Cleaning House, 1950’s Style– Part 2

Cleaning the House, 1950’s Style– Part 2

If there’s less to clean, it stays cleaner and it cleans up faster. Right? Right. So that’s how we begin today’s discussion about Cleaning House, 1950’s Style– Part 2. If you’ve read Part 1, then it’s time to move on. The fact is that back in the 50s there wasn’t so much stuff. There wasn’t the level of consumerism that we see now. We are literally buried under stuff–mostly useless, decorative things we picked up purely out of a spur-of-the-moment emotional response.

It’s keeping-up-with-the-Joneses stuff. It’s I-might-need-this-in-an-emergency stuff. It’s I-don’t-have-much-but-I-have-this stuff, and it’s making our lives difficult. In some cases, it’s even damaging our health.   That useless clutter that you repeatedly trip over costs money to buy, it costs money to maintain, it costs money to insure, it costs mental energy to worry about, and it costs emotional frustration in a million ways. If your house is very cluttered and very untidy, it might even be causing relationship issues.

“Did you know that every time you see something that causes that funny little ‘something’s wrong’ feeling in your stomach, it causes a stress response trigger in your body? Change the lightbulb.  Sew the button.  Replace the hubcap.  Just do it.”

Yes. That’s right. Every time you see that pile of magazines you paid for but have not read, every time you see the missing hubcap, every time you see the nightlight with the burnt out bulb, and every time you see that little speckle of spaghetti sauce that somehow ended up on the wall but you haven’t cleaned it off yet, it’s literally hurting you. Or it’s hurting your spouse when it bothers him. That’s because our bodies don’t know the difference between stress responses.  Your body doesn’t know you aren’t being attacked.  It just releases the same chemicals as every other stress response, ultimately causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life. 1950's cleaning routine

All those little negative twinges add up to bigger problems.

So for that reason and many others, it’s time to clean up and clean out.  And really the only reason the clutter and those annoying items are still there, for most of us, is because the idea of cleaning out the clutter in our lives is overwhelming.  There’s just so much of it. But I ask you this.  What is more overwhelming?   The day-to-day chaos? The never-ending cleaning routine?  The emotional drain that clutter creates?  The financial pit that clutter causes?  Or the idea of working a bit to get rid of all of that? That’s right.   You want to get rid of it.  So let’s do it.

Here’s how to do it without losing any sleep.

  1.  Start small. Grab a box. Right now. Go find one. Then choose a spot of clutter. Maybe it’s your junk drawer. Maybe it’s a book shelf or countertop.  Wherever.  Go there and remove every single thing. Then only put back the essential items.  If it isn’t absolutely necessary to your survival, put it either (a) in the box of items to get rid of or (b) in the pile of “Oh, I don’t need it but I don’t think I can part with it” items. Put the pile in the back of a closet that you don’t use often.  We’ll deal with those in a minute.
  2. Grab another box.  Go to another spot. Repeat everything in number 1 above.  Do this two more times.
  3. Good! Now, here’s one of those opportunities to make some money that we, as stay-at-home wives and moms, are always watching for. Sell the items in those boxes on eBay or  Craig’s List. (Be very careful with this. Use common sense. Only have people come to your home when your spouse is present, etc.) Or have a yard sale.If you don’t think they are salable items but they are serviceable, immediately put them in your car and plan to take those boxes to a donation center (if applicable where you live, get a receipt so you can claim it on your taxes), or put on or another similar site.  If it’s broken but fixable, or if it can be recovered, repainted, or renewed, put it on Freecycle or Craig’s List, but point out that it will need servicing.  If it’s just plain garbage, recycle it or throw it away
  4. Next. admire your clear, clean space and declare it a “No Clutter Zone.” Tell everyone in the house that it’s a no clutter zone, and guard it as if it is the last square yard of conservation land on earth. Be rabid about it. You will find after a few days that those open, clean spaces give you a sense of peace and comfort. You will feel inspired to clear more spaces.  When that happens, begin again at number one.

1950's cleaning routineI know it seems simple.  And, it is.  Really.  Looking at cleaning out the entire house in one fell swoop is overwhelming. Doing a couple of small areas is simple.  So that’s how you attack this.  And keep doing it until you have done all areas. Once that is done, you will likely have a sizable pile of items you didn’t think you could part with sitting in the back of that closet.  Let me ask you this.  It’s been a few days or a few weeks. You haven’t touched those things. You’ve been enjoying your clear, open spaces.  Do you really miss them as much as you thought you would?  Go through that pile again.  Get rid of more.  You’ll be able to now.   Put the items you really, really can’t part with back in the closet, but this time in boxes.  Tape the boxes closed.  Put the date on them.  Don’t write anything else.

In one year if you have not opened the boxes and you can’t remember what’s in those boxes, you haven’t missed that stuff.  So vow that you will get rid of it.

Warning! Do not open the box. Yes. I know. There will be things in there that have sentimental value. Maybe someone gave it to you as a wedding gift.  Perhaps, something is in there that was your great-grandma’s. I know.  But is it helping you? Or is it causing you stress?  Would the person who gave it to you want to cause you stress?  No. So either give it to someone else in the family, or take a photo of it.  Keep the photo in a “memories” folder on your computer.  Then get rid of it. You hesitated. You froze. The idea still paralyzes you. Well let me ask this.  Do you have any idea how many mementos you would collect in a lifetime?  You can’t possibly keep them all forever.  Keep only what adds to your life experience.  You have to realize that this household clutter is only one aspect of life clutter we are going to talk about in this blog. This need to hang on to memories is another. You will have to realize that the memory is not attached to that item.  It’s in your head. Try the photo thing.  Tryyyyy it. I bet you can do it.  I did.  And now not only do I have a peaceful, clutter-free house, I also have a lot more room in that closet.  You will too. That’s your mission for today.  Let me know how you feel after you get that first area cleaned.  I can’t wait to hear from you!  Also, don’t forget to subscribe to receive our free cleaning checklists and lots of other helpful tips.   You don’t want to miss a thing.  That’s where all the fun stuff is.  🙂 You might also like: A Real 1950s Cleaning Routine A 1960’s Housewife’s Cleaning Routine   *Links on this page may be monetized.  That means that if you go through that link and purchase a product or service we may get a tiny referral fee.  Those pennies add up to help us maintain this website.  Thank you! SaveSave





  1. Great post! I live in a house that’s a bit of a shambles honestly. It’s an old house and we rent, so we are unable to fix many problems which include particle board counters and cupboards literally falling apart, linoleum literally cracking and peeling, paint peeling. I absolutely can’t stand this house but for now we are stuck here. I’ve always used the poor state of the house as an excuse to not clean it to my best ability which means it just gets worse. Recently I realised if I want to be a stay at home mum I need to actually earn that position and stop making my husband feel like I’m just a freeloader so I’ve begun cleaning up properly, doing one extra bit at a time. It’s not so bad when you only do one little but at a time. Benches are less cluttered, the window actually got cleaned, I’m getting there.

    • Oh Jessie. First, you are not a freeloader. You are now doing the hardest job on earth. As for the rest, you are correct! Attack it a little at a time and then just keep up with the day-to-day. (That post is coming later today or first thing tomorrow). It’s not as difficult as you’d think if you can just get yourself into a routine. Force it at first, and then it comes naturally and you’ll grow to love the tidiness and routine. Talk soon!

  2. I have trouble with everyone ELSE’S junk! My mom, mother-in-law, father-in-law and his wife, sister, even hubby’s grandma feel compelled to dump their junk in our house. Add that to a newborn and toddler’s junk and hubby’s, it is a nightmare. Yesterday I finally took down his deseased grandma’s crockery set (100% dust collector) and I am NOT putting it back unless he says something. She was a nice lady, but I am tired of living with other people’s stuff in my house, living or not. It is a work in progress!

  3. Our family of six lives in a 900 sq ft farmhouse. By today’s standards, it feels cramped, but I recognize it was very much the standard 60 – 70 years ago. I’m wondering if you’ve found statistics on how many possessions people owned: number of outfits on average for children and adults, toys, books, dishes, etc. We have decluttered loads since moving here, but I would love to have a reference point that fits with the era our house was designed to accommodate.

  4. I love this blog and I can’t wait to start to try this method! I know you said not to open the box that you tape shut with the date on it bur I have a question about that.
    Say for example I put some clothes in there that I don’t think need. Then a few months later I am looking for some black boots and I can’t remember if there might be some in there or not. Can I open the box? If there aren’t any in there do I just keep taping it back up every time?
    I know that is probably a difficult question but I just want to do this the right way. Thanks!!

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