What Happened When I Tried A 1950s Housewife Schedule

I decided to write a light-hearted post about how different our lives are today from our grandmothers and great-grandmothers of the 1950s. I chose to do a little research into the 1950s housewife schedule to see exactly how different things are today and see if I could gain some 1950s cleaning tips!

The 1950’s housework schedule is written for a 50’s housewife whose children are of school age.

I’m not suggesting we all give up work and chain ourselves to the kitchen sink. I wondered if there were anything homemakers of the fifties did then that we don’t do so well today.
In this 50s housewife daily schedule experiment, I will spend a day in the life of a 1950s housewife with school-age kids. Wish me luck!

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My Usual Daily Schedule

Before we can compare a 1950s housewife routine to one of today, we need to have something to compare it with, so let’s start with my typical housework routine on my days off when the kids are at school.

This is a very rough guide as to how my day sometimes pans out :

6.30 / 7.30 Get up, feed the cats, and make kids’ breakfast.

7.30 / 7.45 Check calendar/schedule.

7.45 / 8.00 Wash the breakfast dishes.

8.00 / 8.15 Do one load of laundry and defrost meat for the evening meal.

8.15 / 8.25 Shower and get dressed

8.25 / 9.30 Take kids to school.

9.30 / 9.45 Eat breakfast.

9.45 / 10.45 Do daily jobs from my daily cleaning list, make beds, sweep the high traffic area floors, do one load of laundry, do a bathroom swipe, tidy up, do a light dusting of high traffic areas.

10.45 / 11.45 Prepare and cook the tea.

11.45 / 12.00 Dry and put away the laundry.

12.00 / 1.00 Clean one room from my weekly cleaning schedule.

1.00 / 1.30 Eat lunch.

1.30 / 2.00 Do some ironing.

2.00 / 2.15 Meal plan for tomorrow’s meals.

2.15 / 2.30 Check blog stats.

2.30 / 3.30 Pick up kids from school.

3.30 / 5.00 See to kids & serve tea.

5.00 / 7.00 Go to after-school sports.

7.00 / 8.00 Start night time routine for the youngest child.

8.00 / 8.30 Wash and dry the dinner dishes.

8.30 / 9.00 Lay clothes out for tomorrow for kids, check book bags, and action letters.

9.00/ 9.30 Catch up and chat with daughter and spouse, wash and dry spouse’s dinner dishes (he works very late therefore, he gets home and eats late! )

9.30 / 10.50 Relax, watch tv, read or write a blog post.

10.50 / 11.00 Put one load of laundry on a timer for an early morning wash. Straighten up the living room.

11.00 Bed.

Of course, if I’m working, my daily housework schedule looks nothing like this, and I do whatever I can with the time I’ve got left!

This routine is not my daily housework schedule when I’m at work. However, most evenings, we are out at kid’s activities. Some nights we get home at 8.45 pm, so the evenings can look a little different from the daily routine of a housewife from the 50s!

My weekends are spent with the family. If I keep on top of housework and laundry on my days off, it enables me to spend the weekends doing the things I love with my kids and family.

As I studied the 1950s housewife schedule, I noticed that it didn’t vary too much from my daily routine, so I thought I’d give it a go on my next day off work.

The 1950s housewife schedule

1950s housewife schedule

  1. 6.30-7.30

    Light the fire, clean out the old ash from last night, and relight the fire for the family to come down to.

  2. 7.30 / 8.45

    Get breakfast ready, get the kids ready for school. Take the kids to school.

  3. 9.00 / 9.45

    Wash breakfast dishes.

  4. 9.15 / 10.30

    Do the daily cleaning of all rooms. Tidy up, make the beds, hang up any clothes, pick stuff up off the floors, wipe over the sink, toilet, and bath. Wipe down kitchen surfaces.

    1950s cleaning tips housewife schedule.

  5. 10.30/10.45

    Coffee break (read the newspaper)

  6. 10.45 / 11.30

    Do a job from the weekly cleaning list.

  7. 11.30 /12.00

    Get the lunch ready for children coming home from school

  8. 12.00 /1.00

    Have lunch, take children back to school, wash lunch dishes and clear up.

  9. 1.00 / 2.15

    Do some home baking, then wash up the dishes.

  10. 2.15 /2.30

    Free time (spent doing gardening or dressmaking)

  11. 3.15 /4.00

    Go shopping for food for the meals for the next day. Collect children from school.

  12. 4.00/ 4.30

    See to the needs of the children, put shopping away.

  13. 4.30 / 5.00

    Prepare the evening meal.

    1950s cleaning tips

  14. 5.00 / 6.00

    Eat evening meal, clear the dining room table and wash the dishes.

  15. 6.00 /6.15

    Listen to the news

  16. 6.15 /7.30

    See to the children, play games, read, bath time, bedtime.

  17. 7.30/9.45

    Free time, maybe spent reading, knitting, listening to the radio.

  18. 9.45/ 10.15

    Prepare supper. Wash and dry dishes, and lay the dining room table for breakfast.

  19. 10.15

    Go to bed

Characteristics of a 1950s housewife.

1950s housewife schedule , ironing

Being homemakers of the 50s was dramatically different from how things are today. Daily life in the 50s differed from the daily housework schedule of working women today.

Kids came home from school at lunchtime. Homemakers in the 1950s would have to return to school, bring their kids home, feed them, take them back to school and clear up, all within an hour at lunchtime. This also ensured that they had to be at home during the day for the kids.

There were fewer supermarkets. A 50’s housewife would have to shop more frequently at the local shops. There were no supermarkets to wander around and spend hundreds of pounds on food. Shopping for food was part of the 1950’s housewife routine every day.

Food was scarce, therefore kitchen cupboards and fridges were not overstuffed and cluttered with food.

Men worked, and most women stayed at home. Women in the 50s spent considerable time within the house, so much more time than women do today. Men and women work more extended hours now than ever before, and both spend fewer hours in the home.

Housekeeping was the 50’s housewife’s job. Her housewife’s daily routine was often the only thing she had to focus on during the day. She took pride in keeping the house clean and looking after her family.

1950 housewives had very few mod cons such as washing machines or tumble driers to make their 1950s housewife routine any more manageable. Often carpets had to be swept, or they beat rugs outside. Laundry had to be hand-washed, ran through the mangle, and dried outside or inside if the weather was miserable.

A fifties housewife had no free childcare support. Children started school at 5 or 6 years old; therefore, it was difficult for women in the ’50s to go back to work once they became parents. Often working wasn’t an option they could consider.

Kids had a lot more free time as there were not so many after school and weekend activities. Therefore, they spent more evenings and weekends at home.

There was no social media or daytime tv to distract from chores. The radio was often the only form of entertainment for the 1950 housewife.

Fires had to be prepared before anyone got up. The 1950s housewife routine didn’t start until the embers from last night’s fire were cleaned out and carefully lighted a new fire. This was an essential and time-consuming task in the 50’s housewives daily schedule.

Everyone ate together at the table at the same time every night. Therefore there was only one dinner to cook and many dishes to wash.

The early bird catches the worm.

The first thing I noticed from the 1950’s housewife schedule was that she got up before everybody else, got dressed, washed, and got herself ready. I struggle with this in our house because my son is such a light sleeper, and as soon as a floorboard creaks in our house, he is up! However, on the odd occasion I have managed to get up before him. It made a huge difference to be ready and dressed in my shoes with my hair and makeup done, rather than hurriedly trying to get prepared when the kids are already up.

Eating breakfast like a 50’s housewife

The second thing I noticed was that in the 1950s housewife schedule, she ate breakfast with her kids. Now, I am always rushing in the mornings and never have breakfast with my kids, so I end up eating mid-morning with a coffee, but often this prompts me to check my emails and start procrastinating, and I realized that this could be the start of my time-wasting. So, I decided to get up earlier than the family and have breakfast with the kids.

This was quite frankly the least relaxing breakfast I’d ever had, but I gained extra time during my morning as I didn’t linger over a mid-morning breakfast! So eating breakfast with my kids turned out to be a time-saver, and it is one thing from the 1950s housewife routine that I will continue to do!

Housewife’s extra time

The next thing that struck me was that my kids have school dinners, so I have a whole hour mid-day that the 50’s housewife didn’t get! Sometimes I fill this time by making the evening meals. I say meals because we have two meat eaters and two vegetarians in our house, so this often involves making two separate meals as my spouse will not eat meat substitutes.

It’s easier for me to prepare the evening meal at midday because most of my evenings are taken up running the kids to sports or playdates, and I prefer to give my kids a healthy homecooked meal whenever time allows. For the days I work, I defrost a meal that I’ve previously batch cooked and frozen. The average 1950s housewife did not have the luxury of having a freezer, so I feel grateful that I have one stocked full of convenient food to eat in a hurry. Read this post to learn how to batch cook all your meals for a week!

Afternoons in the 50’s housewife daily schedule

I also noticed from the 1950’s housework schedule that there was some afternoon baking involved. Count me out; I hate baking! I’m no good at it and generally find it a great big faff for minimal reward, and as for the cleaning up afterward, it’s all too much. So I cheated and stuck to ironing a big pile of my spouse’s shirts for work, and all the kids clobber so I didn’t get behind. I’ll leave the baking to the 1950’s housewife!

Free time for the 1950s housewife

So now, we get to the 1950s housewife’s free time, which she was expected to use to do the gardening or sewing. I couldn’t work out whether this 50s housewife enjoyed doing the gardening or sewing as a hobby. However, I gritted my teeth and went out to tidy up the garden. It was January, and it was freezing. However, it was worth it because we are selling the house, so it was good to straighten things up, put the kid’s toys away and sweep the paths, so possibly I may choose to do this a few times a week.

Food shopping for the 1950s housewife

I usually leave the house at approximately 2.30 to pick up the kids from school, and I decided to call in at the shops to get the ingredients for tomorrow’s tea. This part of the 1950s housewife routine will not work for me as I like to buy meat in bulk and freeze it for convenience during the week, and I also find I spend less money this way. I will continue to do as I usually do in my daily schedule and use this time to do chores such as nip to the post office.

Evenings for the 1950s housewife

In the evenings that we had no after-school sports to go to, I did follow the 1950s housework schedule. I had already prepared the evening meal, so it gave me more time to spend with the kids, clear away the dinner dishes and get the school stuff ready for tomorrow.

I didn’t listen to the news, but I did sit down for a nice 15-minute coffee break. However, I probably won’t be doing that every night because it rendered me almost impossible to get back up again!

After getting one child to bed, I tried to get some free time at 7.30, but this was virtually impossible with one child still up until 9.00.

9 pm was eventually time to relax, and I spent this listening to the Archers podcast.

I didn’t make a snack at 9.45 because my spouse had just eaten, so I cleared up the dishes and laid the table for breakfast.

Bedtime on the 50’s housewife schedule

I went to bed at 10.15 and enjoyed going to bed nearly an hour earlier than usual. Although this meant that I spent less time with my husband in the evening, he was happy to have control of the remote and watch the golf in peace so that I may schedule a few early nights into my new weekly routine!

Overview of the 1950s housewife schedule

This is not the perfect housewife cleaning schedule for today, but there are some ways I could tweak my daily schedule to make my life slightly more manageable and run more smoothly. Already I see some benefits from the changes I’ve implemented from the 1950s housewife daily schedule. However, it’s only practical to implement the other changes on my days off with after-school activities and working. I have enjoyed and benefited from more structure and less procrastination in my day! I also appreciated not having any technology or TV, as this helped me do less procrastinating!

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What is better, being a housewife or a working woman?

This is one of those questions that will have a different answer for everyone. I have worked full-time and part-time as a mum, and I can tell you it’s challenging and very stressful trying to keep everything running efficiently when you’re a working mum.
Staying on top of a daily housework schedule becomes even more of a struggle if you have a partner who works long hours and weekends or if you are a single mum.
I love being at home, it’s the best place in the world for me, and I enjoy every second of being in the house. However, I also love my job, so I’m not going to be giving it up anytime soon!

What do housewives do all day?

This depends on the housewife and how motivated she is! When you are a mother with small children at home, virtually all of your time is consumed by the demand of your child /children, and it’s challenging to get stuff done around the house unless your kids are sleeping.
Parents today are much more hands-on with their children and spend much more quality time entertaining their children than they ever did years ago. As children get older and go to school, there is more time to spend at work.
From the 1950s housewife schedule, you’ll notice that there are always plenty of jobs to do around the home.

What is an ideal daily routine?

To begin organizing housework and following my daily routines, you can start here. I have created a list of jobs you do each day to keep your house clean and organized and then a list of weekly chores done once a week. Or you could always try the 1950s housewife schedule if you are at home all day!

Now you’ve read all about a 1950s housewife routine, why not read all about what grandma used to keep in her cleaning kit!

14 thoughts on “What Happened When I Tried A 1950s Housewife Schedule

  1. Sheila Spencer says:

    I sometimes think that children today don’t learn how to amuse themselves because Mother’s feel so guilty about working that they have to fill every possible moment available finding activities and classes for their children to do. There’s nothing wrong with just sitting and colouring in a book, or reading or be outside just messing about in the garden.

  2. Candace says:

    Not sure if this is USA. We had 1 car and I walked home for lunch. No one came and got me. My mom hung the laundry out to dry. We did have a grocery store.

  3. Kim Ferrie says:

    I would like to share my approach to modern living – – cut most of the activities. 8:45 p.m. ?!? We are all in our jammies by then! LOL Just try it! No one says you HAVE to have your children in anything. Family time when they are young is much more important then what they are in or how many activities they are in.

  4. CJ says:

    I am a single working Mom with 3 kids aged 10, 9, and 7. One thing that wasn’t mentioned is the amount of homework the three of them bring home every day, sometimes requiring at least an hour each per evening for them to get through. When science projects time comes, there is a near melt-down season that causes me to run for the therapist couch. I do not remember my mother ever having to devote all of her evenings to mandatory parent/student projects. The fact that homework management was not mentioned in the 1950’s schedule leads me to believe it probably wasn’t an issue. Any ideas for where to fit in an extra 3 hours of one on one homework time with my kids?

  5. Thomas Fortney says:

    Grew up in South Central PA neighborhood in the 1950’s. A few things from my memories: We had a TV, Washing machine, dryer, though mom used the clothes line out back most of the time. Our medium-sized town had significant grocery stores, one was an A&P Supermarket. Mom did grocery shopping once a week, and an occasional trip to a nearby mom’n’pop neighborhood grocery store for supplies and stables, but her basic shopping was once a week. On schedule issues, mom and dad expected all of us (3 children) to do chores, make beds, clean bathrooms, etc., though mom did to the lions share of the house keeping. She did make us three hot meals a day and we walkied or rode our bikes everywhere. She never took us to school, or after school activates (Little League, Scouts, etc.), even on bad-weather days. All of us in the neighborhood would walk to school or ride our bikes, even to elementary school. We ate lunch at school, lunch mom made us in the AM. ONE BIG MEMORY was the pride my mom had in her home, children and herself. We were well/appropriately dressed, house always clean (we all chipped in) and she almost always looked great. She got up about 30 minutes before dad, showered and put on makeup. She had several attractive but very practical “house dresses” she always wore, and on heavy cleaning days she wore a nice blouse and capries or womean’s bluejeans but took them of for a skirt and blouse or dress as soon as she was done. She wound not be caught dead with her and us (husband and children) looking “presentable”. She had no problem with us playing in the dirt (as kids did then), but we had to bath that afternoon when we were done for sure. To my memory, most all the mothers in the neighborhood had about the same ethos. Like my mom, they too always looked good (hair nicely arranged, house dress, etc.). All of them welcomed all the neighborhood kinds to play in their homes (typically in the basements) and yards, even as play ranged across several yards, like in our nearly weekly twilight multiple-yard games of kick-the-can, when was a summer evening staple for all the kids. We were always in the streets riding our bikes, none of us wore helmets! (Who ever did we survive those ’50’s?!!!). All the mom’s were gracious, but definitely had a healthy “TNC” (take no crap) posture to all the kids, their children and those who were not their children. The neighborhood fathers mostly (readk 99%) stood by their wives discipline often adding their own discipline to boot when they got home from work. That is a little of the home, and neighborhood I grew up in in the 1950’s and some memories of the women who knew the art of being kind, even sweat, but never ;ut up with our crap, something we all delt out now and again, and that to the risk of a tanned backside when the dad’s got home.

    • judy scharf says:

      Your childhood was the same as mine in Australia and we had tons of quality time with our parents, IMHO much more than kids of today whose parents are both off at work. We either caught the bus, rode our bikes or walked to school and Mum was there when we got home from school with a glass of milk or cordial and a home made cookie or cut fruit. We were fit, healthy and skinny. We read books and played games & sports.

    • SL says:

      I have to agree with just about everything this reader says about growing up in the 50’s.
      Getting up to stoke the fire?? We had central heat. And yes, A&P was always there – a small, but real supermarket. I would have had to be dying to go home for lunch. We didn’t have school buses so no big deal to ride your bike. The getting up to make the fire cracks me up. ? And yes, we had indoor bathrooms!

  6. Marion D Connell says:

    I’m an American. My memories don’t go quite as far as the 1950s, but the early 1960s. We did have supermarkets and automatic clothes washing machines. We still hung out our clothes to dry, though, but some wealthier families had automatic clothes driers by the early 1960s, I think.

    We had to hand wash our dishes at first, but by the mid 1960s, it was possible to buy a free-standing automatic dishwasher, that you would attach by a hose to the kitchen faucet. I don’t remember anything about a fire in a fireplace; we had a central heating. We had a television set – black and white – not color, and a “rabbit ears” antenna that sat on top of the set. There were three channels; that’s all. There was a dial-up wall phone in the kitchen, and a dial-up tabletop phone in my parents’ bedroom – extensions of each other. If you wanted a phone number, you looked it up in the phone book.

    A dairy delivery service delivered fresh milk to our porch every morning. There was no way to put letters onto a page except by hand – a pencil or a pen. If you had a pencil, and the tip wasn’t sharp enough, you sharpened it with a hand-cranked pencil sharpener. If no one else had emptied the wood pencil shavings recently, shavings began to spill out onto the toes of your shoes. Fountain pens that had to be filled with ink had been superceded by click pens that came with an ink cartridge. You clicked a button to make the ink point poke out of the end of the pen, and clicked again to make it retract. Felt tip pens were a novelty just coming onto the market.

    Diapers were made of cloth – no disposables – and so a poopy diaper was dunk-dunk-dunk in the toilet until everything was out, then into the covered pail until laundry day. The covered pail contained disinfectant. For diapers, laundry day was every other day. Almost everything had to be ironed. By hand. Permanent press clothes hadn’t been invented. Most clothes were made of wool or cotton or linen. We didn’t have swiffers or microfiber cloths – we had feather dusters or cleaning rags. For cleaning, we had four or five choices – Lysol for disinfecting; pine-sol or lestoil for scrubbing floors or other messy jobs; windex for windows and mirrors; comet or ajax scrubbing powder for sinks and tubs, and liquid dish soap for doing dishes. That was about it.

    All bill paying was done by writing checks, putting them into envelopes and mailing them. There was no online bill paying. There was no online anything. If you wanted to know what was on TV, for example, you had to buy a copy of TV Guide magazine. If you wanted to know the day’s news, you bought a copy of the day’s newspaper – morning edition or late edition, or you caught one of the news shows on TV or on the radio. If you wanted to get a message to a friend, you phoned him or her, or wrote them a letter. There were no answering machines, and no voice mail. If no one was at home to answer the phone, the phone just rang and rang until you hung up. If someone answered, but not the person you wanted to talk with and the person you wanted wasn’t at home, they might – MIGHT – agree to take a message for the person you wanted. If not, you just had to call back another time.

    People had calendars taped to their refrigerators. I remember when refrigerator magnets first became available. I thought those were great.

    Models and actresses wore heavy make-up, but most “Moms” wore lipstick alone, or if they were really glamorous, face powder, lipstick, and some mascara. Some of the high school girls wore eye shadow, too. Blue eye shadow. It was popular to wear heavily teased and hair-sprayed bouffant styles that reminded one of cotton candy. The hair would stand out all around the head like a giant motorcycle helmet – a helmet made of cotton candy. Often there would be bangs which weren’t teased, but rolled. Then girls would clip a very small bow onto the front of the bouffant, centered between their eyes. Eyebrows tended to be ignored. People wore pedal pusher pants – lightweight cotton pants reaching to mid-calf, in bright colors, with coordinating tops – often in florals or stripes. Ballet flats were popular, in all colors. It was stylish to toss a cardigan over the shoulders, without putting your arms in the sleeves, and wear it like a cape. This was the epitome of dash! White or pearl-colored nail polish was popular, as was red. And lipsticks in shades of white, off-white, and nude, too. Contact lenses were just replacing glasses.

  7. Tina says:

    Love this article. There is A lot we can Relearn from the past . I’ve recently rediscovered real Lye bar soap – hands down the best stain remover ever. I remember hearing my Grandmother talk about cleaning the fireplace or wood burning stove , wow do we have it easy or what.

  8. Emilia says:

    My parents were teenagers in the 50’s. They did of course have a radio, but that was it, no appliances – not even fridge. My mother grew up on the countryside, and afaik they were semi-self-sufficient at least. And yes, definitely lighting up the fires in the morning, if it wasn’t summer!
    But kids of course walked to school, and had their lunch packed with them, if there wasn’t school lunch (depended on the school).

    My mother-in-law was adult at that time, and had pretty similar lifestyle. No supermarkets, no appliances. TV’s did not become common before 60’s. You could buy them, but few had the money as they were expensive.

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