Making a Household Inventory, 1884

…And the first thing…you want to make a list of all the housekeeping articles in the house, and the condition they are in. Women usually keep the run of such things in their minds; but it is more businesslike, and makes matters clearer to know what you have in writing.” -1884

It’s embarrassing. It dawned on me this spring that I’d never done a thorough cleaning of our linen cupboards. Our house has more cupboards, closets, and built-in drawers than we will ever use. So when we moved here, taking the house over from relatives, I just put my linens in the front of the cupboards, never using the ones left behind in the back of the deep shelves.

Anyway, I dug everything out of the cupboards and piled them on a couple of beds so I could look through them. …I was kind of appalled. This didn’t even include any of the master bedroom bedding and the few more blankets I found later. This also doesn’t count the bedding already on the beds. Needless to say, I lost interest in the project after I saw the size of the piles and called it a day. It took me several afternoons of sorting by size, then sorting by quality, then sorting by need and want before I finally finished the job.

So why was this inventory useful? First, it allowed me to analyze and clear out the items I don’t use or need. (My donation pile was massive!) I can clearly see what I have in the cupboards and things will no longer get shoved to the back and forgotten. Second, I now have a clear idea of what I own. And when I know what I need, I’ll be more aware and able to take advantage of a sale, making me more efficient, or, as the author wrote, “more businesslike.”  

Incidentally, I thought that I needed a new mattress pad and sheets for the double bed in the guest room, but happily, I found both. Sorting through everything confirmed that I need absolutely nothing in the way of bedding, especially when it comes to pillowcases. All this time I’ve been running a haven for orphan pillowcases and I didn’t even know it.

Her Own Prince Charming; 1920’s

More than 90 years ago, Alice Robinson from Ohio, won first prize in a contest where she was asked to describe her “Prince Charming.” 

“If you had asked me not too long ago, I would have said that he had to be tall and dark with wonderful brown eyes. But he has come and our little home is being built. Just after the New Year, the most wonderful honeymoon that ever happened (to us) will be in progress.

My real Prince is as little like my dreams as anything could be. His light hair and blue eyes (which are always shining with kindness and merriment) are more wonderful to me than I ever dreamed anything could be. I dreamed of a rich man who could furnish me with a magnificent home. My merry farmer lad is giving me a tiny bungalow with everything modern and convenient, if you please, which no one would call magnificent, but everyone would say was adorable; they couldn’t help it. And in it with Christ’s help and blessing, we shall be happy, forever and ever because I know I am getting the world’s truest and best. And ‘he’ says he is satisfied.”

The following is a simple plan for a garden wedding. What a lovely and unstressed way to marry Prince Charming!

My cousin is going to be married early this summer and we are planning for the happy event together. Neither of us have any sisters so we are real chums even though she is a little older. They have a large shady lawn with pretty flower beds and bushes on it and she has chosen this pretty place instead of the church or house for the place of the wedding. My mother has given us permission to take over our piano and I am to play for them. My brother has a lovely voice and he is going to sing several pretty songs that cousin has already chosen. We are going to decorate the lawn with rugs and benches and the prettiest pillows we can borrow from our friends. Brother will make an altar near the piano. We shall borrow the large candles and candlesticks from the church so that in the evening the lawn will be lit up and that is when it will show it’s splendor. The altar and piano we shall decorate with wild flowers. The ceremony will be before dinner and the reception held under the shady oak trees out on the lawn. We shall make everyone present feel that my cousin’s outdoor wedding was a happy and successful affair.

 

In Love With Her Life, 1915

It is dusk. The children and I have just come in from the corral, where I milked seven cows. I am so in love with life that I find a day very short to hold its allotted joys.

First, I awoke a little earlier than usual this morning and lay thinking over the “had-to-be-dones.” It is baking day; but that is a glad-to-be as well as the other, because I love to experiment outside of the cookbooks. At half-past five I arose and by half-past six had breakfast on the table and my bread set. By eight o’clock we had breakfasted and I had the seven cows milked. How I love my gentle cows! What an inspiration their calm patience is! And I love to get out at that hour. At this altitude the mornings are always chilly but by eight it is pleasant. At half-past eight I had the three larger children dressed and at breakfast, while I ran the milk through the separator. While the children finished, I went again to the barnyard, where I fed my little chicks and turkeys and looked after the rest.

I have two rows of flowers between the barnyard and the house, so I stopped a few minutes to smell the sweet-peas, to admire the gorgeous colors of the poppies, and to pull a few weeds. By ten I had Baby bathed and all his little wants attended to, the breakfast dishes and the milk things washed, my bread in the oven and my dinner started. So I sat down to churn and to read while I churned. I use an old-fashioned dash churn, therefore I have an excuse for sitting down. I am glad of it, for I can read then.

By twelve I have my sweet golden butter printed, have heard my daughter’s lessons and have dinner ready. By half-past one we have had dinner and I have the kitchen in order and we all lie down for a rest. At two I begin making the beds, by three the whole house is straightened, so I have two hours for myself. I read a little story for the kiddies and then send them all to play while I read a little. I write a couple of letters and then go out to hoe and pull weeds a while.

I cook most of my supper while I cook dinner so I can prepare supper in a few minutes. So I feed my biddies, and the children gather the eggs, until we hear the men coming in from the field. By seven o’clock we have had supper, and Baby is put to bed. Daughter helps me put the kitchen to rights.

Then comes the goodest part of the day. We go to milk. Daughter and Son sit in the wagon out of harm’s way and I milk. We all enjoy the beauties of the sunset, the beautiful colors, the crisp little mountain breeze. By nine the kiddies have had their bath and are in bed. Daddy-man is playing the phonograph so they can go to sleep.

At ten o’clock my day will be finished. I shall finish this paper and read a little with Daddy-man and then it will be my bed-time. As I finish I see I have left out many little joys. I have kissed little hands to make hurts well perhaps a dozen times. I matched some colors and cut some blocks for Daughter’s patchwork quilt; I made a finger-stall for the hired man. I have answered the ‘phone a few times and–Now if some university can help me to make my days more elastic so that they can encompass all my joys comfortably, I shall be glad. There’s so much I want to do but–Good-night!

 

No Dollar Signs on Women’s Work, part 2

A couple of months after Unknown’s” letter first appeared, a response was written by a woman from Ohio, who signed her letter “Well-known.” She disagreed with the perspective of “Unknown”, the beet farmer’s wife, writing, “I think Unknown and her men do not realize how far a clean, comfortable, pleasant home goes toward getting that beet check.”

Mrs. Well-known went on to say that “it is only through the economy of the homemaker that most taxes are paid, that there is money for beet seed, etc.” She asked Mrs. Unknown, “What would the beet check amount to if there were not three wholesome meals every day? How far would it go if the homemaker did not bake the bread, finish the ironing, care for the children and the chicks, and do the other things ‘too numerous to mention’?”

Nearly every year around Mother’s Day, someone writes an article trying to calculate the worth of a stay-at-home mother. If someone were to hire a woman (or several!) to do all the tasks of a typical mother and factor in the overtime hours she works, her annual salary is estimated from $75,000 all the way up to $143,000! (Suddenly, that beet check isn’t going very far…)

For another modern-day example, my husband knows how to cook but dislikes it. He mentioned earlier this week that if it weren’t for me cooking for him, his meals would consist of cold cereal, frozen pizza, takeout dinners, and even worse, a tube of saltines with a jar of peanut butter. Without me cooking our meals from scratch, grocery costs would easily be triple our current budget and I think it’s reasonable to conclude that his health would be questionable.

Mrs. Well-known included this little story in her letter:

The wife of a prominent lawyer in our city was congratulated one day by a leading physician on her husband’s success, and denied any part in it. “You do not realize, “ the doctor answered, “how far a pleasant, sympathetic environment at home goes toward making a man’s success.”

Just another example of the incalculable value of the housewife, and happy are the husband and wife who know it!