton ones. I gave one to a girl who had a wardrobe malfunction at a wedding and it looked like a lace edged camisole, hiding her problem! Necessity being a mother.....

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 8:15AM
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Vee, yes, there has been a huge sea change in attitudes of men towards helping out around the house. Particularly since so many women work full time outside the home. My father thought his responsibility ended with keeping up the yard and the repairs on the house. He would not set foot in the kitchen except to make his special Egg Nog at Xmas.

While I was working full time and my late husband was retired, he was willing to prepare delicious dinners, do some washing, care for the dog and the yard and do repairs, as well as helping me in other ways.

The young couples that I know have equal sharing in housework chores and child-rearing. This is a good thing!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I was briefly inducted into this torture at the behest of a teary-eyed offspring who wanted nice smooth school shirts. Within a week or so we were all becoming addicted to smooth clothes so I knocked that one on the head sharpish.
Not really up to much at all as a domestic goddess - what could be more futile than clearing up after children, large dogs and so forth? And yet, there is a horridly compulsive chromosome somewhere lurking in my DNA which does impel me to at least simulate the appearance of order and tidiness....although a look in any cupboard reveals the terrible secret behind the relatively normal facade - a hive of shambolic sluttiness. I have a number of friends who state proudly that their houses are not tidy but they are clean.....while I must confess to the opposite....it looks OK on the surface but dig a little deeper and it would probably be wise to have rubber gloves and facemasks at hand.
Behind (filthy) curtains, horrors lurk.

The garden, otoh!!! My seed trays are probably (certainly) cleaner than my dinner plates and I get through many scouring pads scrubbing old pots and re-usable labels.....while the seed storage 'facility' (spare fridge) is infinitely glossier and shinier than the family food storage area.....although I lay some of the blame on industrial designers who have obviously never had to use a scrubbing brush in their lives.....or they would not include those mystifying and irrelevant decorative niches, flanges, depressions and extrusions which do nothing apart from trap dirt which can only be removed by using some poking sharp object (toothpick).

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 1:49PM
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Campanula, there is a very small rubberized depression all around my glass top kitchen stove. I assume it is there to keep spills from running onto the floor, but it is the bane of my existence. What it seems to collect is stray crumbs from who knows where that can only be removed by "some poking sharp object" as you said. I think the designer was an undomesticated man.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 6:27PM
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