The 1950s Housewife Challenge: WTF Am I Thinking?

Keep the Sanitarium on Speed Dial

During one of my regularly scheduled existential crises, I had an idea: I’m going to commit to keeping my home like a 1950s housewife. I texted my best friend, who always supports every batshit idea I have, and told my spouse, Jon, whose reaction looked a little like this:


To be fair, he might have been partially reacting to my announcement in which I said, “I can’t tell if I’m finally getting my shit together or if I’m on the verge of a psychotic break, but I’m going to clean the house like a 1950s housewife for two weeks!”

“Should I be concerned?” he asked slowly, careful to avoid making any sudden movements around me.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Well…maybe.”

Honestly, I don’t know if he should be worried. I think I’m a little worried. I’ve struggled a lot with my identity over the last several years since I became a mom, and my life has taken turns I didn’t expect. I’m still freelance writing, but my main responsibilities now are caring for and homeschooling my medically high needs kid who has some delays due to the heart transplant he received as a newborn. My son is absolutely my favorite person and I love spending time with him, but being a stay at home mom was never part of my plan. I like working and I have a lot of personal issues about my personal identity and value being strongly tied to how much I financially contribute to our household. But, things change and my role has shifted so now writing is secondary to my roles at home. As a feminist, I support women’s rights to choose to live their lives in the way they want and if they choose to be a housewife, I support that. It’s just not something I had originally planned for my own life.


I don’t want it to seem like I don’t want to be here for my son, because I absolutely do. I will move heaven and earth to support him, but in doing so, it makes me confront a lot of my own issues like the aforementioned idea that my worth is tied to how much money I personally make. Plus, I’ve noticed that ever since I got pregnant with my son, some people have chosen to define me solely by the fact that I’m a mom. I love being a parent, but I also don’t think it’s the most interesting thing about me. I’m still a person with thoughts and ideas and interests, and when my identity is reduced to just being a mother, it makes me feel like I’m not an individual anymore and my worth is determined by my relation to someone else. For example, I have a friend who, while he means well, has literally introduced me to other adults as “Kiddo’s mom”–and this is a friend whom I knew for several years before having my son.


So if I’m so resistant to being a stay at home mom, why am I embracing a challenge to act like a 1950s housewife for two weeks? That’s an excellent question you didn’t ask, and I’m going to answer it!


As a feminist, I have a weird fascination with the 1950s and 60s and the overly restrictive roles of women. I suppose my interest could be described as anthropological, and I think it’s important as a woman to understand where women have been in order to better see where we’re going. I’ve also always had an interest in cleaning and organization and I work well within rules and guidelines for how to get from point A to point B.

Or maybe I’m just trying to scrub away the existential dread because if I’m cleaning, then THE SCARY THOUGHTS CAN’T GET ME!


There’s also an element of mental health at play. I live with depression, anxiety, and mild PTSD and I know I have a tendency to start new projects when I’m trying to kick myself out of a depressive episode. Due to COVID-19 and the fact that both Jon and our son are in high risk groups, we’ve been doing no-contact quarantine since March with exceptions only for our son when he has medical appointments that can’t be done remotely, and we will continue to quarantine for the foreseeable future. Part of me is hoping that if I improve our physical space, my mental health will improve. There are some studies to back up that hope, but I also know that I run the risk of taking things too far. My hope is that by setting up parameters instead of doing this indefinitely, I’ll be able to remember that this is a temporary challenge and keep my brain in check. Plus, by making myself write about my experience every day, this will theoretically help kickstart my creativity and get me back into writing regularly.



The Challenge

Here are the particulars for the challenge I’m about to embark on:

  • Adhere to a daily cleaning schedule as outlined below in addition to my usual activities including homeschooling my son. This list was taken from a variety of sources, including the 1947 The Good Housekeeping Housekeeping Book.
  • Stick to the schedule for two weeks.
  • Blog about my experiences daily.

The one thing I won’t be doing is cooking dinner, which is very non-1950s of me. However, Jon is much more a cook than I am and I know he enjoys it, so I feel like sticking with those roles for now. However, if I’m not reading to strangle myself with my apron strings by the end of week one, I might try to incorporate cooking into week two of the challenge.

The Cleaning Task List


  • Throwback the covers
  • Open up the blinds and windows
  • Make and serve breakfast
  • Clean up breakfast
  • Gather a basket for tidying. As the rooms of the home are tackled, pick up items that aren’t where they belong and place them in a basket. Redistribute them where they should be as you enter a new room
  • Straighten up the living and dining room, including picking up potential clutter, light dusting, fluffing/straightening pillows, and watering plants or flowers
  • Make the beds
  • Tidy the bedroom, including light dusting
  • Hang up any clothes that may need to be put away, and ensure dirty ones are in the hamper
  • Do a light tidy of the bathroom including removing and replacing used towels, refilling toilet paper and soap (if needed) and cleaning the sink and basin area including soap dishes.
  • Order grocery delivery (due to our need to quarantine, I’ll be ordering groceries instead of doing the grocery shopping myself).
  • Wipe down kitchen work surfaces and inside the fridge
  • Dispose of garbage
  • Sweep or mop the kitchen floor
  • Handle weekly chore for the day (more on that below)
  • Set the table for dinner
  • Arrange the living room for evening enjoyment (this is where it says to do things like prepare “the Mister’s” newspaper/book, but Jon is an adult who can get his own shit. However, I will use this time to straighten up the living room and make sure it’s reset, so to speak).
  • Do a quick sweep of the floors and ensure entrance ways are clear
  • Freshen up before the husband returns from work (Jon works from home and at this point will have likely heard me shouting expletives from various rooms of the house, but I could use this time to make sure I’m wearing deodorant. You’re welcome, Jon).
  • Consider changing into something more festive if the day dress is plain (HAHAHAHA!)
  • Set out a tray with equipment for making cocktails, should “the Mister” want to serve drinks before dinner (we’re not big drinkers, but I’m happy to set out the bottle opener should he want it).
  • Greet husband “gayly” (Sure, Jan).
  • Have dinner
  • Clear table and wash dishes
  • Pour boiling water down the sink to ensure pipes are flushed and scrub out the sink
  • Set table for breakfast (I suppose I can make sure my coffee mug is ready to go).
  • Enjoy an evening of relaxation


  • Remove everything from closets. Vacuum closet floor. Put everything back neatly and donate items you no longer need.
  • For each drawer: remove items, wash drawer, place items back
    neatly. Donate Items you no longer need.
  • Move bed. Sort and put away anything that was under bed. Sweep
    or vacuum under bed. (Our bed has drawers underneath, but I can pull out the drawers, clean/reset them, and vacuum the carpet before putting the drawers back).
  • Freshen mattress by sprinkling with baking soda,
    letting sit briefly, and the vacuuming it up.
  • Launder bedding and curtains. Wash pillows and duvet in hot water.
  • Dust lights. Clean lamp shades.
  • Wash windows and window sills. Take out and wash window
  • Wash switch plates. Wash walls and trim as needed.
  • Wash mirrors or dust art.
  • Wash doors and doorknobs.
  • Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  • Vacuum floor.


  • Empty all cabinets and vanity. Wash inside, replace items neatly.
  • Discard expired medications and cosmetics.
  • Wash outside of cabinets and vanities
  • Clean tub/shower. Clean drain.
  • Clean toilet, inside and out. Remove seat and clean around seat
  • Clean sink and drain.
  • Shine faucets.
  • Clean mirror and frame.
  • Dust light fixtures.
  • Wash windows and window sills. Take out and wash window
  • Wash switch plates. wash walls and trim. Wash doors and door
  • Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  • Sweep and wash floors.


  • Remove and clean window coverings.
  • For each cabinet or drawer: Remove items, wipe out drawer, place items back neatly. Donate unneeded items.
  • Wash cabinet doors and knobs
  • Clean and organize pantry. Check food expiry dates.
  • Clean oven.
  • Clean stove top. Remove elements and drip bowls, if applicable, wash and put back.
  • Clean and organize fridge and freezer. Check food expiry dates.
  • Clean under fridge and stove.
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils.
  • Clean microwave.
  • Clean crumbs out of toaster.
  • Wipe down any other counter appliances
  • Wash counters and back splash.
  • Wash and shine sink. Shine faucet. Clean drain.
  • Clean dishwasher.
  • Dust light fixtures.
  • Wash windows and window sills. Remove window screens and wash.
  • Clean floors.

Weekly-Living Room:

  • Vacuum sofas.
  • Spot clean sofas, if applicable.
  • Launder throw pillows and blankets.
  • Dust shelves, furniture, and decor.
  • Clean lamps and lampshades.
  • Wash windows and window sills.
  • Clean television screen.
  • Carefully dust electronics.
  • Tidy electronics wires. Tuck nicely out of sight. Label them, if practical.
  • Sort through music and DVD collections. Purge things that no longer suit your families interests. Organize what is left in an attractive manner.
  • Sort books and magazines. Donate or recycle items that no longer suit your families interests.
  • Wash hard plastic children’s toys with warm soapy water. Rinse and dry. Launder stuffed toys. Donate or store toys that your children have grown too old for.
  • Wash switch plates.
  • Wash walls and trim as needed.
  • Wash doors and knobs.
  • Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  • Clean floors.

There’s no specific day that laundry is supposed to be done (unless otherwise listed like washing linens on the weekly tasks), so I guess I’m going to improv it and just have to pick a day to wash our clothes. But, I’ll do my best to make sure the laundry gets done before the three of us run out of clean underwear.


In Conclusion

Am I ready for tomorrow? Now that I’ve typed everything out…it seems a little daunting, but I guess I’m as ready as I’m going to be. My goal is to get the bulk of the cleaning plus homeschooling my son by the time 5PM rolls around since that’s when Jon finishes working for the day and usually starts dinner, leaving only post-dinner kitchen cleanup and “enjoy a relaxing evening” on my to do list.

As for Jon’s opinion on the whole thing, he is cautiously supportive but (understandably) still a little concerned that this is me burning really brightly before I crash.


However, I think Jon’s starting to come around to the idea.

“We should get you an apron!” he exclaimed.

I’m fairly certain that this idea is due less to the idea of permanently relegating me to the kitchen and more because he thinks I’d look cute in an apron.

Day 1: I didn’t know it was physically possible to do this much laundry in one day.

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