Cleaning – the Retro Version

Cleaning - the Retro Version

From my housekeeping bible, America’s Housekeeping Book, comes a glimpse into our foremother’s daily cleaning routine:

  • Early Morning: Preparing and serving breakfast
  • Forenoon: General pickup. Light cleaning of rooms.
    Start weekly task (Monday – laundry; Tuesday – Marketing or ironing; Wednesday – Specific jobs such as silver polishing, shopping, sewing or something to be carried on throughout the day; Thursday – Thorough cleaning of rooms (Bedrooms and Bathrooms); Friday – Thorough cleaning of rooms (Living Room and Dining Room), Marketing; Saturday – Special food preparation for weekend.) Suggested weekly cleaning of Kitchen should happen the day before you do the bulk of your weekly food marketing.
  • Noon: Preparing foods for lunch and dinner. Lunch, Dishes, Cleaning up kitchen
  • Early Afternoon (until 2): finish weekly task
  • Late Afternoon: Rest, relaxation, correspondence, reading, personal care, etc.
    Final dinner preparation
  • Early Evening: Washing dishes.

For the daily cleaning routine:

  • Open windows in bedrooms, top and bottom, on arising, for free circulation of air (except in completely air-conditioned houses).
    Throw back bed covers, including top sheet, on all beds.
  • Clear away dishes and misplaced articles from dining room after breakfast.
  • Rinse and stack dishes, pots and pans in kitchen.
    Put away food.
  • Put living room in order.
  • Give all rooms regular daily cleaning, in following order:
    Living Room
    Second Living Room
    Dining Room
    Upstairs Hall, if any
    Downstairs Hall

The daily cleaning for each room is something similar to:

  • Open windows top and bottom for free circulation of air.
  • Pick up and replace [back to where they belong] small articles belonging in the room.
  • Gather up on tray to take out: articles belonging in other rooms, plants or flowers to be tended. Collect trash in waste basket.
  • Carry out tray.
  • Bring in cleaning equipment.
  • Dust high objects and radiator covers.
  • Brush upholstery if necessary. Straighten covers. Plump up pillows.
  • Dust furniture and low objects.
  • Dust exposed wood flooring. Use carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner on rugs or carpets.
  • Final touches: Straighten draperies, shades, curtains, etc. Take out cleaning and waste basket. Return accessories, flowers and waste basket. Close windows if desired.

Having done this routine, I can attest that if you’re starting with a house cleaned about a week or less prior, you can get through this in just a couple of hours.

That being said, their encouragement is to find a schedule that works for you and your family – not be a slave to the outline they propose.

“Housekeeping is a real job – a job that needs to be planned carefully if one would avoid becoming a slave to housework or have free time for social activities and outside interests.

The easiest way to plan housework is to make a schedule which assigns each household tasks to the particular day – or perhaps even the particular hour – when it can be done most quickly and conveniently.

The benefits of a schedule are many:

  1. It relieves the uncertainty and nervous strain of “never knowing when you’ll get things done.”
  2. It allows more things to be done in a given length of time.
  3. It allows planning for leisure pleasures with the comfortable, confident feeling that housework need not be neglected.
  4. It allows planning the work of a part-time or full-time helper so that endless repetition of orders is avoided and more satisfactory assistance for the money spent is obtained.

In short, when a schedule has been followed until it becomes second nature, you run your house; it doesn’t run you.

How to go about making a schedule? First write down the jobs that need to be done every day. Next write down the tasks that need to be done on a particular day of the week. Then make a simple chart, and write down each job at the day and hour when it is most convenient to work it in.

We can help establish individuals schedules by setting up a skeleton plan which can be added to or altered according to specific needs. The lists…are a start toward making a reasonable plan for scheduling daily and weekly activities.

No two homes are exactly alike, and different conditions affect the work schedule.”

“After trying conscientiously to follow a schedule for a week or more, it is time to check up. If the day seems crowded, and if it is difficult to do all the work that is scheduled for a given day, there may be a remedy. Here are a few questions that may get to the root of the trouble:

  1. Have you tried to do too much on one day? If so, move one or two tasks to less crowded days.
  2. Do you know the one best way to accomplish a given task?
  3. Do you collect all the materials, ingredients or pieces of equipment that you need for a specific job before you begin? This always saves time and steps.
  4. Are your housekeeping tools and materials efficient, easy to use, and in good condition? Poor tools slow down work.
  5. Is the place where each job is to be done arranged conveniently?
  6. Do you take too long to do a specific job? Keep a record of the time it takes to do ordinary tasks like dishwashing and bed making. If it seems overlong, see if you cannot find short cuts which not only speed up the work, but do it more efficiently. Study the job, study the working conditions and study the right methods. Skill and speed can be acquired through practice.
  7. Are your standards of housekeeping too high? For instance: (a) Are you too tired at night to enjoy your family? (b) Do you have time to play with the children? (c) Do you consider silver polishing more important than a picnic? Couldn’t the polishing wait until tomorrow?”

“Don’t set yourself a standard that is beyond your strength. Don’t sacrifice necessary recreation to the god of absolute cleanliness. Don’t neglect precious family relationships for the pleasure of a spotless house. Nothing dire will happen if certain less-used rooms have to be given a “lick and a promise” occasionally!

Remember, the easiest and quickest way to do a job well is the most efficient way. Organize your time and make every minute count while you are working. Then relax and enjoy life in the leisure hours that are rightfully yours because you have earned them.”

I really like that the authors give permission to not make life all about cleaning; they encourage you to the important things first. Get the cleaning out of the way so you can have fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about?


Sewist, knitter, reader, dancer. Wife. Lover of things vintage and retro.


  1. […] Cleaning – the Retro Version October 23, 2014 […]