Crayons, vacuum bottles, and overload: updates and commentary for the modern housekeeper

I stared at the rice cooker for a few minutes this morning before breaking down and searching the cupboards for the directions.

I’m at home today, so I thought I’d help my husband out by cooking up a batch of brown rice, which we both like to bring to work for lunch.  He’s the one who usually cooks the rice, and I couldn’t remember the proportions of brown rice to water.  Sifting through a bag of recipes and kitchen user manuals which hasn’t been touched for at least two years (it was still taped up from our last move), I stopped short when I found this book.  It’s not so much a user manual as a how-to manual.

How to be a housekeeper.

discovery today

Oh dear.

Thumbing through the book, I found myself equally humored, astounded, and appalled.  This book defines the world, the middle-class America I was born into.  This was the world my mother and my grandmothers inhabited.

No wonder, I thought.

Thank goodness I’m not there now, I also thought.

I was surprised to see that the book was copyrighted in 1962 and reprinted in 1965.  The contents are so foreign to me that I would have guessed it was published decades earlier.


author's intro


The author describes herself as a military spouse and mother of two children living in DC.  As it happens, so am I.

Beyond that, I’m not sure my life as a working woman in 2018 America resembles the life of this author when she penned this book.  Assuming there are more people like me out there, I thought I’d share an update to the cultural norms and social expectations laid out in this book.  I hope it helps, or at least entertains.

“The lazy woman’s way”

washday woes

Um, yeah.  I am doing some laundry today.  My laundry.  Because my husband and my kids do their own.  My kids were doing theirs as soon as they could reach the dials.  This is something I highly recommend. If my boys grow up and enter into a relationship with someone who they assume will do their laundry, their partner will probably laugh them out of the apartment.  As they should.

And, by the way, if I were to do not only my own laundry, but also that of my spouse and kids, I don’t see how I could in any way be called a ‘lazy woman.’  No wonder some people have downplayed and discounted the hard work done by the spouse at home.

For all of you out there doing everyone’s laundry, you are NOT lazy.  Not.  Lazy.  Your family should thank you.  And cook you dinner in return.

“This is the way we iron”

this is the way we iron

In 2018, this is the way I iron:  I don’t.

Buy wrinkle free clothes whenever possible.

Still find a few wrinkles?  Wash the clothes again.  Invest in those awesome dryer sheet thingies.

Have a military spouse with those uniforms that must be so?  Let them go ahead and iron those themselves.

“Boys’ blue jeans”

kids jeans

First, now-a-days we ALL wear blue jeans.  Boys, girls, men, women, everyone.

Second, how many kids out there care so much about a white line on their jeans?

Third, ironing jeans?  See above.  And hell no.

And fourth, yes.  Okay, yes.  I can get behind the crayon on the jeans to cover up the white spot.  That can still be a thing in 2018.  I can do that.

“color your shoes with crayons”

shoes with crayons

See above.

Oh yeah, I’ve done that.

With a marker, but still.



“Go it alone”

go it alone

Doing it all alone?  No family help?  No friend for company?  Nope.

For grocery shopping in 2018, make it a family affair.  Bring the kids and send them around the store to speed up the process.  Oh, and let them see the items adding up at the register and then they’ll understand where all your hard-earned money goes, and why you can’t just buy them a new toy all the time.

Better yet, let your spouse take over the grocery duty.  If they work on a military base and the commissary is your preferred shopping venue, your spouse can shop on the way home.  Done.


If you must go to the store alone, though, at least call your family (hands-free, of course) and instruct them to meet you at the car to help carry everything in.  DO NOT carry ten bags up two flights of stairs alone.  I might have done that recently, and my knee might be still recovering.   I think the frozen broccoli from the store did help.

When it comes to other shopping, especially purse shopping, if that’s your thing, bring a friend.  Absolutely bring a friend.

“Tell your husband you don’t know how.”

say you dont know how

Okay.  Geez.  Okay.

Proper response to this would be in the form of an essay at least 30 pages long.

As I have other things to do today, I’ll at least offer this 2018 update.  Sure, no one knows how to do everything.  Sure, sometimes we don’t want to take the time to learn do some things.  And sure, asking for help is a good thing.

But, girl.  GIRL.  DON’T EVER pretend you don’t know how to do what you damn well know how to do.  And don’t let anyone else go on thinking you’re not capable of doing whatever the hell you want to do.

(Stepping off the soapbox now.)

“Mad at the world”


Oh, ahem.

(Stepping back onto the soapbox.)

2018 update:  If you’re mad at the world, say it.  Tell everyone.  March with your awesome pink hat.  Run for office.  And don’t stop speaking out.  Never stop speaking out.

(Soapbox tucked away again, but within easy reach, just in case.)

Clean your closets when you’re feeling nostalgic.  That way the old cabbage patch doll and polaroids of 80’s hair and shot glasses from all your 90’s vacations will get a little bit of admiration before they’re flung into the donation bag.  Or flung back into the closet. But in a more organized manner.

“When your kid spills…or…when Daddy spills…”

make them mop.jpg

The 2018 way:

make them clean up their own damn spills.




“Try putting a large dish…in front of the children…while they are watching tv.”



Veg or not, my kids are getting their own snacks after school.

Oh, and no screen time during the week.  Unless it’s the Olympics.  Or Jeopardy.





“Do what you can and try not to worry about the rest”

Inked36 hours in a day_LI.jpg

Oh yeah.  This is still a thing.

The modern update to the trying-to-do-it-all thing has added components for the modern woman, like making sure your kids can read Moby Dick by the age of 2 years and 8 months, keeping your body healthy and fit while Girl Scout Cookies and MochaFrappaCalorieChinos are taunting you on every corner, and then there’s work outside the home for some of us, and caring for elders and kids at once for many of us.

And so I agree.  Don’t worry if you can’t get it all done.

Also, maybe some of that worry will be eased if you stop ironing your kids’ jeans.  Or just give up ironing altogether.  It has helped me immensely.

“A Roach Hunt”

roach hunt.jpg

If you do find extra time in your day, don’t hunt for roaches.  Please.

Bingewatch Stranger Things.  And then Stranger Things 2.  Much better than roaches.

“In my forties I find that I must hold the newspaper a little closer…”

reading glasses







Lady, own your forties.  Own your fifties.


Grab a pair or two of those reading glasses off the rack next to the greeting cards at the drug store and OWN THEM.  Example below.


“Keeping coffee hot”

coffee hot.jpg

Coffee may have been as essential back then as it is, at least to me, today.  Thank goodness for one-cup makers and thermal mugs.  Thank goodness.

Confession: I don’t really know what a vacuum bottle is.  That’s how seldom used they are in my household.

Fun fact:  A woman, Melitta Bentz, patented the coffee filter system in 1908.  It appears she did not pretend she didn’t know how to do things.

“Overloading – a common fault”

overloading-is-a-fault.jpgI’d agree with that, but laundry has little to do with it.

Housework may be necessary, but is not the end-all be-all, and it should not be the job of only one person in a household.  While a clean home can promote physical health, self-care promotes mental health, which is essential.

Remember to sit down, no matter how busy your calendar says you are.  Grab a coffee, a tea, and relax in the quiet for at least 20 minutes every day.

If you have a hard time making this happen, invest in a pet.  Furry ones work well.  I recommend the kind that demands daily lap-time.  One that will plant itself decisively on your legs and insist that the laundry, the dishes, the bills, all of it can wait, for at least 20 more minutes.

ps cat on lap

Here’s a pic of me with my own furry reminder this morning, relaxing before I happened upon an old book that set me to ranting and raving on this blog.

Thanks for listening to my rants and raves.

And remember, the world will not end if you never iron again.  Trust me.



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