Cleaning House 1950s-Style

Hang with me here for a moment.  We will get to Cleaning House 1950s-style, but first it’s important that you know this . . .

When we ask ourselves why we would want to live like a 1950s family, most of our answers revolve around the simplicity of the times.   In his blog post entitled The 1950′s: Do We Want to Go Back?, Dr. Mark Hendrickson sums it up nicely when he says,

In the ‘50s, homes were smaller, cars larger, attire more formal, and the range of consumer products far narrower. A sense of order prevailed. Neighbors watched out for everyone’s kids. We left our homes and cars unlocked. Kids behaved in school or were expelled. Most of us toed the line, because we knew that our parents would take the teacher’s side. Teachers were respected and principals feared. People accepted responsibility for their actions.
People dressed up more often and generally were more polite. They used less profanity in public. Movies depended on good acting instead of special effects to tell engaging stories, and depictions of intimacy and violence left the details to one’s imagination. If you hurt yourself doing something careless, you never thought of suing the company that made the thing with which you hurt yourself. Most of us went to Sunday school or synagogue every weekend, learning right from wrong and that we are accountable to a higher power.

I think what Dr. Hendrickson is speaking about, and what we all find ourselves craving, is a sense of community that has gone missing.  It’s that feeling of belonging to something bigger that we are hoping to recreate.

Cleaning House 1950s-Style

So what does all of this have to do with housework?

Well, I believe it’s one of the missing pieces of the puzzle.   Modern day moms and dads seem to have lost perspective when it comes to getting the children involved with contributing to the family unit and doing chores early on in their lives, and it’s a mistake.  Look at the most recent generations of teens graduating high school.  They have become known as the generation of entitlement.   They believe that they are owed everything and they want it right now.  It’s gotten so bad that website developers have figured out that they need to capture the attention of a young adult in just four seconds or that young person will simply click away to another web site.   Four seconds.  It’s out of control and it’s our fault.  We’ve babied them.  We’ve coddled them.  And now they are going to suffer the consequences of our actions by having to live in a world devoid of community.

So let’s fix it.

Belongingness is defined in Wikipedia as the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group.  They go on to say that “humans have an inherent desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves”.  This is what’s missing!   Starting now, we need to acknowledge that even our very young children need to learn to feel like they are a contributing factor to their community.  And it begins at home.  It begins with you.  And it begins with chores.  We have to start giving our kids part of the responsibility of house work.

Now, while I acknowledge that in the beginning it will be more of a chore for you to teach and supervise, I promise that the long-term results will be gratifying.   You will be teaching valuable skills and creating a young person who is ready to go out and contribute to society.  But when and where do you begin?  At age two.

Okay.  Stop laughing.

There are many chores that a toddler can learn to do.   There are the obvious ones–picking up toys and fetching diapers and wipes, but there are many more.   Cleaning up spills, piling books and magazines, and throwing items into the trash are some good ones.  With proper supervision, toddlers enjoy feeding pets and watering plants.  They can even dust the furniture.    Children as young as age three can be taught to fold wash cloths and even match socks.

By age four or five, you can begin to progress to more independent chores.  You can add things like making their own bed, pulling weeds in the garden, setting the table before dinner, sweeping or using a hand-held vacuüm to clean up crumbs or small messes, wiping baseboards, and wiping up spills or toothpaste spatter.  Every child’s abilities will be different, and you don’t need to include all the chores listed, but you do need to advance the chores to the point where the child maintains enough responsibility to grow and mature and hold on to that feeling of contribution to his or her family.

As the child ages there is no reason they can’t give more to maintaining a busy home.   Carrying groceries, folding and sorting laundry, putting their own clothing away, gathering trash and bringing it out to the outside trashcan, and replacing that darned toilet paper roll are all good chores for grade-school children.    Washing the dishes, changing bed sheets, washing the car, cleaning the bathroom, raking leaves, laundry, peeling vegetables, and preparing simple meals can be added around the Junior high school age.  And finally,  shopping for groceries, mowing the lawn, ironing, and basic mending skills such as sewing buttons and mending hems can be taught in high school.

Where do you begin?  Your first step in getting your house in order is to make a list of everything that needs to get done regularly and delegate.   Your second step is to come up with a plan for overseeing that the chores actually get done.   One effective method in our home was a chore exchange.   It worked like this.   If I told Stephanie that she needed to get the dishes done before I got home, and I came home and found them undone, I’d do them.   Then I’d tell Steph I did them and now she gets to do one of my chores– two loads of laundry. Then I’d stand there and watch her start the laundry and oversee her completing the chore.   Yes.  She hated that. Yes, she complained.  And yes, she made sure to do the dishes the next time.   Works like a charm.   We’ll discuss other ways to enforce chores in a later post.  There’s definitely something that works for every family and we’ll help you find the one that works for you.

Tomorrow we’ll start to discuss good systems for getting your own chores completed in a stream-lined way that leaves you feeling accomplished, proud, and sane.  Oh, and before you leave, don’t forget to subscribe to get free cleaning checklists and lots of other great tips sent to your email.

Check out part 2– Cleaning 1950s Style Part Two

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