How to Do Old Fashioned Housework

Written by lorena cassady
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How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
Before the arrival of modern appliances in the '50s, housework was more strenuous. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Housework before the introduction of electricity and labour-saving devices was much more labour-intensive and time-consuming than it is today. Women used their strong arms and backs to perform housework chores such as beating rugs on a clothesline with a wooden paddle to remove dust and dirt, and hand-washing clothes near a creek or at the well. Housewives in the 1950s had the benefit of newly available electric vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, washing machines, processed foods and already-assembled clothing. But compared to the housework we perform today with the help of gadgets of convenience, old-fashioned housework in the 1950s required a great deal more elbow grease.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Mop
  • Bucket
  • Broom
  • Clothesline
  • Dust rag
  • Feather duster
  • Furniture polish
  • Sewing supplies
  • Vacuum
  • Iron and board

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  1. 1

    Straighten the house before you clean it. Start in one corner of the first room picking up misplaced objects from the floor and other surfaces. Pile items that belong in other rooms on a cart or wagon as you go. Straighten one room at a time; don't skip from room to room.

  2. 2

    Feather-dust high places and lampshades, shake out couch and chair cushions, brush dust from upholstery, and dust furniture with a slightly moist rag sprayed with a bit of polish or wax. Start high and end low.

    How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
    Dust wooden furniture with a slightly moist rag. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Scrub toilet and bathroom. Mop and scrub all tile or linoleum floors with a cotton string mop and bucket of water and cleaning solution. Be sure to change the water when it becomes opaque with dirt. Wet-mop all wooden floors with a little bit of water only. Vacuum carpets and beat area rugs on a line outside.

    How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
    Cotton string mops are ecologically friendly and very effective at cleaning floors. (Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)
  4. 4

    Change the sheets at least once a week and make beds every morning. On sunny days, spread blankets and comforters on the patio or over lines to air-freshen the bedding.

    How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
    There's nothing like fresh air and sunshine to get rid of musty odours in bedding. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)
  5. 5

    Clean out closets and drawers to avoid infestation by spiders or moths. Use cedar or mothballs to protect woollen garments, but only in closets or drawers that are made inaccessible to children. Herb or flower sachets can be put in all drawers to leave a pleasant scent.

    How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
    Cedar and mothballs placed in drawers can prevent moths from snacking on your sweaters. (Stephen Schauer/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
  6. 6

    Do the hand wash in a tub with mild detergent and lukewarm water. Wash sweaters in cold water, roll up in a towel to remove excess water, and lay out on another dry towel to dry. Save electricity by drying your machine-washed laundry on a clothesline in the fresh air.

    How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
    Drying clothes on a line can save you money on your electricity bill. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)
  7. 7

    Remove and shake out clothing that needs ironing directly from the dryer or line to prevent excessive wrinkling. Iron shirts starting with the sleeves, collar, shoulders, back and front. Crease trousers with pressure and steam. Hang up clothes immediately after ironing.

    How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
    Ironing clothes for the week ahead will avoid daily scrambles. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)
  8. 8

    Repair and patch clothing. Clothes do not need to be replaced when they develop holes or tears; they can be patched with iron-on patches and repaired where they have torn at the seams. Keep your sewing chores in a basket next to your sewing chair or any comfortable chair with good light.

    How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
    Sewing and repairing your own clothes is a satisfying and thrifty practice. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)
  9. 9

    Bake bread for the week and a roast for Sunday dinner on Saturday. Bake a few sheets of cookies for the cookie jar, too. If you have time and room in the freezer, prepare a stew or soup for later in the week. Wash up dishes, pots and pans.

    How to Do Old Fashioned Housework
    Cooking a Sunday pot roast on Saturday can leave time to enjoy family and friends. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Tips and warnings

  • Plan a weekly housework routine. Women in the 1950s had a routine that looked something like this: Monday for washing, Tuesday for ironing, Wednesday for mending and sewing, Thursday for shopping and errands out of the house, Friday for housecleaning, Saturday for cooking and baking, and Sunday off.

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