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The Good Homemaker Is Not Obsolete

As a baby boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

Women Canning

Women Canning

Homemaker’s Arts

I know the word homemaker has gotten a bad reputation. It elicits images of Donna Reed or June Cleaver (the mother on Leave It to Beaver) doing housework in high heels and pearls, never thinking of pursuing any kind of career outside the home. Or perhaps it more represents the image of being chained to the stove and never leaving the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, and all the rest of the negative stereotypes that have floated around in the past century.

Actually, a homemaker is a person (male or female) who embraces the many creative things that enhance the home and the people living there. It ranges from decorating, arranging flowers, making beds with all the pillows and decor that make the bedroom inviting, sewing clothing, creating recipes, dinners, desserts, and meals that excite the pallet and nourish the body, as well as cleaning up afterward. It covers being able to prepare and plan for the future by preserving food and keeping the pantry well-stocked.

Many homemakers also grow their own fruit and vegetables as well as herbs for cooking. Homemakers are often more than the chief cook and bottle washer but also a mom or dad taking care of youngers. That’s a whole job in itself. After I read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, I decided that a good homemaker may not be making money but saving money for the breadwinner. Saving money is almost as important as making it, in my opinion. A good homemaker doesn’t throw away a used item but fixes it, recycles it, or reuses it for something else.

“After all, a woman didn't leave much behind in the world to show she'd been there. Even the children she bore and raised got their father's name. But her quilts, now that was something she could pass on.”

— Sandra Dallas, author of "A Quilt for Christmas: A Novel"

The hand-sewn quilt I made in Spain

The hand-sewn quilt I made in Spain

Sew (and Mend) Your Own Clothes

You don’t need expensive sewing machines to sew your own garments or mend existing ones. A needle and thread are all that is needed. Still, a good sewing machine will save many hours of work if you can get one.

I sewed my clothes and my children’s clothes for decades, saving thousands of dollars in so doing. I usually got the fabric half price as remnants (that’s the end of the bolt of fabric, usually only a couple of yards or less) or close-out fabric. I got many of the patterns from thrift stores and even inherited a few from my mother (patterns from the 1950s and ‘60s). I learned to design clothes using the collar from one pattern, the body from another, and the sleeves from another. All fashion is actually done that way. Is there really anything new under the sun? I doubt it.

Me sewing a bag made from an old dress

Me sewing a bag made from an old dress

Shop at Thrift Stores

You can find some great buys at yard sales and thrift stores, but you can also get sucked into buying what you don’t really need. Beware. The problem here is that we women often have a bad habit of buying what we don’t need just because it is a bargain.

I can find some great clothes for myself at thrift stores and yard sales that just need a little mending or a little fixing. One recent buy I found, had a low neckline. All I had to do was to make a tuck in the back of the neck with just a few stitches and it was perfect.

You don’t want to fill up your garage after going to all the trouble of clearing it out with your own yard sales. So be strong. If you are going to a yard sale for a specific item, be sure to only get what you absolutely need: fabric, sewing machine, patterns, etc. Yard sales can be a great resource or a total waste of time. Pick and choose carefully.

Portrait made from recycled magazines.

Portrait made from recycled magazines.

"We humans have become dependent on plastic for a range of uses, from packaging to products. Reducing our use of plastic bags is an easy place to start getting our addiction under control."

— David Suzuki, science broadcaster and environmental activist

Re-Use Plastic and Cardboard in Your Home

Have you ever heard of ecobricks? There is a webpage dedicated to them. In order to save the planet of all the debris and plastic filling up landfills, ecobricks are something you can do yourself one little bottle at a time.

It’s just so hard to get away from plastic these days. Everything comes in plastic.

Choose a plastic bottle that you are buying often. Clean it and dry it completely then begin filling it with all the soft plastic that goes through your home. Paper towels are wrapped in plastic, toilet paper, napkins, paper plates, baggies, candy, electronics, etc., all come with plastic. The point is to take that plastic and instead of throwing it away, stuff it into the bottle using a wooden dowel or the end of a wooden spoon. You pack it as firm as possible and then put it on the lid. These can be used for building materials or you can use them in your home as step stools, planter tables, or whatever you like. You have the pleasure of knowing you have saved the planet one small piece at a time.

I have also used cardboard packaging for spice shelves and sliding trays for canned goods in my pantry. I have been making bowls out of the newsprint grocery store circulars that come in the mail every week. These bowls make some nice gifts as well.

Brew Your Own Mead

Among the many creative things I have learned to make and bake over the years to please my partner, is honey mead. Mead is a lightly brewed wine that used to be given to newly married couples in the Middle Ages as a celebration of their nuptials. Perhaps it has been replaced with Champagne today, but mead is still a sweet mild wine that anyone can make. All you need is honey, lemon, a dash of nutmeg, and some clean bottles. The following is my recipe:

Honey Mead Recipe

  1. In a 6-quart pan add 1 gallon of filtered water, 1 pint of honey, a dash of nutmeg or 5 whole nutmegs, the meat of 2 large lemons along with 1 lemon peel.
  2. Boil for about 30 minutes until the foam no longer is rising. Skim off the foam and set the pan aside to cool overnight or for about 24 hours without a lid. This means it is utilizing the bacteria in the air for its yeast. No need to add culture or yeast to it.
  3. Squeeze the juice of 2 more large lemons into the pot, stir, strain, and bottle the mead in freshly washed screw-top bottles.

I used to use the beer bottles with the pop-tops and the mead would shoot straight up when opened. The screw-top bottles allow you to release a little gas slowly and prevent projectile mead. Label your bottles and set them aside in a cool dark place to ferment for two weeks to one month. Refrigerate before opening and enjoy!

Honey mead

Honey mead

“It is better to dwell on the beautiful things in life than the negative.”

— Lailah Gifty Akita, author of "Think Great, Be Great! Beautiful Quotes"

Final Thoughts

Do you think homemaking is a lost art? Do you think it is an unnecessary menial job? Do you value the homemaker’s arts? I’d love to read your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 10, 2021:

Ravi Rajan,

I'm very happy you think so. I think it is a valuable vocation, especially today when so many are running from it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on August 08, 2021:

Thanks, Denise for reiterating the valuable art of homemaking. So many people think that homemaking is either dull or not having much value. But your article serves as an eye-opener by citing practical examples that not only give one creative satisfaction but also save money in the process. Thanks for sharing.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 08, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

I agree. I'm glad you try to recycle and reuse things as well. Maybe if we all do what we can, the problem won't be so big for the next generation to tackle. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 08, 2021:

Linda Lum,

Oh, you've hit on several really good subjects there... all perfect for another article. We should be using up left-overs, making it ourselves, or doing without. My mom washed out old bread bags and reused them till they had holes. We didn't buy plastic wrap till I was a teenager. My mom would still be out there growing veggies if her back would let her; at 90 we are afraid she will fall down again. I agree the prepared foods are going to kill this next generation. Economically speaking we could save billions if we just, as you said, cooked our own beans and steamed our own rice, fried our own potato chips and fries, etc. I can't tell you how many young people took my knitting and sewing classes at the Community Education Adult School because they never learned sewing at home and were now trying to keep house and raise children. It's like we have lost a whole generation. What can be done? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 06, 2021:

You are very creative! We do try and reuse and recycle as many things as possible. I agree that a good homemaker can make a world of difference!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 06, 2021:

Denise, I loved this article! My mom was a young homemaker during the Great Depression, and instilled in me the motto of "use it up, make it do, or do without." Nothing was ever wasted in our house. I try to do the same.

We don't have leftovers; we have planned-overs. I sewed my girls' clothes until they became teenagers (goodbye dresses and jumpers, hello blue jeans). I bake my own bread and make my own pasta, sauces, and salad dressings. Until we moved to our present house (and we've been here almost 30 years), we had a vegetable garden. (Our neighbors, the resident blacktail deer, now make that impossible). I quilt and knit and crochet so gifts are handmade.

It's too bad that being a homemaker has gotten such a bad rap--as though it's menial. Actually, I think it requires a great deal of skill and resourcefulness.

HomeEc isn't taught in the schools anymore, and it shows. I see so many shopping carts filled with prepared foods. No one knows how to cook a pot of beans or steam rice. How sad.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 06, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

I do like the thought of recycling and reducing my carbon footprint. Was your father an ecologist? Do you recycle where you live? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 06, 2021:

Linda Crampton,

My husband loves the mead. It's like lemonade with a bit of a fizz. I'm glad you liked my hacks. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 06, 2021:

Abby Slutsky,

That's exactly what I mean. Girls have somehow lost the value of keeping a nice home, cooking, finding bargains to save money, etc. I think a lot of them had to rethink those values when the pandemic kept them home. I hope they are all finding value in homemaking now. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 06, 2021:

DREAM ON,

My mom was much like yours. When she went to work they put all her pay into a retirement fund because it wasn't really needed in the home. When the 2008 recession hit almost all of what she made went bye-bye. Isn't that sad? At 90 years old, she is still an awesome homemaker, still living on her own. She is amazing. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 06, 2021:

Dora Weithers,

You are so right. I can't tell you how many people called me or emailed me during the pandemic to talk about recipes or problems with cooking recipes. It seems home cooking has finally become a thing again. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 06, 2021:

Bill Holland,

I know you do! I think anyone can be a homemaker. Isn't that just someone who keeps the house in order? That could mean both of you share the title. I know Bev is counting the days! Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Rosina S Khan on August 05, 2021:

I liked your hand-sewn quilt and the portrait out of recycled magazines. I loved the concept of Eco Bricks. Yes, I value the homemaker's art.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 05, 2021:

I love the thought of Eco Bricks and honey mead! Thanks for creating an interesting and useful article, Denise.

Abby Slutsky from America on August 05, 2021:

Thanks foir sharing. Given that I love to cook and primarily did things around the house while holding down various part-time jobs, I do think it exists. However, I felt that a lot of the girls I knew who worked full-time did not deem my job as important.

DREAM ON on August 05, 2021:

My mother was a stay-at-home mom for most of her life. When my brother and I went to High School she got a job. Only to help out with money and give her something to do. I really appreciated all she did to keep our home looking good and we always had our meals ready. I know my dad always made us help out in any way we could. Now that I am older I realize how hard it can be and I think we all should be part homemakers to make the job easier for everyone in the family.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 05, 2021:

I agree, Denise. Members of households, during pandemics, have to rely on each other, when businesses cannot provide the basic services like cooking and washing. It's time to teach these skills to future male and female housekeepers.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 05, 2021:

Pamela99,

No problem. I am always learning of new and interesting things people are doing to save the planet and save money. I'm retired too with all my kids grown and gone but I think I'm still a homemaker of sorts. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 05, 2021:

Your article might have described me in my younger days. Now I am retired with no children at home, so life is different. I don't think it should be a lost art. I really enjoyed reading the article, Denise.

I never heard of Eco Bricks, so thank you for the information.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 05, 2021:

Cool article! Bev works full-time still, for one more year until early retirement, so I guess that makes me the homemaker. I don't know how "good" I am, but I give it my best shot daily. :)

Blessings always

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