Busyness and desire for instant gratification are extremely pervasive in society today. We want everything now, and, wouldn’t it be great if I could get it while I’m running to the next thing on my list? Living life with a slow intentionality, the deliberate art of frugal simplicity are all but memories, whispered stories of a distant past. Yet, amid the hustle and bustle, there’s a deeper yearning.
I think many of us recall the quiet grace of our grandmothers as they prepared family meals with such care and such attention. The sense of peace and order that immediately struck you as you walked through her door.
It felt like a breath of fresh air, a place of respite and calm amid the ever surging storm of life. Can we bring that feeling into our homes?
Is it possible to foster such a seemingly impossible thing in our lives with old-fashioned homemaking skills the way our grandmothers did?
What are old-fashioned homemaking skills?
We could fill whole books with the plethora of old-fashioned homemaking skills from days gone by. Each era had its fair share of unique (and sometimes dangerous) ideas when it came to homemaking, but there are several that have stood the test of time.
- Having a Garden
- Learning from our Ancestors
- Cooking from Scratch
- Keeping things Neat and Tidy
- Preserving Food
- Having a Fix and Reuse it Mindset
- Flowers and Candles
- Preserving our Heritage
- Raising our Children
How did we forget old-fashioned homemaking?
With the arrival of the industrial revolution in the 1800’s, it became more common to find women working outside the home.
Then, as WWII ravaged Europe, women in America took jobs to aid in the war efforts and to fill positions left vacant by men who had joined the military. This resulted in one out of four women (who were married) being employed outside the home by 1945.
As of 2019, over 55% of women are in the workforce in some capacity.
Why are these numbers significant?
Before the industrial revolution, women were the primary keepers of the home. They made meals for the family, did the laundry, kept the house clean, etc.
There were so many things integral to the woman being the homemaker, that once she was in the workforce there were gaps that began to need filling.
Over time, skills that homemakers had fostered and developed for generations became inert and disregarded. Making meals from scratch became a lost art, ushered out by convenience meals at the grocery store and restaurant outings after work.
Sewing clothes and patching old ones was no longer necessary when it was easier to just run to the mall and buy new ones.
No one felt the need to garden or preserve food anymore because everything they could ever want was just a quick drive away on the grocery store shelves.
It wasn’t that these old-fashioned homemaking skills lost their importance. They just lost their appeal in the wake of modern convenience.
With so much else going on, and so many of these skills being taken over by corporations providing them to us as a product, it took very little time for old-fashioned homemaking skills to become just that…old-fashioned.
How do we bring old-fashioned homemaking back?
This is a question that can be both straight forward and convoluted all at the same time. Before we can bring anything back, we must have an understanding of what the thing is to begin with.
Otherwise, it can be easy to latch on to an idea and a hope rather than a tangible reality.
To begin with, what exactly does old-fashioned even mean?
The Cambridge Dictionary give us a good starting point to jumpstart our discussion.
Old Fashioned:Not modern; belonging to or typical of a time in the past.
Why is this important?
Well, we just established that the homemaking skills we’re setting out to bring back are things that have been prominent in a different time.
While on the rise, they are still not as prevalent today as they were two generations ago.
That said, as with any old-fashioned skill or attempt to preserve things of the past, it is important to remember that we can never live in the past.
Nor should we idealize it as some perfect period to which we should all strive to return. There is beauty in the past, which we should strive to preserve to the best of our ability.
But, there is also darkness, a byproduct of our fallen nature, which we should learn from rather than imitate and preserve it.
Proper Discernment of Preservation and Implementation
A final thought before reflecting on each old-fashioned homemaking skill in more detail. I think it is important, as a homemaker, to carefully discern which skills will fit into your family lifestyle and situation.
Embrace the ones you feel called to implement, but don’t feel bad about leaving the rest.
I think that’s one of the dangers of bringing back skills or ideas from the past: it becomes too easy to feel overwhelmed and like a failure if you don’t do everything the way they did it back then.
If that’s something you struggle with (Cough, cough, myself included), banish the thought from your mind!
That’s not a healthy mindset and it’s not going to give you the desired results you are so passionately striving for!
Your house will be just as peaceful and just as much a place of respite from the storm if you’re doing one of these things or all of them. It just depends on what you are being called to do right now in your family and situation!
While it can be as simple as having a few pots on your kitchen windowsill where you are growing herbs to season your meals, homemakers of old have always grown a portion of their food.
During World War II, victory gardens were extremely popular. Before that, cottage gardens were well known in Europe.
Gardening as an old-fashioned homemaker can be as elaborate as growing more than 50% of the produce your family consumes, or as simple as the herbs in the windowsill.
Whatever fits your family’s style and situation, being able to produce even a little is a huge win as a homemaker.
There’s something about tending a garden that calms the nerves and sparks contemplation and gratitude for the things we’ve been given.
Not only that, but it is also a wonderful way to let your creative, artistic side run wild!
2. Learning from our Ancestors
There is a wealth of knowledge that can be gleaned from not just our grandparents, but also generations that came decades or even hundreds of years before us.
Take fermentation techniques for example. Humans have been utilizing fermentation as a method of food preservation and processing for hundreds, even thousands of years.
And, we are still utilizing fermentation today.
We need to remember and take advantage of the things our ancestors learned before us. Not only does it honor their memory, but it also helps us accomplish our goals as old-fashioned homemakers.
3. Cooking from Scratch
Cooking from scratch, in my personal opinion, is one of the easiest and surest ways to force myself to slow down and become extremely intentional with my homemaking.
There’s few things more satisfying than spending several hours in the kitchen preparing a meal and sitting down to enjoy it with my family.
Knowing that we are serving them whole, nutrient dense meals just adds to the sense of accomplishment.
Homemakers have been preparing meals for their families since time immemorial. Taking ingredients and lovingly laboring in the kitchen to create something that will nourish those we love most is truly a rewarding endeavor.
Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, the simpler the meal, the more satisfying it can be after a long day’s work.
Something as simple as broth with soaked grains and tender bits of meat take on a whole new level of delight.
4. Keeping things Neat and Tidy
In old-fashioned homemaking, keeping a neat and tidy house is an important skill to learn. Making the distinction between clutter and mess is key.
Clutter consists of things thrown together in piles or hidden in the cubbards and drawers that we don’t use, but keep around anyways just because.
It has a way of infiltrating our homes without us even noticing. Before long, we have piles of papers stacked two feet high on our table, and miscellaneous knick knacks filling every corner of our shelves.
I heard someone in a podcast (I wish I could remember who) say that each item we have is something that takes up mental space in our brains.
Not only that, but each object is also something we have to move and clean around, or shuffle to keep out of the kids’ reach.
I like to think of messes as a state of disarray that comes from utilizing our space and living in our homes. Think of dirty dishes after preparing and enjoying a meal.
The sink is a mess, yes, but it’s not necessarily cluttered because the dishes will be cleaned and put away before being utilized again the next day.
It’s a difference of something being well used or just sitting on the table or in a cubbard, forgotten. The kids’ toys scattered all over the floor, definitely a mess.
But, eventually, once play time is through, they will be carefully tucked away waiting for the next day’s play.
Cleanliness and order are not matters of instinct; they are matters of education, and like most great things, you must cultivate a taste for them.
As an old-fashioned homemaker, one of the skills that helps us create safe havens in our homes is knowing how to get rid of the clutter and making sure our houses tidy and well-kept.
Don’t split hairs over things looking immaculate all the time. Stressing yourself out over what will inevitably get messy again later isn’t worth it.
Just focus on the big things and do a little bit everyday to keep things in order.
5. Preserving Food
Food preservation is another old-fashioned skill that once meant the difference between life and death for families. Now, while it’s not as crucial for our survival, it is still a useful skill to learn and utilize.
Food preservation comes in an abundance of forms: canning, freezing, dehydrating, fermenting, etc.
Being able to preserve the food you grow in your garden, or purchase in season, can make a huge difference in the nutrient composition of the food you eat.
In addition, when buying produce in season, you will find that the price is much cheaper than when buying out of season.
Not only that, but if you preserve food yourself, you have the freedom to make things the way your family likes (provided it follows safety guidelines of course).
While the grocery store has a plethora of options in nearly every department, nothing tastes quite like that home canned jar of peaches that were picked at the peak of ripeness and preserved with care in your kitchen.
Sewing is another one of those old-fashioned skills that can still have a place in our modern day homemaking.
While we don’t have to sew our entire wardrobe, drapes, and bedding anymore, learning simple stitching in order to hem or fix holes in clothing can be invaluable.
It’s one of those skills that takes time and requires that you slow down. That said, it can be extremely rewarding and save you money if you take the time to repair worn garments.
You could even learn how to make your own clothes and bedding, etc. if you wanted. I know lots of people that enjoy sewing as a hobby and use it to create beautiful garments as well as adornments for their homes.
The possibilities are endless!
7. Having a Fix and Reuse it Mindset
Having a fix and reuse it mindset is something homemakers from just a few generations ago, during the Great Depression era especially, excelled at.
We’re so used to plastic packaging that we strip off our new gadget or even our food, that we don’t think twice about throwing things away.
We are so inundated with trash and the idea that things weren’t made to last that it’s almost become second nature to have no regret pitching things and buying new whenever we feel like it.
As old-fashioned homemakers, I’d like to challenge that mentality. Instead of throwing away that pair of dress pants that’s hem came undone, fix the seam and put it back in the closet.
The next time you buy a container of yogurt or a jar of salsa, wash the jar and use it to store other dry goods.
Rather than buying paper towels, start utilizing actual towels to clean up that spill or dry the water around your sink.
While it is near impossible to completely escape the consumer, throw-it-away culture, we can learn to mitigate the waste we produce as much as possible.
Plus, the more we are able to fix things, the less money we are spending always buying new.
While I’ve talked more about hospitality in another post, I think there’s another side of it that is worth mentioning here. Hospitality doesn’t just mean opening our homes to others and making them feel at home and cared for.
As homemakers, we need to remember that hospitality also extends to our children and spouse. It’s not just something we do when others are here.
We need to make sure that we are fostering that same sense of peace and calm for our children and spouse as well. We need to be that listening ear and supportive voice that encourages and bolsters those closest to us!
As an act of service, hospitality is something that we should be showing to those closest to us before we ever open our homes to those in our community.
It could be patiently wiping the tears from your toddler’s eyes when they’re tired and throwing a tantrum. Or staying awake into the late hours of the night holding that same toddler who is scared of the thunder outside and doesn’t want to be alone.
Whatever the case may be, the goal is for our children and our spouse to feel safe and loved within the four walls of our home, and it’s on us to foster that feeling.
9. Flowers and Candles
Maybe it’s just the womanly desire for beauty, but there’s something about a bouquet of flowers on the table and a dinner by candlelight with the family that just makes me feel warm and cozy inside.
While having dinner by candlelight isn’t necessary like it was before electricity, there’s still something nostalgic and homey about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for the ability to flip on a light at the flick of a switch.
However, I also appreciate the quiet flicker of a candle, its warm light dancing across the walls. It always puts me in a reflective mood.
Flowers also seem to have a gentle power all their own. The ability to brighten even the most drab and ordinary of rooms, giving them a burst of color that feels like a ray of sunlight on a cloudy day.
10. Preserving our Heritage
While one could argue that this counts as learning from our ancestors, I think preserving our heritage needs its own category.
It’s one thing to learn from those that came before us. Doing or not doing the things they did in their homes.
But, it’s another thing entirely to hand on traditions and keep memories alive.
I firmly believe that homemakers should encourage and pass on the family’s heritage to the next generation.
What is a family’s heritage you might ask?
It can be so many things! The handing on of faith: teaching our children to pray. It can be telling the stories our grandparents told us, keeping them alive.
It could be making photo albums full of pictures form family vacations or the children as they grow up.
Yes, it can even be passing on the knowledge of these old-homemaking skills like cooking from scratch and gardening techniques.
A family’s heritage is as unique as the family itself. That is why it needs to be preserved and passed on. Otherwise, it takes no time at all for memories to be forgotten and skills to be lost.
11. Raising our Children
This point, I feel, can be a touchy subject and a rather controversial one at times. I want to preface it by saying that you’re not a bad person or failing as a homemaker or parent if you have your children in daycare or send them to school.
As I mentioned previously, these are areas you must heavily discern to determine what God is calling you to do in your specific circumstance.
That said, for my family, in our circumstance, there’s no real contest. Staying at home, and raising our children is something I feel very strongly about.
While I understand that it is not feasible for every family, I do think that, given the chance, it is a mother’s responsibility to raise her children.
While this topic could be a post all by itself, suffice it to say that we, as parents, are given the responsibility of caring for and raising the children placed in our care.
We should not take this job lightly or shirk it for convenience.
Old-fashioned homemaking skills still very much have a place in our modern world.
Not only can they help us slow down and live more intentionally, but they can also help us live more fulfilling and peace-filled lives.
We’d love to hear how you are implementing old-fashioned homemaking skills into your life! 🙂
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