Mary Norris, home economist. Image courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.
One of my emerging callings appears to be reclaiming domesticity. Earlier this year I posted to my personal Facebook page that I thought it was time to bring back classes like home economics to education. I took this in eighth grade. I remember that we cooked and sewed things, but that was about it. Still, it was a great way to introduce skills which could come in handy later in life, and it was not a gender-specific class. Nowadays I have no idea if my old middle school has a home ec class. Or even if they still have shop classes. I think we have lost something big by doing away with these classes and focusing solely on academia. Not everyone will go or wants to go to college. It should not be looked down upon if this is the case. Plus, we all need to have some basic skills in taking care of stuff in our lives and not have to depend solely on outside help.
I got inspired in this direction last winter when I read Radical Homemakers. Stories of people who had reclaimed home life, had a high level of self-sufficiency along with community involvement… something within me craves these things. I do believe strongly in being independent as much as possible. But at the same time I also believe strongly in interdependence. No one person can take care of ALL their needs alone. Even if they can, sometimes they need assistance. This is how community is built: people working together. People needing other people. It’s a long term goal, not just for myself but for a lot of our communities. It’s much too easy to get shut in to our own little houses and our own little lives and forget about others out there.
So how do we change these things? I freely admit I am not the best person at communicating with my neighbors, and that is something I need to work on. While I practice that, I also am working on skills I feel are essential to making a home run better.
Why would you bother learning these things?
It seems like a lot of the traditional food people I encounter online have embraced the model of one spouse at home and one who goes out to work, so maybe this post is preaching to the choir. But maybe some of you don’t follow this model. You may live alone, or in a partnership where you both work. Maybe you’re tired of having to hire out to take care of a lot of your domestic business and want to save some money as well as learning how to take care of your home by yourselves.
This post is for you. Consider it a checklist for things you can possibly do on your own, and things you can learn to do on your own. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it’s likely you can find instructions for just about anything here which you don’t know how to do on your own. Or you could also ask someone in your neighborhood for help…
This is a list of some of the things I think are essential to know about taking care of a house. Some are little, some not so little. Some are things I am still working on learning, so don’t take this as a list of stuff I know how to do.
Oh, for those of you who have been here for a while, why yes I AM fond of making lists.
How to balance a checkbook (because you can’t always count on the balance in your online banking to be accurate)
How to create a budget
Cooking and Food
How to cook a basic meal from scratch
Making up a meal plan
How to re-purpose leftovers
Buying items in a more economical fashion (a good thing to know if you buy grass-fed and pastured meat, which can run more than your average supermarket cut)
How to clean your house without caustic cleaners (Water, baking soda, vinegar, bleach, and ammonia in your arsenal and you can tackle almost any stain. I’m also partial to Bon Ami)
How to properly do laundry
The basics of using tools like a hammer and screwdriver
How to use a plunger
How to sew a hem and mend a tear
How to properly iron
How to add fluids and which ones are OK to add on your own
How to change a tire
And the most important one of all: Know when you can potentially do something yourself, and when to source outside help.
What’s on your essential list? Are there any domestic skills you’d like to tackle?