How did women tackle housework in the 1940s? The Good Housekeeping Housekeeping books give us a peek into the daily housework tasks of women during that era. Discover and print a daily checklist to help you manage your home like a vintage housewife.
In 1947, Good Housekeeping magazine printed a book that guided housewives through all the ins and out of home-keeping. This how-to book clearly explains what steps a homemaker needs to take to keep her home gleaming and how to address everyday problems. From how to remove nail polish from a dress and ink spots from a rug, to how to banish ants from the pantry, keep the silver gleaming, open a stopped sink drain, how to wash, iron, and clean in ways that are the most efficient and practical–the million and one things every homemaker ought to know how to do.
The entire book is pretty fascinating, and I’d love to own a copy, but many of the editions that are currently for sale are being sold as collector’s items, with prices starting around $100. Luckily though we can check out the digital copy in the public domain here.
One of my favorite chapters is geared specifically at housecleaning and is meant to provide readers with a comprehensive daily, weekly, and seasonal household cleaning tasks list, aiming to ease the life of homemakers. In that era, housekeeping was undoubtedly considered an art form and a significant responsibility for women, and they probably would have wanted to be efficient and knowledgeable in their housekeeping endeavors and appreciative of a premade routine.
As you dive into these tasks, you’ll find many still relevant today, even with modern advancements in technology and cleaning products. The daily cleaning rituals of the 1947 housewife encapsulated a meticulous approach to maintaining a clean and organized home. By following these tasks, you can cultivate a similar sense of cleanliness while appreciating the history and evolution of domestic upkeep. Today we will look at the daily chores specific to the 1940s and gain insight into the discipline and commitment it took to maintain a well-kept home.
In 1947, homemaking revolved around specific daily tasks and routines to maintain a clean and orderly home. As a 1940s housewife, your daily routine consisted of various cleaning tasks that ensured your home was spick-and-span. You would start your day by making the beds and tidying up the bedrooms. Afterward, you would move on to the kitchen, where your tasks included washing dishes, wiping countertops, and sweeping the floor.
Throughout the day, you would tackle different chores specific to each day of the week, such as laundry on Mondays and mending on Tuesdays. This daily cleaning routine helped you stay organized and efficiently manage your home.
Tips if you are feeling overwhelmed
To begin a cleaning routine when your house is cluttered and you feel overwhelmed, break the cleaning process into smaller, manageable tasks. Choose one special task to do each day, such as cleaning a closet, setting a timer, and working on that area of your home that needs to be cleaned or decluttered. It can also be helpful to sneak in cleaning tasks throughout the day, such as wiping down surfaces after use or washing wastebaskets when taking out the trash. And yes, creating or using a step-by-step cleaning checklist like the one below can help keep you organized and on track. Remember to be patient with yourself and keep working at it, as you’ll become more and more efficient at completing the tasks over time.
I think it’s important to note that if the root cause of your overwhelms with your house is clutter, it is good to remember decluttering is an ongoing process, and it’s okay if you don’t get everything done in one day. Take it one step at a time and focus on progress, not perfection. Remember that decluttering is not a one-time event but rather a continual process of assessing and letting go of items that no longer serve a purpose in your life.
The Good Housekeeping Housekeeping Book
This list of cleaning tasks is part of a comprehensive guide that outlines the cleaning tasks that should be performed daily, weekly, and seasonally. These tasks set the foundation for maintaining a clean and organized home. Daily tasks include making the bed, wiping surfaces, and washing dishes. Examples of weekly tasks are: cleaning the floors, dusting furniture, and washing linens. Seasonal tasks include deep cleaning the carpets and washing windows and walls.
I love that the book says, “The following work plans have been made as practical as possible. Under average conditions, they are within the limit of what one woman can do herself“. Some of the vintage routines I have seen online aren’t totally reasonable.
Kitchen Daily Tasks
The cleaning of the kitchen is a three-times-a- day job. When a meal is over the dishes should be washed and the kitchen straightened up before you do other household work.
- Remove dishes from the table, scrape, and rinse under the faucet if they need it. Stack them neatly at one side of the sink.
- Put away foods that belong in the refrigerator.
- Clear away waste food. Get rid of grounds from coffee or teapot and empty cooking utensils which have been soaking during the meal.
- Clean sink so that it will be ready for dishwashing.
- Prepare dishwater and wash, dry and put away dishes.
- Sweep the kitchen floor at least once daily.
- Last, empty the waste-paper basket and garbage container and put a clean liner or garbage bag in the garbage container.
Bedroom Daily Tasks
- Hang up night clothes and put away slippers.
- Make the beds.
- Straighten up the bureau, chest of drawers and vanity top. Dust if necessary.
- At least once between weekly cleanings, use your vacuum cleaner and attachments for removing dust, or use a push broom, dust mop, dustpan and duster.
Daily Care of the Bathroom
- Replace soiled towels with clean ones. To prevent mildew, be sure to dry out damp towels before they are put into the hamper.
- Wash basin and faucets with household cleanser, water softener or one of the new multi-purpose cleaners. Keep a cellulose sponge in the bathroom for cleaning up basin and tub.
- Clean bathtub and spread out shower curtain until dry.
- At least once between weekly cleanings clean the toilet bowl.
Daily Living Room Tasks
Because the living room is the one room in the house which every member of the family uses, it calls for the most picking up and greatest attention in cleaning. To start each day with the room neat, take a few minutes before going to bed to pick up newspapers and magazines, empty the ashtrays, and take glasses into the kitchen.
- Take faded flowers and discarded papers and magazines to the kitchen for disposal. To save steps use a paper bag for collecting ashes, flower petals, candy wrappings and discarded mail.
- Dust furniture and lamps, and plump-up pillows. Stack magazines and return anything which is out of place.
- Give floors and rugs whatever care they need to make them look presentable. Use your carpet sweeper or your vacuum cleaner to remove surface litter.
Cleaning the Dining Room and Hall
The daily, weekly, and seasonal care of the dining room and halls, follow the routine given for the living room. See “Cleaning the Living Room,” above. The only extra care the dining room needs is using a carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner after each meal so that crumbs will not remain on the floor, covering and making stains.
Printable 1947 Housewife Daily Cleaning Task Checklist
If you want to try this vintage cleaning routine, I have created a checklist listing the daily cleaning tasks from the 1947 Good Housekeeping Book. From sweeping the floors to polishing the silverware, each item on the checklist reflects the attention to detail and dedication to a pristine home that defined the 1940s housewife. Download this delightful freebie today and embark on a nostalgic cleaning journey while adding a touch of vintage flair to your daily routine.
A Final thought…
While maintaining a tidy home, remember to prioritize self-care and allocate time for yourself within your routine. Set aside dedicated me time on your schedule, ensuring you have time to relax, recharge, and engage in activities you enjoy. By doing so, you can reduce stress levels and enhance your well-being, and prevent burn-out.