Thursday, May 17, 2012

Things Our Grandmothers Knew

So I've been reading a book.  Yes, another one. this book
, written by a mom with nine children, is about how and what she learned the hard way about running a house and getting it all done.  I figure if she can do it with nine, I can do it with two.  Man, is this woman intentional!  While many of her ideas on home management are new to me, I keep finding myself thinking, this sounds so familiar, like something out of a history book.  You know why?  Because one hundred years ago, when our culture intentionally trained women to be homemakers, mothers passed these tried and true systems to their daughters as a part of their educational training.  It was normal.  It's a part of our history that should be a part of our present.

Just as a disclaimer: I don't think every woman needs to be a full-time homemaker, nor do I believe that a woman's training should be centered on cooking and cleaning and raising children.  Part of me just wonders if our culture has become so focused on college-prep that we don't take time to teach the home management skills that our grandmothers perfected.  I'm not judging my mom either.  I'm incredibly grateful for her graduate degree and how it enabled her to be the teacher that my sister and I needed as we each pursued careers that required college degrees.  She also is one of the best cooks I know.  Seriously.  The woman made over 120 dozen cookies for my wedding.  Take that, Martha!  I will also say that she tried to teach us many homemaking skills, but my limited vision didn't really see the point.  I was going to college, after all.

So here I am, twenty-eight years old, learning a lot about how to successfully manage a home so that my children and my husband get the maximum amount of my attention and my home remains clean and healthy.  I wish I had listened to my mom.  It has not been fun to learn most of these skills in the trenches with a crying baby on my hip.  On the other hand, I have a friend who embraced skills education through 4H when she was in jr. high and high school.  She cooked, she sewed, she gardened; and now she is one of the most amazing, creative homemakers I know!  Why?  Because at dinner time, she's not just figuring out what the terms in the cookbooks mean.  She's not spending precious time learning how to use a sewing machine.  She already knows and can cook me into the ground and sew cute presents and knit to beat the band.  Sigh.

I guess what I am saying is that we pour a lot of time into prepping our daughters (and our sons, for that matter) for college, but sometimes we forget about preparing for the life after college.  You know, that life that will no longer prepare meals for us at the swipe of an ID card.  That life that will not clean up after us when we make a mess in the student center.  That life that becomes incredibly real when the pregnancy test shows TWO blue lines.  You know what I'm talking about.

I have time to reflect on all this because this is the longest gap we have ever had in our married lives when I haven't been pregnant or nursing.  And I'm grateful.  So grateful that the Lord has given me this season to reflect on areas where I need to learn and to be intentional about teaching myself the skills that will make my home a more joyful place.

So here's the system the author of this book suggests to moms for getting it all done without being done in.  I've been using this system for two weeks, and LOVE it!  It's kept me busy when I should be busy and has given me DAYS of sweet rest with my family.  I love when Teacher Man asks me what I need to get done in the evening and I can honestly say, "Nothing."  Well, nothing but a little West Wing.

1. Assign each day of the week with a title: Laundry Day, Kitchen Day, Office Day, Town Day, Clean-up Day, Outside Day, and Day of Rest.  These can be in almost any order, but Town Day MUST follow Office Day, and I like my Day of Rest to fall on Sunday when Teacher Man will be home.

Right now, here's how my week looks:
Monday: Laundry Day
Tuesday: Office Day
Wednesday: Town Day
Thursday: Kitchen Day
Friday: Clean-up Day
Saturday: Outside Day
Sunday: Day of Rest

2. Do the tasks for that day and know that the rest have their own proper day so don't worry about those tasks.  If you'll be gone all of one day, most of the tasks can probably be skipped for a week.  Also, laundry is ongoing (1 load a day) even though the bulk gets done on Laundry Day.

I'm a girl who can get distracted.  If I'm focusing on just getting one thing done for the day, it might actually get done amidst the dirty diapers, incoming phone calls, and visitors that are just a part of our daily life.

Today is Monday.  That means I'll be focused on my laundry, ironing, and maybe even some mending today.  My goal will be to get all the clothes, sheets, and towels washed, dried, and put away by the time Teacher Man comes home this evening.  This is my favorite day because here in the good ol' U. S. of A. we have gigantic washers and dryers that do the vast majoring of the work for us.  No more washing two towels at a time.  The hardest part for me is the set timers so I can remind myself to switch loads as soon as they're done so that most of the loads are done drying by naptime.  I normally have a folding party in my family while watching something I enjoy during the boys' naps.

Tomorrow will be Office Day.  That lovely day when I get to pay all the bills, update the money software with all of our most recent spending, answer letters, make phone calls, plan my menu and shopping list for the next two weeks, and also figure out where we'll be going on Town Day.  I can normally do all this in the two hours I have while my kiddos sleep which means that Office Day is also a day when it's easy to spend the vast majority of the day with friends.

Town Day is not stressful if I've done my work on Office Day.  My checks are signed and ready for depositing at the bank, the library books are gathered and ready for return, the shopping lists are made and coupons gathered, and the dry cleaning in already in the car.  We can normally finish all the Town Day errands in a couple of hours, and it feels SO GOOD to have all of those little tasks taken care of at once so we're not wasting time going back to the store three times a week.  However, I live super close to the grocery store; and, yes, I still run over occasionally.  The bulk of my shopping gets done on Town Day though.

Kitchen Day is when the fridge loses all of its rotting veggies or unidentifiable leftovers.  It's the day that I bake with the kiddos and make freezer meals if I need to.  It's also the day that my kitchen floor gets a good scrub down.  How does it get so nasty in there so quickly?  Also, on kitchen day, I attack one drawer or cabinet and wipe it out.  If I do one every week for a few months, my kitchen will automatically get cleaned twice a year.  Pretty sweet.

Clean-up Day.  I love waking up Saturday morning and knowing the house is already clean so we can all go outside and play.  On Friday, I put on Adventures in Odyssey or fun music or The Simple Mom Podcast and scrub my bathrooms, dust the flat surfaces in my home, and vacuum all the Cheerios off the floor.  I take a laundry basket through every room and grab all the stuff that doesn't belong there to help keep the clutter under control, going room by room and returning all the stuff to its rightful place.

Outside Day is just nice.  Normally this falls on Saturday so Teacher Man mows the lawn.  What a guy.  I still haven't figured out how to do this job for him because I'm a wimp at starting the mower AND I have a 19 month old who eats non-food items if I'm not giving him my full attention.  As the kids play outside on this day, I keep one eye on the little eating machine and the other one on my weeding.  We're easily done by lunch and sometime skip doing the outdoor chores in favor of something fun because our yard isn't very high maintenance right now.

On the Day of Rest, I do nothing.  I normally don't cook unless it's an easy crockpot recipe.  Normally we pull something out of the freezer for lunch and just snack for supper.  In the afternoon, I sleep when the kiddos sleep, and we spend the evening doing something fun as a family.  A bike ride, a pedal car walk, a game, a movie, serious sandbox time, or train track building.  Love those nights.

So there it is.  I'm just curious.  Does anyone else remember their grandmothers having a similar system for each day of the week?  I remember from my days of working at a historical reenactment farm and countless readings of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books that this is how many women organized their days one hundred years ago. Perhaps it's time for a comeback.  Hope this helps someone besides me to have more time for the important because the dailies are already done.


  1. I had 8 children and didn't have just one laundry day. I did laundry by bedrooms. The kids in that bedroom helped me sort and do the laundry, fold and put away. Anything that was in the laundry room was only from that room. As the kids got older, 9, 10, or so, I let them be in charge of the laundry for whatever room they were from. Of course I was within calling distance if there were any questions on how to wash or dry something. It did work well. We started doing all our laundry in cold water except for underwear, towels and sheets. They washed their own bath towels with their sheets, and undies on warm.
    Cindy B.

  2. I think I need this book in my life...