In the last century technology freed men and women from many time-consuming daily tasks. It was such a rapid, sweeping change that in the 60s people envisioned a time when all labor would be replaced by machines.[e.g. The Jetsons: The Complete First Season ]
I grew up in an era that proclaimed housekeeping a ball and chain holding women back from their true potential. It was a time when all the skills women had accumulated over millennia were belittled and considered worthless. It was a time where Home Economics classes were still taught in public schools (in the late 60s) and yet we were hearing through the culture that women should refuse to do these things in order to be free.
The women in my own family knew how to cook and clean, how to sew and knit, how to organize a dinner party and some of them actually had a college degree and went to work. They did it all. But, I did notice that they had very little time to devote to any creative activity of their own. They were still expected to keep an immaculate home and prepare homecooked meals every night.
By the time I went to college (late 70s), attitudes about women were changing for the better. I was in a Physics class (my major) with three or four other young women. We were holding our own and there was no talk of women not belonging in the sciences. We were going to make the same kinds of intellectual strides as the men.
However, by the ‘80s women were beginning to regret that they never learned domestic skills or, as in my case, failed to practice what they had been taught. They felt guilty that they were not able to do the things their mothers and grandmothers could do.
This anxiety was exemplified in the comedy called “For Richer, For Poorer” starring Kirstie Alley and Tim Allen where a well to do couple, whose marriage is on the rocks, ends up hiding from a crazed IRS agent in an Amish community.
Caroline (Kirstie Alley): Every day’s a reminder that I don’t know how to do anything.
Brad (Tim Allen): You’re feeling sorry for yourself.
Caroline: No, I’m not. These women know how to do everything. Hell, I can’t even cook or sew. [pause] I’m domestically challenged.
Caroline: I feel so useless here.
A link to the video at amazon is below. (Please note that I get a commission if you use that link):
The theme of this movie is not that we want to go back to simpler times. It makes clear that “simple” does not mean “easy.” For thousands of years, most men and women worked hard from dawn to dusk just to survive. There were no time-saving devices like washing machines, vacuum cleaners, tractors or electric saws. Everything had to be done with muscle and handmade tools. Yes, there are pockets of people living a simple, off-the-grid life. It’s a perfectly fine choice to make, but most of us will choose differently for a variety of reasons.
So, now we come into this century and at this time. There are ever new and more sophisticated machines which continue to make our lives easier, but for some reason they are still not replacing all of our household chores. And, that being so, while individual tasks are easier, we’ve lost the ability to know how to schedule them. The tasks pile up. We don’t know what to do about it.
Still, it can be a problem we want to overcome. Over time people have begun to realize that a disordered house costs more time and money than an ordered one. It can cause anxiety because this disorder threatens to overwhelm us. We only have a certain amount of time to commit to household chores due to our jobs and/or family responsibilities. This may be the reason some people downsize because they simply need to have a reason to toss the whole mess and start again. Is that wise or is it a call for help?
And, to hide our insecurities, we don’t invite others over. We make up excuses for not entertaining. Here’s a bit of advice – more people are in this category than you think. Real friends won’t care. Don’t isolate yourself because you don’t clean or don’t know how. Unless your job requires entertaining at home, no one should care how you keep your house. I consider it bad manners to even point it out. It’s not worth losing people over. This is a problem we share. And we all have our problems, this isn’t one of the big ones.
And so now we see the rise of the “Life Hack”. These little bits of advice posted on social media sites that save time and money – some new, some not – are all about how to make your life easier. I love these bits of knowledge and I will be writing about my favorite life hacks, but hacks cannot replace the basic knowledge of household skills.
It is possible, if you’re reading this, that you have a job that is all-consuming and you really can’t get to these things. Well, that’s fine. Stop worrying about it. One can only do what one can do. If you have a budget big enough that includes a housekeeper and organizer, I am all for giving someone else employment. We all live unique lives and I think we should be grateful that we all have different talents. But if you don’t have that kind of budget, someone in your household – male or female – needs to learn to do a few things. And the first thing to do is to get control over your things.
I have two favorite books that I have the most useful for this problem. One is for people who hate housework and the other is for those who love housework (they do exist). And both books work for different lifestyles, whether you’re trying to live a minimalist lifestyle, or you are the master of a household whose overflowing tables and closets are threatening your sanity. There are many other worthwhile resources, but these are the two, I believe, one should begin.
And those two books will be revealed in Part 2 and Part 3.
Until next time…:)