Yes, you can apply the art of old fashioned homemaking, right here in the 21st century! Find joy, purpose, and passion in your homemaking by gleaning from the wisdom of homemakers past.
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We live in a fast paced world that is constantly changing. While some of these changes have been positive, others have not. It’s important for us to rightly discern what to keep, and what to throw away when we are determining what is best for our families and our homes. Truly, that is what is so wonderful about being a homemaker: considering the needs of our particular circumstance and acting in the best interests of the family unit. What a privilege! What an honor!
Gleaning From the Past
While we are determining how we can best serve our families, we can also consider some of the practices of our Grandmothers and great-Grandmother’s. There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from the past, just as there is present day conveniences that help make our responsibilities a little easier. The challenge of being a homemaker in the here and now is deciding what to adopt from the previous generations, and what to add in to your homemaking from the current generation.
I think we do ourselves a great disservice when we commit to doing things just a specific way. I see entire blogs online dedicated to being a 1950’s housewife. And while this is certainly entertaining to read, we must be careful not to idealize a specific generation or time as that which was “perfect.” Truly, there is no generation in history that was perfect, and nor will there be one to come. It’s crucial that we analyze both the past and the present with a discerning eye and recognize what is truly beneficial and what will truly bless our families.
It is with this attitude that we must approach the concept of old fashioned homemaking.
What Makes Someone an Old Fashioned Homemaker?
I consider myself an old fashioned homemaker, even though I readily embrace modern inventions and ideas when they benefit my home. The very act of homemaking itself, is old fashioned in nature. While many women today treasure their roles as homemakers (I’m talking about the art of making home, not whether or not they earn an income), many do not. Choosing the path of homemaking is old fashioned in itself, and holding to it as an art form is perhaps even more old fashioned.
Old Fashioned Definition:
The Oxford dictionary defines “old fashioned” as:
in or according to styles or types no longer current or common; not modern
One could certainly argue that homemaking as a vocation and/or calling is just about as old fashioned as one can get. Identifying yourself as a homemaker is no longer common, and it certainly isn’t modern. That doesn’t mean that you have to take a trip back in time, don a calico print prairie dress, and start pumping your water from a well. Being an old fashioned homemaker doesn’t mean you need to throw off all aspects of modern life.
Rather, old fashioned homemaking is about treasuring the past, preserving tradition, and making it work in the modern world.
Domesticity as an Art Form
A good example of this would be the domestic art of quilting. Quilting was once an art steeped in necessity and intended to make the best use of resources. Women saved scraps from homemade clothing that was otherwise threadbare, and hand sewed them into beautiful quilts. Often stuffed with homemade materials like straw, newspaper, or carded wool from their own sheep. While this sounds absolutely charming and romantic, I can assure you that the women of that age did not think so. It took a great deal of work, and was necessary to provide adequate warmth for their families throughout the winter. There was a sense of duty and obligation about it, much the same way as carting your children off to scouts or swimming lessons feels today.
But now, in modern times, we have been freed of the obligation of hand sewing scraps of fabric together to make a necessary bedding for our families. Instead, we get to. If we choose to learn the art of quilting, instead we go to the fabric shop and select the most old-fashioned and charming of prints, come home and launder them in our washing machines, dry them in our dryers, and cut the squares out using rotary cutters, mats, and plastic forms. We then plug in our handy dandy sewing machine and piece together our selected fabrics according to the pattern we likely purchased from the fabric store, or off of Etsy.
We can see how this old fashioned homemaking skill has become a true art in this day and age, and because of our modern conveniences we can enjoy this art fully as recreation. What astonishes me about the women of yesteryear is that in their obligation and duty of providing this necessary item for their family, they chose beauty. They could have simply sewn together scraps of fabric willy nilly, but instead they cut the fabric into tiny pieces and made intricate designs that we still use today in the art of quilting. Although much of their lives were about simple survival, they found a way to bring beauty into the mundane. That, my friends, is what old fashioned homemaking is all about.
The Art of Old Fashioned Homemaking
And so, as the women of the past treated their vocation with respect, we should do the same with ours here in the 21st century. Why can’t our duties be art? Why can’t we make necessary things beautiful? The answer is of course, that we can!
The Oxford dictionary defines art as:
the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
Read that last line again: “producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Can you do that with your homemaking? Yes!
While many of our duties as old fashioned homemakers are rooted in their practicality, they can be appreciated for their beauty as well. It may be necessary to provide a meal for your family three times daily, but it is an art to master the skill of cooking and present nutritious food in a manner that is pleasing to the eye. This is the attitude that we see and admire when we observe old fashioned homemaking. The Victorian-era cake that was delicately decorated with cut flowers from the garden. The Civil War era quilt with beautiful star motifs. The hand knit mittens, intended for warmth, but made beautiful using Fair Isle techniques. This is the attitude and perspective we must have if we want to practice the art of old fashioned homemaking.
Becoming An Old Fashioned Homemaker
And so, we can become old fashioned homemakers right here in the 21st century. Yes, with our washing machines and our smart phones. We can use these tools to build up our home and advance our skills. We have been given a tremendous gift with technology. It’s how we steward those gifts that will make the difference.
Now we can look at our tasks with a renewed sense of joy and purpose, asking ourselves, “How can I make this beautiful?” Yes, our pantries, our meals, and our laundry hampers and everything in between can be beautiful. How are you going to make the mundane beautiful? How can you bring glory to God in your homemaking?
I’ll leave you with a quote from Edith Schaeffer from The Hidden Art of Homemaking:
Art satisfies and fulfils something in the person creating and in those responding.
The beauty of old fashioned homemaking is simply this: finding fulfillment in your tasks, and bringing joy to others with your gifts. It is for this reason that homemaking is a vocation and a true art. As with all things, do it to the glory of God. Soli deo Gloria.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:13
Pin it for later
The Hidden Art of Homemaking – Edith Schaefer
Eve in Exile – Rebekah Merkle
Daily Habits For a Clean Home – Little Home in the Making