I have to confess, I hate housework… and I’m not very good at it… I mean to be doing some chore but I so easily get distracted, or find I have spent a whole morning writing instead of doing whatever task I had intended to. Maybe I should follow the advice in Ruth Drew’s 1950’s writings, published in 1960 in her book ‘The Happy Housewife’.

Perhaps you think running a house is dull. Washing, making beds, polishing, sweeping, coping with food and the washing up… say after day, it’s the same old story…

Yes, Ruth it is, although coping with food isn’t a chore it’s a delight! It’s the clearing up and washing up afterwards…

But nowadays scientists and designers and engineers and manufacturers are steadily taking a lot of the boredom and backache out of work in the house. Indeed they are doing their best to make it positively gay. Have you ever thought how dreary it must have been for your great-grandmothers to work with such dull-looking equipment – black cooking pots, grey zinc buckets which clanked, brooms th colour of a wet day? But you probably have bright and shining saucepans, perhaps coloured plastic buckets, washing up bowls and nylon-tufted brooms. All told, household tools today can be as colourful as a bunch of balloons and they generally do their various jobs much more efficiently and pleasantly than great-grandmother’s equipment did.

The chapter goes on with all sorts of advice and suggestions, and then comes to New Year’s resolutions… there is a long list of things to always remember, and then things to do regularly…maybe I should try and do some of these:

  • turn out your handbag, brush the inside and tidy the jumble within
  • conduct a special clothes brushing session, with forays into slacks turn-ups, under collars and in cuff creases, etc.
  • to work through cupboards in every room, weeding out junk little by little and so save work at spring cleaning time

… actually I think I will adopt that last point, that really is a very good idea. Miss Drew continues on ‘occasional’ household tasks, and here is a selection:

  • check household linen for discards and repairs; and make a list of needs ready for the next white sale
  • to clean curtain runways with furniture cream to ensure smooth running
  • to visit the broom cupboard armed with a dog comb or a skewer and comb out threads and other entanglements from the bristles

I don’t think shops have ‘white sales’ any more, do they? And it never occurred to me that a broom cupboard might actually be a cupboard for brooms… how many brooms did people have in the 1950’s that they needed a whole cupboard for them?

I really am not laughing at Miss Drew and her book, just smiling at how different the world was nearly sixty years ago; it is a fascinating glimpse into our social history, and she writes with humour and fun.

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