The Housewife’s Weekly Schedule

It’s been a tradition among housewives to keep a general work schedule for the home. Chances are good that you’ve read about the classic housekeeping schedule that went like this:

Monday-washing (laundry)

Tuesday-ironing

Wednesday-mending

Thursday-marketing/churning/brewing

Friday-cleaning

Saturday-baking

Sunday-rest

It’s incredible to think of how many women used that same basic housework schedule for centuries, even into the last few decades.  Rumor has it the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock on a Monday and after consulting Ye Olde Housework Charte, the women did the laundry. What a relief they didn’t arrive on a Tuesday. They’d have had to spend the day ironing their stinky clothes before grocery shopping on Thursday. It wouldn’t have made a good impression on the new neighbors.

As much as I enjoy history and incorporating long-ago traditions into my modern life, even I don’t hesitate to admit that this schedule is woefully out of date. I can wash a week’s worth of family laundry, hang it all on the outdoor clothesline, fold, and put it away, all within half a day. And I’d be hard-pressed (haha!) to spend more than 30 minutes a month ironing, much less one day a week.

Like any system, a housework schedule has to work for the individual housewife to be useful at all. No system works for everybody. So, inspired by 400+ years of well-scheduled housewives, I came up with my own weekly plan. Of course I have to do some cooking and cleaning every day, but I try to give extra emphasis to one category per day. These are my 5 weekly categories:

Kitchen-batch cooking, baking, and occasional jobs like yogurt, kombucha, etc.

Cleaning-re-organizing, deep-cleaning, decluttering

Office/Errand-paperwork, bills, filing, grocery shopping, library, post office, etc.

Soap-making inventory, packaging, managing online stuff (my tiny business, which gives me my “pin money”)

Free/Flex-visits, outings, home projects, overflow work

I originally assigned one category every day, like the traditional schedule. I gave that up by the second week, when I was invited to go on a shopping “date” with someone the same day I’d scheduled for cleaning. Having a variable schedule works well for me: it gives structure to my week without forcing me to be rigid about it. At the beginning of each week I have a basic idea of how I plan to schedule my week, but I can change it on short notice. On days when I have an appointment scheduled, I try to pile on the rest of my errands for the week while I’m out, or I may reschedule my cleaning day if I learn company will be visiting.

And there will always be those times, like every September (ahem), when I abandon my schedule entirely because every day is either a kitchen day as I finish harvesting my garden or a flex day as we finish up projects and fit in fun stuff during the last few summer-ish weeks. It’s easy to resume the schedule when things slow down a bit, even mid-week. By that time, I’m always glad to be back on a steadier rhythm.

Do you have a weekly housekeeping plan? How do you manage your schedule?

 

Sunday Dinners; by Rose Abnett; 1913

The following is one woman’s solution to simplifying Sunday dinners. Do you have a plan that works for you and your family?

We need to learn to prepare this meal before hand so far as possible. With a little fore thought this can be easily done, so that the Sunday dinner can be ready in fifteen or twenty minutes after you return from church.

Most housekeepers prepare only two meals on Sunday, with a lunch in the evening, so they have an extra good dinner, but do not want to stay at home from church to prepare it. When the family have to wait an hour or more for dinner they are very apt to eat too hurriedly and too much and consequently have a headache the remainder of the day.

Roast chicken and mashed potatoes or roast beef, roast pork or chicken pie can be used for the substantial part of the dinner. Baked beans also make an excellent dish for this meal. Plan to do all that can be done on Saturday. Clean and stuff the chicken on Saturday, put it away in a cool place till morning. Every housewife should have a good roaster, a self baster is best. Before going to church place the chicken in the roaster, or the beef with the potatoes placed around it. The oven should be quite hot when the chicken is put in. After doing this fix the fire so that it will give out a moderate heat. You will soon learn to do this and this portion of the dinner will be nicely done. Put the necessary water in the teakettle and place it on the stove. If you intend to have mashed potatoes, peel the potatoes, cutting into small pieces. While you are getting breakfast, put them into the kettle and cover with cold water.

As soon as you get home, before you change your clothes, turn out the cold water, and pour sufficient hot water from the teakettle and place on the stove. By doing this they will be done by the time the other food is ready. Make the coffee or tea and then you will only have to warm the baked beans and mash the potatoes. Pudding baked the day before can be used as dessert.

I can see the world- 1907

From my farm I can see most of the world; and if I wait here long enough all people pass this way. -1907

This is one of my most favorite quotes. While it wasn’t specifically written from a housewife’s perspective, I think it’s especially fitting.

I haven’t always been a housewife. I spent many years working different jobs and going to school before I got married and settled into a career running our home. Back before my life was centered around the home, I always felt a restlessness on the rare day that I spent at home. even when I had a lot to do. I felt like I could go stir-crazy looking at the same four walls. I know I haven’t been the only one. I’ve heard it from mothers on maternity leave….”What do you DO all day?  I’d go crazy staying at home; I have to be out and around.”

However, in seasons where my outside commitments have been minimal I find myself liking to be home to the point that I’m not anxious to leave. I’m not a recluse or a hermit, but I’m definitely a homebody. From what I’ve noticed, it takes everyone a while to break from the “on-the-go” mentality and to slow down enough to enjoy being at home. But now if someone offered to do all my errands I would be perfectly content to stay in my home and yard and leave just on the weekends to go to church and visit family. It seems that the more I’m gone from home, the more unorganized our home life becomes. You’d think the house would stay cleaner the fewer people were home making messes and eating and changing clothes, but it’s not the case. And instead of getting bored, I have the opposite experience. The more I’m at home the more I find to do.

From my home I can’t see most of the world but I can see most of my world. That’s enough for me. (I’m sure that was the author’s point.) I think sometimes we make our sphere too big. It gets overwhelming and becomes too much for us to manage. I don’t believe we miss as much as we may think we do at times, which is why it’s called the fear of missing out and not simply “missing out.” The stuff that’s important and the people that matter will find us.

The Dream of a Tired Woman; by Mary E. Gardner; 1913

It had been a hard day.

I looked at my cross, tired face in the glass and noted bitterly, almost savagely, its lines of care; its drooping lips of dissatisfaction; its worldly eyes, and aging, yes, its unpleasantly aging, expression.

It was a depressed, discontented face that stared moodily back at me, and I did not like it.

“What’s the good of it all?” I muttered, sitting down on the edge of the bed and addressing, vindictively, no one or no thing in particular.

“What’s the use, tell me that,” I growled, banging my shoes, aggressively on the floor, “will you, of living, of life, anyway? Just moiling along day after day, to earn enough to keep you moiling along the next one. Ugh! I could have thought out a better world and system than this, myself, I do believe. It’s just a shred and a patch of creation, not getting anywhere or doing anything; anything worth while, anyway.” And so, with complaint and self-pity and discontent and all uncharitableness, my eyes closed and I was asleep.

In my sleep I dreamed. I thought I was walking along a shaded lane. Beautiful trees lined either side, both behind and before me. I could catch, though, occasional glimpses, when I raised my eyes, of rare cloudless, blue sky, far above. The lane, or road, stretched straight ahead, miles of beautifully shaded thoroughfare, until at a great distance, it reached a green hill, on whose summit I could see the sun shining.

All my discontent had vanished. I walked calmly, serenely, along the lovely road and my soul was at peace with itself and the world. I did not know where I was nor how I came to be there. Nor did I care. I was glad to be there and I hummed a merry tune as I sauntered along; one that belonged to the happy days of Long Ago Youth, and which I thought I had forgotten.

I saw flowers and tame wild animals but I did not pluck the one, nor scare away the other. Why should I?

It was so good to be alive that I would not have dimmed a ray of the day’s joy by shortening the brief life of a gay blossom, or disturbing the rambles of my little dumb brethren.

Presently, I saw afar off, a form appear on the top of the green hill. I watched with joyful interest. It was a woman. She was, I noted, as we drew nearer, stately in form, dignified of movement, and, where had I heard that phrase, “nobly planned.”

I muttered it confusedly as we approached.

“A perfect woman, nobly planned.” It described her anyway, that was certain.

We met. We clasped hands, and as I looked up into a face so calm, so benign, so peaceful, so free from hint of
passion or uncleanliness, yet so full of wisdom and dignity, I felt both abashed and comforted.

We did not speak for some time. Then as I gazed at the noble face of the woman, I suddenly saw a resemblance.
“Why,” I exclaimed, in all sincerity, yet with abasement and amazement, “You are like me!”

She smiled down at me and clasped more closely my hand.

“I am you,” she replied, in tones that were like the sweetest music. “I am what you should have been; what you were meant to be.”

The vision faded as it spoke. I held, or tried to, madly, the loosening hand and cried, “Oh, do not leave me, stay.”

I could not keep her, but as road, hill, woman, birds, flowers, all disappeared from my longing sight, I heard these words, this promise–

“Be Comforted. Be Comforted and Hope. I am what you yet shall be.”

I awoke from my dream and life was labor again, and oft the labor seemed great and the gain small, and I was still careworn and wrinkled and weary, but the memory of my dream abides with me and who shall dare deny, but that in some life, somewhere, sometime, I shall become through much tribulation, perhaps, but with final certainly, that which I was meant to be.

And this dream that I dreamed, was it for myself alone, or was it not meant rather for all the great sisterhood of women toilers; weary workers who lift tired, oft rebellious eyes and empty work-worn hands, to a silent Heaven and ask, “Why and for what was I born?”

It will be, I like to think so; to believe that in some Great Coming Time to Be, we shall all be what creative Love and Wisdom planned.

And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4