A lot of you have probably seen this list of daily housekeeping tasks for a 1950s housewife. It looks like a lot. It is a lot, especially when it is all laid out, step by step. But then, even though it is a lot, it is still just for newlyweds and couples with no children. I needed a Mid-Century Mom Daily Routine.
Actually, most of the lists that you see with definite schedules, routines, and step-by-step lists come from the late 1940s. From the end of WWII until the start of the Korean War (1945-1950), there was an overwhelming belief in the power of experts to tell us exactly how to do things, and we would be successful. It represents the zenith of our belief in the power of progress (Europe lost faith in the power of progress after WWI, we lost it after the Korean War began, and after that progress began to be driven by the fear of defeat instead of belief in the virtue of advancement.) My 1940s edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book has a recommended daily routine for pregnant mothers, but by the 1950s edition, that schedule had been scrapped, and by the 1960s, even the baby schedules were dropped.
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Personally, I love lists. I love making lists. So, I am using all of my post-WWII lists for making my Mid-Century Mom Daily Routine. I am combining the housekeeping lists from America’s Housekeeping Book, beauty routines for a housewife from A Handbook of Beauty, the daily routine for a pregnant wife from Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book, and the young children’s daily routines, also from the Baby Book.
My Mid-Century Mom Daily Routine
- While still in bed, S-T-R-E-T-C-H 10 times.
- Get up and open the bedroom windows for the free circulation of air.
- Out of bed and in front of the open window, S-T-R-E-T-C-H 10 times.
- Throw back bed covers, including top sheet, on all beds.
- Freshen up: dash cold water on your wrists, use mouthwash, cream or wash your face, cover your pin curls with a pretty scarf, put on your dressing gown (and maybe lipstick!).
- Start coffee and husband’s breakfast and drink a cup of hot water with or without lemon juice.
- Eat breakfast with The Mister before he leaves, and remember to kiss him goodbye.
- Get dressed: push back cuticles, remove face cream, apply body powder, put on house clothes, brush and style hair, oil lashes and brows, wash and cream hands. (Brush teeth after breakfast.)
- Take a 15-minute walk, and do 15 minutes of exercises.
- Put bedroom in order: put things away, take out soiled laundry and trash, etc.
- Make children’s breakfast and set the table.
- The preschoolers get up and eat their breakfast.
- The preschoolers dress and put their rooms in order.
- Serve breakfast to the schoolchildren. (Small children play inside.)
- Put dining room in order: open windows, clear table, put things away in room, take dishes and other things that don’t belong in the room.
- Rinse and stack dishes, pots, and pans in kitchen. Put away food.
- Put living room in order: open windows, put things away, take out things that don’t belong in the room, throw away trash.
- Have small children help put away toys as they are used.
- See older children off to school.
- Small children get orange juice and cod-liver oil — aka daily vitamin supplements — and go outside to play.
- Give all rooms regular daily cleaning in the following order, and don’t forget to bring your dust mop, carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner, and cleaning basket to each room with you!
- First, clean the living room: clean out the fireplace and laying a fire in season, dust from ceiling to floor, brush the upholstery, clean the floor with a dust mop and carpet sweeper or vacuum, empty the trash, and add final touches for pretty.
- Next, clean the dining room: dust from ceiling to floor, brush the upholstery, clean the floor with dust mop and carpet sweeper or vacuum, and add final touches for pretty.
- Now, clean the bedroom: make the bed, dust from ceiling to floor, brush the upholstery, clean the floor with a dust mop or vacuum cleaner, take out the trash, and add final touches for pretty.
- Clean the children’s rooms while they are out, especially the baby’s room: put the room in order, make the bed, dust from ceiling to floor, brush the upholstery, clean the floor with a dust mop or vacuum cleaner, and take out the trash.
- Thoroughly clean the bathroom: open the window, put room in order, clean the tile, fixtures, tub, and washbowl, brush the toilet bowl and wipe the outside of the bowl and closet with a cloth (kept for that use only), sweep the floor, put out all fresh linen every Wednesday and Saturday, and empty trash.
- Clean the hall: put the hall in order, dust from ceiling to floor, brush upholstery, clean the floor with dust mop and carpet sweeper or vacuum, and add final touches for pretty.
- Put away cleaning supplies. Review the menu for today and tomorrow, and the weekly work for the day. Check food and supplies, and add items to marketing lists.
- Bring in small children to use the toilet and have a drink.
- Begin preparing lunch, and any all-day dishes and dessert for dinner.
- Clean the kitchen: open the windows, collect all refuse, wipe the top of the refrigerator and work surfaces, wash, dry, and put away dishes, wipe off the surface of range, clean spilled food from drip pan or oven, dry damp work surfaces, sweep and mop the kitchen floor, take out the garbage and put in a clean liner, clean sink and dishcloth, collect and wash soiled towels, hang fresh towels.
- Begin weekly work — laundry on Monday, marketing on Tuesday and Friday, ironing on Tuesday, extra jobs (shopping, silver polishing, etc.) on Wednesday, cleaning bedrooms and bathrooms on Thursday, cleaning the kitchen before the larger marketing on Friday, cleaning the living room, dining room and hall on Friday, special preparation for Sunday on Saturday.
- Before you leave the house for marketing or errands, bathe and dress the children, do your makeup, and dress in afternoon or street clothes.
- Bring the preschoolers in from outside playpen to use the bathroom. Finish preparing lunch.
- Serve preschoolers their lunch, set the table, and then serve the schoolchildren lunch. Eat lunch and then brush teeth.
- Put small children to bed for nap. Older children return to school.
Finish dinner preparations and clean kitchen.
- Finish weekly work.
- Rest and relax until 3.
- Young children get up and have a snack. Schoolchildren arrive, and have a snack. Children go outside to play.
- Time for sewing, reading, correspondence, etc. Prepare for husband’s return: put the house in order, prepare appetizer or drinks tray and light a fire, remove makeup, rest for 10 minutes in a dark room with feet up and eye-pads soaked in witch hazel, fix hair, wash and cream hands and push back cuticles, and put on a fresh dress.
- Start final dinner preparations. Bring the preschoolers inside to take a bath. Young children eat their supper.
- Set the dinner table while the schoolchildren wash up.
- Serve and eat dinner. Young children may sit at the table or play quietly. Don’t forget to brush your teeth after dinner!
- After dinner, clean the kitchen and prepare for tomorrow’s breakfast. Children take baths and prepare for bed. Children must play quietly or finish homework while they wait for their bath-times.
- Children’s music and story hour and bedtimes — younger children at 7:30, schoolkids at 8:15, and teenagers at 9:00.
- Spend the evening reading or with husband or friends.
- Get ready for bed: massage scalp, pin up hair, take a bath, apply cream to rough spots, file nails, apply oil to nails, lashes, brows, and lips. apply emollient cream around eyes and to dry skin on face, put a touch of perfume below the nostrils, massage gums and use mouth wash.
- Go to bed. Relax and congratulate yourself on managing to complete a 1950s Mom Daily Routine. (In case you hadn’t noticed, that is 48 THINGS!)
What About the Rest of the Family?
America’s Housekeeping Book informs the housekeeper that the family always shares in the care of the household. Everyone should be thoughtful enough to put away their own things, from toys to schoolbooks to stamp collections, when “work or play is over.” Thank goodness, because otherwise this 1950’s Mom Daily Routine would be just me against the mess of 9 people. And 5 cats. And a dog.
Every member of the family should help by picking up books and papers, emptying ash trays, and returning things to their proper place just before bedtime. In the morning, each person should put soiled clothing in the laundry hamper, hang up other clothing, turn back the bedding and open the windows, all before breakfast. Every person also shares responsibility for keeping the bathroom spotless as well — no dirty washbowl, towels on the floor, or bathtub ring.
Of course, a child must also learn to put away his toys and books when he is done. Children as young as two should be expected to pick up and put away the toys when playtime is over. If your child cannot handle putting away all the toys — well, then, he needs fewer toys! The same can be said of all your housework. If it feels like it is taking to long to clean your house, then start getting rid of stuff and organizing the things that remain. Mid-century houses didn’t always have a lot of stuff. Minimalism makes life SO. MUCH. EASIER.
How I Make This Work
This routine is essentially a checklist. Most of my children, especially the littlest ones, do better with a schedule. And especially when we are homeschooling, I do better with a schedule. It helps me keep my sanity. And my hair. For homeschooling, I need to make sure I meet a certain number of school hours and days for each student, and that certain subjects get taught. My schedule helps me do that. I use my schedule and my routine checklist to keep track of what I need to do, and to keep track of what my kids can or should be doing during the day. It is especially helpful with newborns. Although I don’t use hyperscheduling, I do use a schedule to remind myself to sit down and nurse the baby every 3-4 hours. Otherwise, I end up doing too much and losing my milk supply by overworking myself.
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