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5 Housekeeping Tips from the Mother Archives

6/16/2011 12:00:00 AM


Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnail 

Lately I’ve been mining the Mother Earth News archive disks for bits of relevant wisdom—which are abundant there. In the second issue (March/April 1970), an article titled “Housekeeping on a Homestead” offers some fine advice for making this task—which we all have to do sooner or later—a little more efficient and enjoyable. We’ve carried some of this advice in the pages of our magazines over the years, and some nuggets got lost. Every one of them makes sense today. Enjoy!


1. Lay out work areas in an orderly way. Create one area for washing, ironing, sewing, cooking and children's play areas. (Even if you don’t get out the iron more than once a year or so anymore, the all-encompassing work and play room is key, especially when the kids are young.)

feet on floor 

2. Radiant heating (hot water pipes under the floor) means less work for Mama—no dusting and no painting those unsightly dust catchers called radiators. And if the floors are pretty and warm, you’ll have fewer rugs to pay for or to clean. (I’m amused that radiant heating emerged again as a “new” idea for green homes about a decade ago. How quickly we forget!)

viva terra rug 

Hemp watercolor rug from Viva Terra 

3. Use patterned or neutral colored rugs that don't show dirt quickly, or scatter rugs that can be picked up and washed. If you have an old unsightly floor, spatter painting might be the answer to simple care. (OK, so I worry that I don’t have the touch for “spatter painting,” and that could end up looking like we spilled a bucket of paint. But I’m gratified to see that Mother advised people against hard-to-clean wall-to-wall carpet from the beginning.)

wood furniture 

4. Wooden furniture collects less dust if it's waxed instead of polished with oil. (I mix a little mineral oil into my carnauba wax to soften it before I use it. And note—you have to rub pretty hard.)


The slipcovers on Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic sofas are machine washable. 

5. Slipcovers can be removed and washed easily. And if you buy or make slipcovers, bedspreads and draperies out of material that doesn't have to be ironed, you've saved yourself even more work. (Plus, slipcovers are sexy. I’ve been coveting this slipcovered sofa from Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic for more than a decade.)

The Mother archive CDs are my favorite reading material right now. If you’d like to do some wisdom mining yourself, check out this offer. Right now, you can order the complete set of Mother Earth News archive CDs and receive two free passes to the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, in September. I'll be doing a workshop on green cleaning. See you there?

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