A 1930s Housewife Simplifies Her Life by Prioritizing

A 1930s Housewife Simplifies Her Life by Prioritizing

Well, here we go again. The start of a new year. Actually, we’re nearly 6 weeks into it now, but it takes some of us a little longer to process it. (If I didn’t have to trudge through 2 feet of snow, I just might chisel the frozen solid wreath off the arbor to signal the end of the Christmas festivities.)

I’ve been thinking about this year and what I can change to make it go more smoothly. To say there’s room for improvement is obvious. Of course the best plans never go the way you expect them to, but a modified plan has to be an improvement over winging it all the time, right?  

More than anything else this year, I need to focus on….focusing. It’s kind of appropriate that squirrels are one of my favorite animals. I see them as kindred spirits, the way they dash around looking busy but in reality are just unfocused, trying to remember where they left their food for winter.  We’ve all seen what happens to a squirrel that loses focus in the middle of a road…

Me, demonstrating my focused outlook in the new year, or maybe not

An article about prioritizing and simplifying a daily schedule recently caught my eye. In 1930, a woman living in Kansas wrote a letter to the editor of the magazine.  She offered her organizational plan, hoping it might help other readers. Here’s her daily “schedule.”

Ten years ago I made a list of my responsibilities in order of their importance.

  1. Husband
  2. Babies
  3. Chickens
  4. Garden
  5. Others
  6. Work in hand for the day
  7. House
  8. Mending
  9. Sewing
  10. Self-improvement

“I’ve found a schedule won’t work, or else I won’t work one,” she wrote. “Every day I start at the top of the list and work through as far as I’m able.”

I like the way she simplified her life by following a consistent plan. She prioritized living things before objects, and the living things at home came before anyone outside her home.

Contrary to all the modern-day advice on self care and caring for yourself first, she lists self-improvement as her last priority.

As far as self-improvement away down at the end of the list, it was really accomplished in bedtime stories, ‘rithmetic problems, a ride with John, a letter written, a posy cultivated. But I like to do some special systematic studying when (or if) more important things are done.

But she doesn’t neglect herself completely for her family’s sake. I appreciate her creativity in following the list. “When I’m tired and cross, I can even conceive of a rest period for myself as a duty to husband and babies.”

You see how it works? I’m always sure that I’m doing the right thing at the right time. Then I do it to the best of my ability. What more could I ask in a schedule? Or anyone ask of me?

This 91 year old plan gives me ideas for focusing on the important things this year. It makes sense to feed the people and get their needs met before I continue on with projects. I’d only have to stop my projects to help them on their way, anyway. I’m not sure that this plan will take care of all my scheduling dilemmas, but it’s a good perspective to keep in mind when I’m assessing my day.

Except #3. I need to have them in order to prioritize them, wouldn’t you say? Somehow my husband needs convincing that chickens would simplify my life.

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