The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 14

My challenge is at an end and, surprisingly, Jon didn’t need to keep the nice people in white coats on speed dial while I undertook this challenge. While I partially expected myself to get obsessive and weird over this challenge, I was surprised to find it was actually more stabilizing for my mental health than not. The last couple weeks have been filled with receiving tough news, not the least of which was the news of my father’s health, and it was helpful to have something else to focus on. Completing the list of chores gave me small, manageable goals that I could control, which helped me to balance out the feelings of helplessness that otherwise plagued me.

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Fair.

Challenging Biases

Today, Jon, Kiddo, and I decided to have a Harry Potter movie marathon. I’ve loved Harry Potter since I was a kid, but I hate the shadow that has been cast over the franchise in recent years with J.K. Rowling’s transphobia, with a particular resurgence during this pride month. However, I do think this is one of those instances in which the art supersedes the creator and I refuse to let the hatred of J.K. Rowling define the fandom.

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Trans rights are human rights.
Also, click here to check out the piece Daniel Radcliffe wrote for The Trevor Project in support of trans youth.

Moving on, today I found myself thinking about Molly Weasley. Matriarch of the Weasley family, Molly is strong, brave, loving, and a boss ass witch capable of murdering the fuck out of Bellatrix Lestrange.

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Molly is an incredibly powerful witch who chooses to focus on her family and is willing to fight for what is right. She is also very welcoming and takes in Harry before she even realizes who he is; to her that first day at the train station, he’s a young boy who has been ostracized from his family just for being different and she immediately decides to accept him as one of her own, not because he’s the chosen one, but because he needs a family.

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You cannot convince me that Molly Weasley wouldn’t be one of these moms who gives out hugs to LGBTQ+ kids at pride marches.

While I’ve always supported other women choosing to be stay-at-home moms, I realized that I had a huge bias against being categorized as one myself because I was worried that I would no longer be seen as an individual person. But, when I took the time to reflect on that by blogging throughout this challenge, I’ve realized that the people who are going to pigeonhole me are going to do it regardless of what I do. Some people will label me as “just a mom” if I stay home, and others will shame me for working if I get a job. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, so why the fuck do I care what these judgmental assholes think?

Having anxiety means my brains spends an inordinate amount of time mulling over every little thing that could go wrong and due to trauma from my childhood, I am constantly scrutinizing every little thing I do because I don’t know what seemingly innocuous action could bring on a punishment.

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Thanks, Mom!

But in doing this challenge, I feel like I’ve gained more confidence in myself and certainty in who I am. I can’t control how other people are going to categorize me, so I shouldn’t let myself be dictated by these categorizations, whether they are perceived or an actuality. Am I reading too much into a challenge that involved scrubbing the walls and baseboards of my house? Maybe. But this experiment also caused me to challenge my biases and self-demeaning thoughts that made me so resistant to fulfilling a typical gender role in my life, so it feels like a win.

What I’ve Learned

If I had to summarize my last two weeks in this challenge, this is what I’d say are my main takeaways:

  • Other people’s opinions don’t matter as long as my son is happy and healthy.
  • Chaos does not have to equal creativity.
  • Cleaning is a lot easier than I thought it was and takes minimal effort to maintain once I’m through the deep clean.

Oh, and:

  • Jon had no idea our oven had a window in it.

Not everything is an earth-shattering revelation; sometimes they’re just funny.

Now What?

I don’t know. As I said in yesterday’s post, I’m planning on keeping some of the cleaning list, namely the daily list plus a few extras. Blogging every day has also helped to kickstart my creativity because I enjoy the accomplishment I feel from doing it. I don’t think I’m going to continue blogging every day because I feel I don’t always have something interesting to say, but I think I would like to get back into writing every day, even if it’s only a sentence or two. I have a lot of projects on my plate, including multiple fanfic projects as well as a novel that I’ve had in my back pocket for a bit. I also had an idea for a collection of short pieces I’d like to do, and consistent writing has given me motivation to work on these projects despite all of the other stressors I have in my life right now.

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If I can’t laugh at myself, the terrorists win.

Overall, this feels like it was a positive experience for me. Exhausting, sure, but ultimately I feel better having done it.

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I know this is where I usually promote my Patreon, but…click here to learn more about The Trevor Project and find ways you can help support LGBTQ+ youth.

It’s what Molly Weasley would do.

The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 13

The penultimate day of the challenge is here! Because of that, it really feels like it should’ve been more dramatic than it was, but today has been fairly boring. Not that I’m complaining–I feel like boring days are grossly underrated. Boring, uneventful days mean that my son is doing well, that I’m not getting a call about my dad’s health taking a turn for the worse, and that everyone else I love is safe. Over the last year and a half, I’ve lost so many people, whether it’s a friend or two of my uncles or my sister-in-law. Sometimes, no news is really good news and those uneventful days give me room to breathe.

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Even when I feel too exhausted to see straight (hello, insomnia, my old nemesis), I find I really enjoy starting my day by doing the daily cleaning tasks. After only thirteen days, it just feels wrong to sit on the couch in my living room without dusting first. I honestly never thought I’d say this–and it’s still entirely possible this is a temporary insanity–but it’s true.

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Apparently, freshly vacuumed carpet is my kink.

I thought I was going to be anxiously awaiting the end of the challenge, but I find I’m not. Jon asked me today if I planned to keep doing any of the elements of the challenge once I finished, and I think I want to. I’m probably not going to wash my bedroom curtains every week (especially if my dryer continues to revolt), but I like doing the daily chores and I think I want to maintain some of the weekly tasks. However, that being said, doing an intensive cleaning regime like this as it currently stands is not realistic or feasible for my life. Honestly, I think part of why this hasn’t been as big of a deal for me as I thought is because we’re in no-contact quarantine. If I was taking Kiddo to his appointments and classes in person, I wouldn’t be able to do everything on the list, even when you take into consideration that I don’t sleep as much as I’d like.

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The same is true for work; I still do some freelance work towards the end of the month and if I’d tried to do this challenge at the same time, I might’ve lost my mind. I also haven’t had time to work on any of my personal writing projects, but I’ve still been blogging every day which is more than my mental health has allowed me to do over the last couple of months. I also thought this challenge was going to be next to impossible to actually complete, so who knows? Maybe all I needed was to start cultivating a new habit that didn’t involve eating cheesy poofs and watching endless reruns of America’s Next Top Model.

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Work that smize!

Everyone Wants to Be Seen

“I know you’ve been doing all this cleaning for the challenge, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the work you’ve been doing,” Jon said to me this afternoon. “The house is so much nicer now and that’s because of you, so thank you.”

Despite the fact that I’ve been blogging every day about this challenge, I haven’t been doing it for the validation. I set out to try something I’d never done before to challenge myself and hopefully end up with a cleaner house, and that’s still true as this experiment draws to a close. However, it’s still nice to feel visible and appreciated.

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Alright, I’m patting done myself on the back now.

Tomorrow is the final day of this 1950s Housewife Challenge and I am going to prepare by watching a movie with Jon and eating junk food. It’s going to be a completely boring, uneventful, and perfect evening.


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The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 12

Apparently the dogs and I are not the only ones who are sick of laundry, because today my dryer started a rebellion and refuses to work. Or, rather, it works…but it makes this horrible whining sound the whole time.

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Most of our laundry is done, but I washed the dog beds today and apparently that was the last straw. Jon’s pretty sure he can fix it, but it’s going to require him to disassemble the whole thing and take out the drum. He’s done it before (pro tip: marry someone who is good at fixing shit) but it’s going to take him a minute before it’s usable again.

The rest of the cleaning was fairly uneventful, but I’ve been a little off today. My son isn’t feeling well, so I was up all night with him and when I did try to sleep, my brain decided to dredge up a whole bunch of past trauma for me to relive, so that was cool.

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This doesn’t really feel like a day worth documenting, but at the same time I feel like it’s important to be honest about days like this. Not every day is a bright, shiny Pinterest-worthy day.

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Am I old because I said Pinterest instead of Instagram?
Does anyone still use Pinterest?
Whatever, fuck it, I’m an old white lady.

The best news for today is that Kiddo is feeling better now, which is a relief. Hopefully we can all get some sleep in our dazzlingly clean home that definitely didn’t sap the last of my strength to clean today. However, I will say, it’s much nicer to deal with a rough day in a clean house than in a dirty house, so at least there’s that.

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Today in a nutshell.

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The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 11

For people who do not have depression, I think one thing that’s often misunderstood is the physical toll it can take on your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Pain and depression are closely related. Depression can cause pain — and pain can cause depression. Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain.” Yesterday, I mentioned in my post that I was having a difficult mental health day. Today, I woke up and although my mental pain felt lighter, the physical pain in my body was worse. Everything ached and my body just wanted to shut down, but I convinced myself to get out of bed because not only am I so close to finishing this challenge, but my weekly deep clean task for the day was the living room, which is arguably the easiest weekly task.

Have Decided to Go Live in a Fort Made of Books, BRB

Our living room is pretty minimalist, so daily dusting and vacuuming takes care of most of it…except for the books. Because I’m a writer, you’re probably not surprised to hear that I love to read.

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So, like many avid readers, I used to have a lot of books. And when I say a lot, it wouldn’t be hyperbolic to compare my stash to the library in Beauty and the Beast.

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Now imagine when Jon and I lived in a one bedroom apartment and stuffed this number of books inside.

However, a few years ago, I, much like every other white woman in America, got heavily invested in the magic art of tidying and KonMari-ed the shit out of my stuff. I thought purging my books was going to be really difficult, but that turned out not to be the case. And now, in the midst of doing this housewife challenge, I’m feeling pretty glad that I chose to embrace some more minimalism in my life, especially when today’s weekly chore involved me individually dusting every book in our living room (which is still a lot, but it’s a fraction of what it used to be).

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Now it’s only about a third of this

Because I’ve been doing this intense, high level cleaning for eleven days, this challenge has made me more aware and appreciative of my belongings. Sure, it started out with me complaining about how many loads of laundry I had to do in order to wash all the linens for two bedrooms, but that kind of excess has now been brought to my attention and I’m trying to correct it by getting rid of what we don’t need. The more stuff I have, the more stuff I have to clean.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to hang onto this feeling even when the challenge is over to help keep me conscious of how much stuff I acquire. Do I think it’s necessary to get rid of everything? No, of course not. Could I benefit from doing another Marie Kondo-style pass on my belongings? Probably.

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Note to self: don’t overdo it this time.
Also, fun fact: nothing sparks joy when you’re depressed.

Who knew dusting could spark a whole train of thought about the value of possessions? Marie Kondo probably did, but I’m not interviewing her because one, I don’t know her, and two, she seems like she has her life together like a Real Grown Up™ and I find that intimidating.

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Case in point.

Day 11 down and only three more to go!

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You know, this whole challenge would’ve been a lot easier if woodland creatures had arrived to help me like they did Snow White.

Day 12: My appliances are in revolt.


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The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 10

As per the weekly lists, I was back in the kitchen today. However, much like the other rooms of my house, cleaning the kitchen wasn’t that bad considering I’d just done it last week so a lot of the more time consuming tasks like checking expiration dates in the pantry were already done. Even taking everything out of all the drawers and cabinets didn’t feel as bad this time around.

I do have to be honest though. When I started this challenge, I mentioned my mental health as a factor for why I wanted to do this challenge to give myself some daily structure. I woke up this morning and felt that really heavy weight of depression on me today. The stress I’ve been dealing with lately outside of the challenge has been a lot, and it was kind of hard to haul myself out of bed today. However, rather than just get back into bed after I did school stuff with Kiddo, I forced myself to stay on track with the challenge. I feel completely drained on every level, but I also feel accomplished and proud of myself for winning this particular battle against my brain. Plus, now my kitchen is extra lovely and I can celebrate my victory in my clean house.

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Take a Look, It’s in a Book

I ordered a book when I started this challenge and today, it finally arrived! I am now the proud-ish owner of a 1937 copy of The Household Searchlight Homemaking Guide. As I mentioned in my last post, a lot of companies put out various publications for young women and this one is from The Household Magazine. This magazine was published monthly starting in 1900 until it folded in 1958 and they produced a couple of books, including The Household Searchlight Recipe Book as well as my aforementioned The Household Searchlight Homemaking Guide. The book covers essential home and etiquette topics from weddings to table setting to early childcare and housework essentials.

Table Settings

Holy crap. I knew dining wear etiquette could be extensive, but this is…a lot. I honestly had no idea there were so many ways to set a table, but the book includes instructions on how to set the table for:

  • Informal Breakfast
  • Informal Brunch
  • Informal Tea
  • Formal Tea
  • Buffet Service (including three possible variations)
  • Dessert at Buffet Meals
  • The Bridge Table
  • Formal Dinner

Each of these include instructions for linens, china dish service, silver service, glass service, and table decorations (and may whatever god you pray to have mercy on your soul if you dare to use colored pottery as table decor on tables laid for formal service).

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“If only I’d properly decorated my formal dinner table!”

The book also includes menu suggestions for every type of meal, including:

  • Breakfast
  • Informal Luncheon
  • Formal Luncheon
  • Bridge Luncheon
  • Informal Dinner
  • Formal Dinner
  • Buffet Supper
  • Formal Tea
  • Informal Tea
  • Family Dinner
  • Holidays, including:
    • Capon Christmas Dinner
    • Turkey Christmas Dinner
    • Thanksgiving Dinner
    • St. Patrick’s Dinner (no green beer, in case you were wondering)
    • Washington Luncheon
    • Easter Luncheon
    • Valentine Luncheon
    • Halloween Luncheon (presumably before the devil bursts out of the ground and steals your soul)
    • July Fourth Luncheon
    • May Day Luncheon
    • Brunch Menu
    • Griddle-Cake Supper
    • Supper Menu
    • Before the Game
    • After the Game
    • Before the Theater
    • After the Theater
    • Sausage Waffle Supper
    • Nut Waffle Supper
    • Chocolate Waffle Supper

I read this list to Jon and he offered to get me a glass of water since I sounded so winded when I was done.

Health and Beauty

I was eagerly anticipating this section and I was not disappointed. Suggestions for keeping trim include mowing the lawn or tending to the garden to “keep your knees and hips limber.” I don’t know if you’ve ever gardened, but I always feel creaky and like I’ve aged thirty years after kneeling at a flower bed for thirty minutes.

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You can’t see me in this picture because I’ve keeled over into the bushes and am waiting for my knees to become usable again.
Also, this isn’t my garden.

But perhaps my favorite part was in the part about the importance of an adequate diet. Check out the first item listed, which also happens to be my favorite:

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The editors of this book literally thought women were too fucking dumb to get oxygen without instruction. Jon was a little disappointed that “death” was not listed as one of the effects of the lack of this essential substance, but I pointed out that, according to the conversational advice section, that is an unpleasant topic that “takes all the sparkle out of your conversation.”

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This section also spent quite a bit of time focused on the horror of facial wrinkles (which was an amusing contrast to their suggestion of a daily “sun bath” while covered in oil). Additionally, reading through the extensive grooming instructions was exhausting and I’m pretty sure if I followed the directions, I’d spend my entire day grooming myself. Then again, maybe it would be like the cleaning guidelines I’ve been following for the last ten days and I’d find them easier once I got the hang of it.

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However, modifications would need to be made. If I end up doing some kind of vintage health and beauty challenge, I will definitely skip the home skin bleaching. One, because it’s gross and problematic that women were encouraged to be as white as possible to fit a supposed “ideal” beauty standard, and two, because I’m already so pale that I’m practically translucent.

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Here’s a recent selfie I took.

What’s in a Book?

Overall, the book I got fascinates me. This is partly due to my interest in how women were instructed to live their lives versus now, when there are so many more options available because we and the women who came before us fought so hard for them. As I read on, I realized how much this book also started to stress me out because the standards are set so high. I understand that it’s a guide book intended to provide a comprehensive framework for life, but as I flipped through it, I started to feel both intimidated and micromanaged. In the health and beauty section, there’s a part called, “Mouth, Teeth, and Breath.” I assumed this was mostly going to include similar sentiments to those expressed in the ads I discussed yesterday (“Use this brand of toothpaste or your husband will leave you!”) but first, it said this:

“Every person’s mouth gives a short description of the inner person. It tells if he is kind and sweet-tempered, if he faces life serenely and adjusts to it, or if he is at war with his surroundings. Massage cannot keep mouth corners from drooping, or lips from becoming hard, tight lines, if troubles are brooded over constantly. Thoughts actually shape the mouth. Teach yourself to be industrious; work hard at whatever your work may be. Think about happy things in your life. Even though your mouth may not be lovely, this sort of acting and thinking will give it charm.”

This advice isn’t completely unfounded, as there is scientific data that supports smiling as a mood booster, as well as increasing your attractiveness to other people. However, to me, the passage from this book sounds like, “Don’t think icky thoughts! Smile through the existential dread! Smile! Smile! SMILE!”

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Even today, women are still often told they should smile regardless of what’s going on in their lives, usually because the men around them would prefer to look at smiling women because that creates prettier scenery for them.

I’ll brush my teeth, but stop telling women to smile. It’s my face and I’ll wear whatever expression I want.

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Hey, look!
I solved the dreaded wrinkles problem!

Day 11: Mental Health & Marie Kondo


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