In a culture that does not celebrate the domestic, homemakers can sometimes feel lonely and undervalued. This guide to Homemaking will not only help new homemakers with practical tips and advice, but it will hopefully shed light on how our homemaking is an essential and valuable service to those who share our homes.
“I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr Johnson said, ‘To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour’.-C.S. Lewis, in a letter to Mrs. Johnson on March 16, 1955
Homemaking in History
In her book “Radical Homemakers,” Shannon Hayes talks about the origin of the term “housewife.” According to Hayes, the term “housewife” was coined in Europe in the 13th century when a new middle class emerged somewhere between serfdom and lordship. This new class owned their own homes and plots of land.
These homesteaders were coined “husband” (from “house” and “bonded”) and “housewife.” Together they worked toward their common goal of keeping their home and feeding and clothing their family.
It was probably around the time of the industrial revolution when the family structure of husband at work, wife at home came about. The men went off to work outside of the home, and the women stayed home to take on the role we now associate with the term “housewife.”
Housewives have historically been responsible for the care of the home. Depending on what class a family belonged to, this responsibility could look a lot different. Higher class women might oversee the household staff in the care and running of large estates. Lower class families often had no staff and so women would be responsible for cooking, cleaning, childrearing, and often the education of their children at home.
As feminist ideals rose in popularity, women were encouraged to find their places in careers outside of the home. We transitioned as a society to a model where a full-time homemaker is far less common.
What is a Homemaker?
A homemaker is a manager. If she is not the one cleaning, she is making sure the home gets clean. If she is not doing the cooking, she is making sure there is food for everyone to eat. Even if she is not the one doing the laundry, she makes sure that everyone has clean clothes to wear.
She keeps track of family appointments, obligations, and ensures that home is a safe and comfortable place for herself, her family, and those she welcomes into it. A homemaker “makes the home.”
Is a Homemaker a Housewife?
Sometimes! Many homemakers are housewives. Some of these women add the title “stay-at-home mom.” These women stay at home full time to care for their children as well as their homes.
That said, the term “homemaker” does not always apply to a married woman. A single woman can be a homemaker. While we do not usually think of homemaking as a masculine occupation, men do the homemaking in some families too!
A “homemaker” is simply an individual who primarily cares for the home. Everyone who has a home needs someone to take care of it.
What are Homemaking Skills?
In general, homemaking is not viewed as a job that requires great skill. Honestly, these days it doesn’t always require the kind of skill it used to. Women used to hone the craft of cooking and baking to provide food for their families. We have processed freezer meals and takeout. Women used to do hard manual work to keep their homes clean and welcoming. Now we have vacuum cleaners, automatic dishwashers, and clothes washers and dryers.
Related: 18 Old-Fashioned Homemaking Skills
These days you can survive just fine without specialized skills. But for those who are full-time homemakers, making a home is much more than basic survival and maintenance.
You may be new to full-time homemaking and finding yourself overwhelmed by all of your new responsibilities. Or it may be just the opposite – you’ve left a career to stay home, and you’re bored to death!
Either way, this list will hopefully provide some structure, and some ideas of what skills you’d like to develop!
1. Clutter Management
I started here because it’s always top of my mind each day. Especially with kids! I’ve found it’s a balance between learning to live with a little more clutter than is my preference, and establishing an official clean-up time (or two) every day – before nap, and before bed. My kids participate in clean-up time to help it go faster, and to teach them responsibility for their own mess.
I think the biggest secret for me is just keeping our stuff at a minimum. The more toys the kids have, the more toys end up all over creation by the end of the day. The fewer the toys, the shorter clean-up time is – and the more time you free up for the things you’d rather be doing!
Establishing a cleaning schedule is a great way to help make housecleaning….well, maybe not fun. But it makes it less miserable, in my experience. 🙂
Check out my post on my gamechanging weekly cleaning schedule to see how you can fit all your daily cleaning maintenance and those pesky deep cleaning chores into simple and attainable routines!
Here again – coming up with a schedule helps a lot. Many people find that doing a load of laundry every day helps them keep up with everything – and keeps everyone in clean underwear. 🙂
The approach I like best is sorting dirty laundry into colors – one basket for dark, one basket for lights. Once a basket gets full, go ahead and do that load of laundry.
Everyone is different, though. You may have a laundry room that is shared in your building, so doing laundry every day may not be practical. Or, you may visit a laundromat, in which case a weekly laundry day might make more sense.
However you do it, find something that works for you and try to keep it in a rhythm.
4. Create a Household Rhythm
Speaking of rhythms! Maybe this doesn’t sound like a skill to you, but it has been an essential part of any success I’ve had as a homemaker. One of the things that’s difficult about being home is that there’s no outside structure. No one is forcing you to do things at a certain time or within a certain window.
In my life, that leads to all kinds of procrastination shenanigans and a major lack of focus. I can go a whole day and wonder how all those hours went by without anything meaningful being accomplished.
So I tried schedules. The problem is, whenever I’ve created a detailed schedule for myself I always find that things come up and don’t allow me to do things as I planned. Then I feel like a failure. Any system you put in place has to have flexibility built in!!!
I had to create my own structure. Block scheduling works best for me in allowing me to focus my mind on one task at a time without being plagued or distracted by all the other things that need doing. It also assigns a wider block of time (for me at least 2 hours, often 3 hours) to a single category or task. For example: cleaning, budgeting/paperwork, schoolwork with the Little Man, etc.
If I spend just 30 minutes at the beginning of the week to assign my blocks of time to all my weekly goals, it makes a major impact. My time is more focused, more relaxed, and I’m much more productive. I make sure there’s breathing room built in just in case something unexpected happens (it always does). This system also helps me to sort out my priorities at the outset and make meaningful decisions about what does and doesn’t need to happen that week. Take some pressure off!
5. Meal Planning
Some people are very structured meal planners and some are not. Some of us *cough cough me* fall in this awkward middle place of needing structured meal planning but can’t get it together enough to actually do it. Whatever person you are, SOME kind of plan for what to feed everyone in your house is essential.
The biggest shock to my system when I got married and became responsible for our food was the number of decisions I had to make every day. I had to decide what to make for dinner every night, and suddenly I could only think of spaghetti and chicken breast. I had to have breakfast every morning for two people. I started making the same breakfast every morning. Honestly, I still do this, it makes things simpler and I like it! Lunch is still a mystery to me. It’s usually leftovers. Any ideas? Anyone?
Whether you decide to have a pantry full of basic staples that you make into a small variety of different meals each week, or if you do a full-blown plan with pre-meditated recipes and shopping lists of specific ingredients, you need some kind of approach that will prevent Old-Mother-Hubbard Syndrome. It’s a thing, trust me.
6. Grocery Shopping
Again, let’s try and avoid pulling an Old Mother Hubbard and keep our cupboards stocked. But there’s an art to this that you wouldn’t anticipate if you haven’t done lots of grocery shopping.
You have to make sure you have all the food you’ll need so you don’t have to keep stopping at the store randomly all throughout the week. You have to use up the most perishable items first. Make a list to know ahead of time what you’ll need and so you can minimize impulse buying. Try and select the produce at its ideal ripeness. Make healthy selections for you and your family. Oh, and make sure you employ good strategy to save money. Are you overwhelmed?
Me too. The good news is, you don’t have to be able to do all of that the first time. Start with a simple meal plan and get an idea of the foods you think you’ll need. Make notes for yourself as you discover foods you’ve forgotten and don’t beat yourself up for extra trips to the store at first. You’ll find a rhythm. Find the recipes you and your family like the best and don’t feel pressure to cook new and creative options unless you want to. Shop a few different places to find the cheapest prices. You’ll get there!
One of the things I love about cooking from scratch is that I know exactly what’s going into our bellies. We rarely use processed or prepared foods in order to be able to control allergy and sensitivity issues, but also to protect our overall health. But cooking from scratch is a developed skill for sure.
Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be fancy. Often our meals are just meat, veggie, and starch. For example, I might serve roast chicken with steamed broccoli and brown rice. If you’re a chef then all those fancy Pinterest meals with very long ingredient lists can be a great way to get creative and maybe help with new housewife boredom. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed in the kitchen, don’t even go there!
Learn how to cook different basic meat cuts (whole chickens, pork chops, ground beef, roasts) and you’ve already won most of the battle. Keep it simple with the veggies by roasting or steaming, and learn to make rice and how to bake a potato. Zippity Zap, done!
Check out my post on Simple Eating for more inspiration!
8. Beauty in Your Home
This one is so easy to dismiss as unimportant. Even though I love to decorate and make my home beautiful to me and my family, I have often felt guilty for spending money on something so “shallow” and “extra.”
I’d like to say right here and right now that making your home beautiful is not “extra.” It’s not the cherry on top of the cake, it’s the flour, or sugar, or eggs…you get the idea. It’s an essential ingredient!
That’s not to say that it’s your responsibility as a homemaker to invest in the highest quality, most expensive furnishings and decor items you can find. For most people that’s probably an unwise decision.
It IS important, however, to invest in making your home a place your family loves to be. I remember getting a new wallpaper in an old apartment we had. It was so pretty, and I would see it every time I came in the front door. Every time I came in the house I felt a little happier when I saw that snazzy wall. It lifted my spirits and made a tangible difference.
You can get creative in furniture arrangements that are more pleasing to the eye, or that help you converse more easily. You can find pretty pieces at Thrift stores to make your own. There are so many ways to make a room look and feel different that don’t require any monetary investment. These things are important to attend to, because the space we are in impacts our mental and emotional well-being.
You Set the Tone
I’ve heard it said that a wife and mother sets the tone for her entire household. If she is angry and irritable it will affect everyone else in her home, even more so than if another member of the family is this way. Likewise, if she is all sunshine, she brings the sunshine with her.
I have seen this play out in my own house. When my mood and attitude are good, my children are happier and obey more readily. My husband is more open and affectionate and at ease. When I’m grouchy and irritated, my kids are less content and my husband tends to retreat somewhere safe where he won’t get his head bitten off. Can’t really blame him…
However. It is so important to remember that depression and poor mental health is a real thing. Sometimes hearing words like this has not been helpful to me during times of struggle. It can feel like the weight of the world to feel not only your own unhappiness, but to feel that unless you can get happy, your family will suffer too.
I try to view this idea through another lens. What a gift it is that I have in me the power to lift the spirits of my family. How incredible that I can set a beautiful atmosphere in my home without trying to control others. During seasons of difficulty, lean on one another for support.
And, sometimes when we can’t seem to find that sunshine, it may be an opportunity to reflect on why. Maybe we need to require a little less of ourselves. Leave the dishes one night to have quality time with your spouse, or drop an extra activity to give yourself more breathing space. And if you need help, ask for it!
And so we come to self care. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL!!! PLEASE don’t ignore yourself thinking you’re doing your family a favor.
I’m not talking about regular spa days and a “Treat yo’self!” mindset. I’m talking about having quiet time to yourself, whether for prayer, meditation, or journaling to center yourself each day. Make time to exercise. Spend the time to plan your food in a way that guarantees you’re getting the nutrition you need. Maybe even take a nap!
The reality is, you cannot adequately care for a home or a family if you are not proactively protecting your own health. LISTEN to your body – if you’re always tired, talk to your doctor and figure out why. If you’re always overwhelmed, take a step back and try to evaluate your commitments and see where you can create space to breathe.
YOU are just as important as the precious lives you’re serving.
One of the most impactful of my own self care practices is a morning routine. I usually start with a short stretch to get all the nighttime aches out. Then I brew my coffee while I get my bible and notebook out. For those who don’t pray, this is a great time to do some meditation to center yourself for the day.
After my bible reading and prayer time, I spend some time journaling. I look through the day’s schedule and priorities to get focused. If I got up early enough, I try to get my exercise in too. It’s so great to know that’s already finished when the kids come out of their rooms!
The whole day feels more relaxed and smooth when I’ve taken the time to have this quiet time to myself. I haven’t been very good at it lately, and I’ve felt the lack of it. I highly recommend it!
Mindset and Approach
Homemaking is a big job, but it’s a wonderful job. You’re your own boss! You get to decide how your home looks, what your family eats, and how you want to do your work. But sometimes that flexibility leaves us not knowing where to begin. Try to keep the following in mind:
- Spend a little time planning your time, your meals, and your habits. This will pay off a hundredfold!
- Give yourself lots of flexibility in whatever schedules you create. Perfection is not a reality, so that’s not our goal!
- Remember that we all have our own gifts, limitations, and unique circumstances. Your home shouldn’t look like your neighbor’s or like that influencer’s on Instagram. It should address the needs of YOUR family.
- You are not a failure if you don’t have the same gifts as other homemakers. Play into your strengths even as you try to develop your weaknesses.
- If any of these skills are new to you, take them one at a time and don’t try to master everything all at once.
- Develop the habit of getting up early. Use those blissfully quiet morning hours to prepare for your day.
- Remember that while you need to be flexible, good and thorough homemaking does require self-discipline. You may need to fine-tune your self-motivation skills. 🙂
- Don’t think that as the primary homemaker you need to do EVERYTHING. Involve your kids in keeping the house under control, and ask your spouse for help.
- Give yourself grace and time. You’ll find your rhythm and your groove. It will never be perfect, but you’ll never stop growing.
For some more encouragement, check out my post on Encouraging Quotes for Homemakers!
If you’d like more homemaking tips and from-scratch cooking ideas, subscribe to my email list! Happy homemaking!