Friday, August 17, 2012

Wash on Mondays, Iron on Tuesdays

Generations of women before us ordered their lives by set schedules. Before electricity, a woman’s day began and ended with the sun. Sowing and reaping coincided with the seasons. Canning happened after harvest. There was a rhythm set by nature, it was simple and logical.

The same commonsense approach was also applied to a homemaker’s schedule.  For a hundred years, a homemaker’s week looked something like this:

Monday: Wash Day
Tuesday: Ironing Day
Wednesday: Sewing Day
Thursday: Market Day
Friday: Cleaning Day
Saturday: Baking Day
Sunday: Day of Rest

There were some variations to this schedule, based on when and where one lived. I read that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mother churned butter on Thursdays. I guess there weren’t always markets on the prairies. 

Regardless of which chore was assigned to which day, I’m intrigued by the concept of an ordered week.

Why did our grandmothers (maybe great-grandmothers for some) establish schedules?  The primary reason is that generations before us had a closer connection with the natural ebb and flow of life, nature, time and seasons.  There were reasons why certain chores were done at certain times – an interdependence of one task upon another.

In homemaking, practicality governed the schedule. For example, laundry was the most difficult and physically intense task of all.  So it made sense to do it after a day of rest.  Ironing would logically come next.  Thursday is a traditional market day, coming before a day of baking which would come before the Sabbath, since no work was done on that day.

What appeals to me about this approach is the homemaker based her schedule on pre-set priorities.  My maternal grandmother, raising a family in eastern New Mexico during the depression, had to make chores a priority.  There was no back-up plan if bread didn’t get baked on Saturday.   There wasn’t a closet full of clothes if laundry didn’t get done on Monday.  She set priorities for her family and lived accordingly.

On the surface, my life is much easier than my grandmother’s.  My chores are independent of each other.  I can do one load of laundry and then bake a cake followed by cleaning the bathroom.  I’ve got enough light inside the house to work all night if I desire.  However, I’m not sure a haphazard approach is the most effective one. Without a plan, I’m easily pulled away from priorities, and I can get to the end of a week and wonder what I did with all that time.

Counter that with the times I develop a schedule for my week. When I’ve thoughtfully identified my priorities and assigned them to a day, I accomplish much more.  A meal plan created based on evening activities dramatically reduces stress.  My schedule isn’t based on last-minute emergencies or urgent demands, although those are allowed for.  My schedule is based on thought-out needs.

There’s wisdom in establishing order to my week.  It won’t look like my grandmother’s week, and it may not always happen as planned, but it’s worth a try.  Just because I can do laundry every day of the week doesn’t mean I should.

What are your thoughts on this subject?  Does this idea make sense for your generation?  Why or why not?

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