Saving and Spending Minutes–Efficient Housekeeping 1923

Finding time is as good or better than finding a dollar. It is the busy people who generally acquire both.

Hello, again History Lovers,

In today’s world, Mrs. Elizabeth Wright might have posted her cleaning and organizing hacks on TikTok. However, in order to share household tips in her day, she wrote to The Farmer’s Wife—A Magazine For Farm Women where her letter was published in the March 1923 issue–just as homemakers were beginning to think about spring cleaning. The personal reward for her hard work was to have more time to do the things she loved outdoors.

Enjoy!

“When I first began doing my own work, I realized that I must be saving minutes if I would have any time left from my manifold household duties for things outside. May I tell you of some of the time savers I then attached to myself?

One of them was learning to dust with two dust rags instead of one. It was a little awkward at first but I soon found that I could manipulate a dust rag in each hand. I would make my left and right slide from opposite directions along bookshelves, door casings, table legs, arms and backs of chairs, and presto! My dusting was done in half the time. After two years of practice, I am almost expert enough to dust the picture molding with one hand and polish the floor with the other! This specialty in the line of timesavers caused much amusement among my friends, some doubting Thomas’s requiring a demonstration, after which they adopted the method for their own daily schedule.

I found this same two-handed principle worked in many things. In polishing silver, I use flannel mittens instead of rags and rub them with each hand. It also works magic in washing windows, scouring, and any other occupation in which one’s left hand has been accustomed to soldiering.

The next time saver I got hold of was avoiding the accumulation of mail, papers, and so forth. By forming a habit of looking over and disposing immediately of all not to be kept for reference or passing on, I eliminated the trouble of a second inspection, which would have been necessary if the things had been laid away and forgotten. Especially do I clean up empty envelopes, circulars, and other printed drift that the mail brings but no one needs.

Then I started the habit of keeping in the living room a work-basket, so as to have some pick-up sewing always handy. Putting in a few stitches now and then, when chatting with friends, will develop many embryo garments into finished ones. If the machine work is completed on undergarments, the hand-finishing goes quickly, done in this way. Then I always keep a magazine handy to read during moments snatched, here and there, while waiting for someone or something.

When setting or clearing a table I always use a large tray to carry the dishes. [A wheeled tray of course is ideal.] When the dishes are washed, I replace on the tray those that are to be used at the next meal; this saves putting them back and forth into the China closet. I scrape and stack the dishes before washing them, separating the glass and silver and by rinsing all of them in hot water the burden of drying is minimized. Polishing the glass and silver will be about all that is necessary. I fasten a small piece of rubber tubing to the bottom of each faucet and this lessens accidental chipping of dishes that might strike them.

White oilcloth on all my shelves and tables saves much labor. It is easily wiped and always looks fresh. When doing work that necessitates making any trash or stains, I protect my work table or the floor with old newspapers and gather up the debris in them. I keep all scraps of soap in a small tin can with a top well perforated. Boiling water poured over or run through this gives a nice suds and soap wastage is lessened.

It is a great convenience to have in the kitchen a bag for clean wrapping paper and string; also, a bill file, a pad of paper and pencil, a box containing some pins and needles, coarse thread for basting, a small pile of muslin and a pair of scissors. I keep fat drippings in a glass jar, also mayonnaise and cracker crumbs. I always have on a shelf in the kitchen a row of big and little jars and dishes for such uses.

I find it also of the greatest convenience to have a number of bags handy of different thicknesses of material. A canvas bag for crushing ice. Flannel for broom bags; small paper bags for parsley, mint, lettuce, or celery, into which they can be put when washed and then kept crisp on the ice. Also bags for straining things, for cottage cheese, and so forth. I keep a supply of these bags on hand made from scraps or sugar sacks as there is no limit to their usefulness. There is a large bag hanging in my pantry for soiled table and kitchen linen.

On a shelf in my linen closet there is also a row of clean (boiled) bottles and jars, culled from the periodical cleaning out of the medicine closet, and wonderfully convenient they are, when an empty jar or bottle is needed in a hurry.

I found out that in making beds one can save a lot of steps and time by finishing entirely the spreading of covers on one side of the bed, before going to the other side.

In the bathroom closet, I keep an extra broom, dustpan, and small ironing board. This has saved me many steps back and forth when they might be at different ends of the house when needed. If one has not a closet to hold them, keep them behind a curtain hung on a rod a foot or two from the wall, where a shelf can also be placed to hold bathroom conveniences and include in these a small jar to hold bits of soap, that can be made into liquid soap for shampooing or laundry work and bottles of disinfectant and cleaning powders.

There are so many more conveniences that I have discovered and ways of utilizing, what I call the discard, that I cannot tell it all at one time”. –Elizabeth M. Wright

~FWM

My Great Purpose For 1923–Part 6

Hello History Lovers!

In the final installment of My Great Purpose For 1923, we hear from Mrs. S. from Minnesota who wishes to spend more time with her children and to use that time to teach them skills that will be beneficial to them as they grow up. Along with teaching them hard work and responsibility, she desires to create a bond within her family that will tie them together in peace, love, and unison.

Enjoy!

Creating a Bond with My Children

As the New Year approaches, I find myself planning for 1923. My greatest plan is to involve my children more in home and farm affairs.

I shall begin in the home by raising my present mode of housekeeping by careful planning of my work in order to gain more time to spend with my children.

Next, I shall make more of a companion of my daughter, who is only eight but old enough to stir the cake batter and incidentally learn recipes for different dishes. She shall have batter to bake in her own little patty tins. Grandma calls this “fussing” but I think even fussing is O.K. when it serves a good purpose, don’t you? My daughter shall also have a share in the farm flock and together we will read and keep posted on the poultry business and perhaps display some of our birds at the county fair and poultry show. During the canning season, she and I will prepare an exhibit of fruit, jelly, and other things for the fair.

Robert, who is twelve, shall have a plot of potatoes all his own and either a pig or a calf to care for, pet, and proudly display all profits to be his when the animal is sold.

As a reward for success, he will be promised a chance to join a county contest later on. He also will have an opportunity to exhibit his animal at the fair if he so wishes. With this goal in view, I think he will take more interest in his work.

Do not think that my object is all work and no play for recreation has an important part but I have no space to tell of the good times I am planning. My great purpose for 1923 may sound very simple but in reality, it is very complex as there are scores of details, little plots, and plans which will involve a great amount of labor and patience. But my reward will be ample if I can create a bond between children, parents, home, and farm which will grow strong enough as the years roll by, to hold them together in peace, love, and unison, which after all is my final aim. –Mrs. S.S., Minnesota.

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women January 1923, Page 260; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

My Great Purpose For 1923–Part 4

Hello History Lovers!

Today’s blog post expresses well my appreciation for my readers and followers. Thank you for reading along and taking the time to comment. I am enjoying the journey of learning about our foremothers and I’m Glad You’re Here!

I’m Glad You’re Here!

He stood, that small nephew of mine, in the doorway, while his serious eyes searched the faces before him. And then with a rush he as upon me. Sturdy, six-year-old arms held me fast and an earnest little voice said, “Gee! But I’m glad you’re here!”

And that greeting was the birthday of my purpose for the days of 1923. I resolved then and there to be one to whom that boy could always come with as warm a welcome, and my resolution expanded naturally until I now find myself striving to make all with whom I come in contact “glad that you’re here.” I cannot do this unless I make them feel sure of my friendship and understanding.

In my own home, my purpose means perhaps that I shall be a less perfect housekeeper than in the past but a more perfect homemaker. I shall no longer depend upon mop and broom as adequate mediums for the expression of my love for my family. Its members will not need to wait for my infrequent absences from home in order to try out their pet schemes and hobbies. My program of encouragement will make them glad I’m there to boost and help.

Outside of my home, in the neighborhood affairs, when the next sewing circle meets, perhaps I shall not piece quite so many blocks as usual but I shall get acquainted with the new neighbor. I shall visit school and see for myself if things can’t be made more pleasant for the young girl who is mother-teacher to our boys and girls. And if I can coax others to go with me and sit in that dingy room for a half-day, they will better understand how easy it is for young Johnnie and the teacher to get on each other’s nerves.

I voted in November and as I turned in my ballot, I hoped that we as women had used our franchise so that Uncle Sam can say to the woman voter, “I’m glad you’re here.”

It is a big bill to fill, this 1923 purpose of mine, but it is already bringing results. –J. V. M., Wisconsin

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, January 1923, Page 260; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

My Great Purpose For 1923–Part 2

Hello History Lovers!

The author of today’s post shares how her dear Auntie taught her about “turning over a new leaf” for the New Year and working to become a “better girl”– advice that she followed since she was nine years old. Auntie also taught her that “troubles and cares will do you good”– another piece of advice that served her well. Challenges certainly came to this farm woman and she met them head-on. Enjoy!

Turning Over A New Leaf

When I was a little girl at home, I was unsatisfied. I had lots of troubles and disappointments, brooded over them, and could never see the bright side of life. An old lady who had lost all her relatives came to live with my folks. She had her share of troubles, the poor old soul. We adopted her and called her Auntie.

She took a liking to me, although I do not see why she should as I often thought I was the most miserable child in the world. I was sensitive and easily hurt and many times I would go off by myself and cry myself to sleep. Old Auntie would come and sit down by me and read to me from her Bible. Then she would listen to my troubles and tell me they were very small to what other people were suffering in this world and she always would end up by saying: “troubles and cares will do you good, my dear. Ask God to help you see the good.”

One day Auntie told me about New Year’s Day. I did not know that it was the day to “turn over a new leaf” and try to be a better girl. I have been doing that ever since I was nine years old when Auntie told me.

I did not marry a rich man but I married a good man. We started out on a homestead in Montana. We were on our homestead for five years and were dried out every year but we proved up and it is ours now. My husband had to work out away from home and leave me to hold down the claim. We had two children then and I would take the two and the rifle and hunt rabbits and sage hens for food. When I would see anything to shoot, I would put the baby down on the ground and tell the other child to stand by him, and then I would shoot my game.

One day, my tooth began to ache and I walked the floor for three days and nights and could not find any relief. Then baby got sick and I carried him on one arm and held the hot water bottle to my face with my free hand. I walked the floor this way until I was so tired I could not feel. Finally, my jaws swelled shut I could not eat. Then I took the two children and put them in the baby cart and hauled them three miles over sagebrush and rock to my neighbors’ house. They took me to the doctor, twelve miles away, and I had my tooth pulled. All the time I was suffering so I could just seem to hear old Auntie say, “troubles and cares will do you good, my dear.”

They did do me good. I see life in a different light now. We came to Wisconsin and here is our great purpose for 1923: to get on a farm and make good. And I want to help everyone I can to see the bright and better way, and to remember this: one can never have such great troubles that others have not had worse. So I shall forget me and think of others.  –Mrs. A. C. T., Wisconsin

My Great Purpose for 1923–Part 1

Hello History Lovers!

As the year 1922 was drawing to a close, farm women were evaluating the many facets of their lives and determining where they could make improvements during the upcoming year–just as we ponder our annual New Year’s resolutions. They placed emphasis on improving their homemaking skills and personal character. More importantly, they committed to connecting more deeply with their husbands, children, community, country, and God just as women today. I hope you enjoy the new series “My Great Purpose For 1923.”

Wishing everyone a peaceful new year!

My Higher Purpose for 1923

Very often the mother on the farm thinks she has no time for anything but the daily household duties. With that idea in mind, she becomes a slave to her work and has no aim or purpose higher than to attend to the physical needs of her family. This, of course, is necessary but it is not all that is required of a mother.

I am the mother of five boys, three of whom are living. My help in the house is rather limited. One boy is in college, one in high school, and the third in grammar school.

My purpose is to keep in touch with their school life and work as far as I am able so that I can help them when they come to me for assistance or advice. My purpose is to read and study farm subjects so that I can converse intelligently with my husband and together we can work better and more economically.

In church work, as a Sabbath School teacher, I desire to teach by word and example that the only way is the “straight and narrow way.”

In social life, my purpose is to be clean and honest so that I may, if possible, help others to avoid temptations that may arise. In politics, I hope to be able to lay all party lines aside and vote for the man best suited to the office.

In home life, my desire, and purpose is to try to the best of my ability to be a good home-builder and housekeeper. –A Farmer’s Wife, Pennsylvania

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, January 1923, page 260; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.