Wednesday, December 15, 2010

50's House Earth

Peace from the Regular East!

12 years ago, when I was a newlywed, My late husband and I agreed that which ever of us cooked (he could cook, but was VERY messy) the other would clean up after. Now as with any agreement, you know that there will be mitigating factors that could render that agreement null and void. I picked up a part time job that had me out of the house from 6 am to nearly 12am. He just had his regular 9-5. I saw that as a mitigating factor. Unfortunately, my husband didn't.

I came home from work at midnight one morning, and was informed that there were dishes in the sink to wash. I looked to verify. It was true. But I neither had the strength or inclination to wash them. He didn't even cook anything for me. But he was like, a deal is a deal. Emphatically Now Cipher! I just slept and did wardrobe changes there. I didn't have to even go in the kitchen. I made enough gold to eat out at will. And since he was being so stank, I stopped buying groceries. I figured if he ran out of food he would stop messing up the kitchen. Also, since he was so fastidious about so many things, I assumed he would get tired of the filth and clean up HIS OWN mess. I watched him go from eating off plates, to bowls, to saucers to tea cups to napkins. He stood his ground and so did I.

I didn't have to work the second job on Fridays and got home around 6-ish. Except this particular Friday I had a meeting at the church. When I got to the house around 9-ish, there were no parking spaces available. That was indicative of someone having company since most of my neighbors had driveways. When I looked up to where our apartment window was, I saw that it was US that had company. I got to the top of the stairs (we rented the 2nd floor in a BIG assed house) and realized that every single one of my in-laws was in my house. I looked at the door to the kitchen and could see the light on. Dread washed over me. At that moment, my mother-in-law emerged through said door and smiled at me and waved me over. She whispered in my ear, "I took care of that little problem in your kitchen." The horror! I was speechless but tried to come up with some bullshit that she was going to accept. I knew telling her that her son was responsible was not going to fly. Even though we were cool, her son was the apple of her eye and could do no wrong. She then gave me a bit of advice that I use to this day.....

"Honey, I know you young people have to work these days, but IF YOU DO A LITTLE BIT EACH DAY, IT ALL GETS DONE."

I love a clean house and generally keep one. The way that used to work for me was to block off unused rooms and cook very little. The only rooms that got used regularly were my bathroom, bedroom and to a small degree kitchen and den. I could clean the kitchen when I was done with it and swifter the floor. Seriously, I had empty rooms! So for me to clean the house and have it sparkling didn't take that much of an effort and could be done quickly one morning of a weekend. Well.... I now live with a bear. And this bear lives all over the house. I can't get it together like I used to. Now I cook... REAL MEALS.. every night when I get home from work. And the washing machine is on every few days when it used to be on twice a month. I have fallen way behind in my duty to keep my home. I need a plan....

I'm a avid blog reader. And I have noticed a trend with the blogs I frequent. The 50's housewife experiments. This interest is probably peaked from Mad Men, no doubt. Plus I do a lot of vintage blogs. MM makes that time seem idyllic for white people. What that is, is these women will treat there husbands and their homes like wives would have done in the 50's. Yes, all of the blogs that I have read where these women have done this were white, so I'm thinking that white women in the 50's had different lives from Black women in the 50's. But I feel the premise is the same, and I will do this for a minute and make the essential changes but try to keep the essence of the challenge. Y'all know I like a challenge.

What I have been able to gather about the lifestyle of a 50's housewife from blogs, articles, TV and old people is that back in the 50's a woman did EVERY-DAMN-THING in the house. A man went to work and that's it. He put in an 8 hour day and for that he was rewarded with dinner, a martini, a clean home and dutiful children named Kitty, Wally and The Beaver. He might have to do a weekly yard bid, but other than that a man's life was gravy.

My mother tells me about my grandmother. How she never worked. But she was able to get that laundry hung before the sun rose for 4 people every Monday. She didn't have a washing machine so she was out in the dead of morning, firing up a big pot, washing clothes by hand, with the soap she made herself (I wonder when she found time to do that since she never worked?), and getting them hung. Then going back in the house to make breakfast and lunches for her family before she went out to tend the hogs on the hog farm that my grandfather kept. Hogs was a side gig for my grandfather Who only looked after them when there was a problem or during selling or slaughtering time. The day to day care came from MaMa. Then she tended a 'garden' that was the size of the plot that my house sits on, and had lunch and dinner ready for folks when they got home from the field and school. Every meal they ate she grew, cooked and possibly helped kill, and the house was always clean and perfect. But she never worked.

One of the 50's housewife strategies was to develop a routine for chores. I recognize that I will not get it all done in a day. So that works out well for me. I used a common routine from the 50's of how them housewives got down. Here is the tentative list. I will tweak it until it works for me.
Sunday........ Dust
Monday........ Litter
Tuesday....... Vacuum
Wednesday... Bathrooms
Thursday...... Grocery shopping and meal planning for the week
Friday.......... Laundry
Saturday...... Mop, change sheets
Everyday...... Pick up, cook, tend the plants, wind the clock, trash

Monthly Chores (I do this 1/month)
Sweep the stairs
Change the Litter
Clean The Refrigerator
Polish the silver

Change the filter in the furnaces (depending on usage)
Wash windows
Changed external bedding
Change batteries in smoke detectors
Redecorate according to season

I started this challenge on Monday. So I'm only 3 days into things. I recognize that I am not being the ideal 50's housewife because I'm working. Bad Serenity! So I can't meet the God with a martini and dinner at the door. I also don't cook him breakfast of make his lunch. I'm a Black 50's housewife. Machete improvise. I do make my own lunch, though. I did litter on Monday, and vacuumed last night. I picked up all over the house and cooked a meal from scratch. We are vegetarians and I made smothered chick-un seitan (60 minutes on the stove alone!) mashed potatoes (from scratch) and calaloo. I cheated with the calaloo and made that from a can. But I had to have veggies on the plate. All of it was vegan. I still struggle back and forth with the vegan-vegetarian thing. I want to get us in the habit of taking our meals together at the table. The bear is resisting. (Help me out folks by sending the encouraging comment for that one!) I cheated a bit and started my laundry. That was more out of necessity than just trying to be contrary. I will put the laundry away on Friday. By next Monday I should have a shiny clean and perfect house, at least on the inside. (I can see I'm going to hate Wednesdays) The Bear can do the outside.

I made the apron in the picture maybe 6 years ago? I must have always had a little 50's housewife in me. I am going to stay mindful of the challenge by wearing the apron when I'm getting my housewife on. Maybe the 1st thing I need to do is iron it?

Wish me luck!