Continuing on with The Book of Days, this post is designed to encourage you to see the blessings of modern technology for even the most old-fashioned of homemakers and to help you divine which tasks could be simplified and which truly do deserve to be elevated to puttery, domestic art…
This then is homemaking the
The Simplicity Myth.
In an age of conveniences so modern we can barely keep up with daily advances in technology, it is quite possible to run our homes as if they were machines. Setting all the domestic conveniences a-go-go, having the robo-vacuum hum quietly through the house all by itself, asking Siri or Alexa to find a recipe for us and keeping track of the whole caboodle on our mobile phones...
So when we talk about harking back to a simpler time, it is only ourselves we are kidding: keeping house the old-fashioned way is neither simple, nor easy, but it can be so very rewarding and so today I want to encourage you to find a balance between the kind of modern conveniences we would be foolish to deny and the intimate, rewarding pleasures of vintage housekeeping.
Browse, for a moment, around Pinterest and you will find many a modern women revering the fifties housewife, sharing her homemaking schedules and admiring the surely preposterous notion that beyond the manicured lawns of the new look semi-detached, the mistress of the house was scrubbing the floors in a net underskirt and heels.
It is of course nothing but an ad-man’s fantasy. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the same woman would have sold her seven-year old blue-eyed twins for a dishwasher and a Dyson, and yet we go on selling her arduous, repetitive lifestyle as something we should be bending ourselves into a pretzel to achieve: at once denying feminism, reducing our own domestic ancestors to Stepford-style caricatures, and telling ourselves that there was surely honour and reward in their often empty exhaustion.
For like us, the women of that time, had hopes and dreams beyond scouring the bath. While they may have had far less choice than we do, they certainly had the same emotions and intellectual leanings and were no more satisfied by drudge than we are today, so we do them a huge dis-service by believing that theirs is a way of life we should be seeking to replicate.
Instead we should be looking at our lives now and making the most of the conveniences we are lucky enough to have access to: wherever possible, making sure that they are environmentally efficient and using them as part of a mindful, but economic and systematic framework for a rewarding domestic routine we can go on to bless with tasks that elevate the art of homemaking to something more akin to craft than true labour.
Perhaps the loaves we make in the all-singing, all-dancing bread-maker aren’t as tasty as those we knead meditatively and bake in terracotta forms?
Maybe there is something to be said for line-drying the bed sheets on a sunny Spring day instead of stuffing them into the tumble-dryer and pulling them out hot and creased?
For home-made higgeldy-piggeldy fairy cakes instead of perfect shop-bought versions with the tasteless synthetic alternative to delicious butter cream they are so often topped with?
And perhaps, occasionally there really is call for getting on to our hands and knees and scrubbing our beloved kitchen tiles when the fancy steam mop just isn’t up to the job?
So too, there are some jobs that soothe our soul in the way that technology will never be able to replicate: the bliss of taking a broom to the patio at first light, the hand-washing of glassware in steaming bubbles and the careful hand-laundering of precious vintage linens in lemons and lavender. The starching of pillowcases sure to delighted our sleepy senses and the careful polishing of brass and silver to a shine we can smile into. Not so much housework as meditations on what it is to live well and to have effort rewarded by domestic bliss.
This then is not about tumbling back in time to replicate an era that never existed, but instead to acknowledging to ourselves where martydom is standing between us and ease, and contrarily, to where doing things the old-fashioned way would help us create intimate connection between home and soul.
You see, there is no reward in making life hard for ourselves, no housework trophy offered to those who shudder at the thought of owning a dishwasher, but so very much to be gained by allowing technology to make our lives as simple as can be so we can free up enough time, energy and emotional space in which to truly indulge ourselves in the domestic arts.
Choose one domestic task you know you are compromising your ideals on and elevate it, by committing to doing it the old-fashioned way: whether that means baking your own bread daily, hand-washing your vintage linens so they never have to suffer the slings and arrows of the washing machine, or sacking the gardener and throwing yourself heart and soul into creating the cottage garden of your dreams.
It’s time to create beautiful, rewarding balance between modern technology and conveniance and vintage housekeeping methods and to decide for yourself where you are over-complicating your life and which methods for each defined task sit best with your soul. There really isn’t any reward for being vintage for the sake of vintage, but so very much reward for living life in a way that feels both authentic and economical.
- Buy yourself a Mason Jar money box and start saving your loose change for the upgraded piece of domestic technology your heart desires.
- Make a weekly ritual out of handwashing your pyjamas in the most scrumptiously scented hot bubbles you can conjure up.
- Share the truth about your domestic life right now in the dedicated Simplicity Myth thread in the HomeSchool Common Room (It’s FREE!)…
My very own "Notes From a Life Less Ordinary" notebooks make for the most lovely of Housekeeper's Notebooks and will over time add up to a gorgeous record of your life at home...