Books for the Housekeeper – How to be June Cleaver without a Time Machine

June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley) with sons Wally (Tony Dow) and Beaver (Jerry Mathers)

For the longest time, I never realized how hard keeping house was. To me, being a homemaker simply meant cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry. Piece of cake, right?

Uh, no.

Being the one in charge of the welfare of your home leaves one bearing a huge responsibility. Husband’s dress pants still in the dryer? Kids’ lunches still not packed? Out of toilet paper? That’s all the housekeeper’s domain.  She is not only responsible for keeping her own life from running in 20 zillion directions, but also for maintaining a reasonable status quo in the lives of her family members. Such a task undoubtedly leads to acquiring the title, “Queen of Multitasking.” The modern homemaker does her shopping while Susie is at soccer practice, throws something in the Crockpot before she drops the kids off at school, and folds laundry while scheduling appointments on the phone

Who says superheroes don’t exist?

Of course, the modern woman would love to live a perfectly balanced life. She sighs with a tone of envy when she sees June Cleaver from the 1950s sitcom, Leave it to Beaver, vacuuming her carpets in pearls, high heels, and red lipstick. But with a schedule crammed full with dentist appointments, baseball practices, and piano lessons, the modern housekeeper is lucky if she makes it out of the house with two matching socks on her feet.

Like anything else, housekeeping is a job. And like any job position, it requires training. To be really good at anything, a person has to know what she’s doing, adapt it to fit her strengths, and execute her plan efficiently.

Since Home Economics Class seems to have vanished in a lot of high schools today, here are some great reads that will help the housekeeper in all of us to manage her home in a way that would impress June Cleaver herself.

1. How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew by Erin Bried

What a great read! This book is full of sass and humor. Covering a broad range of topics – from how to unclog a toilet to how to wear red lipstick – this book gives sage bits of advice that any 1950s housekeeper would have known, all with a modern wit that will give the housekeeper a good dose of comic relief with her home ec lesson.

2. Simple Country Wisdom: 501 Old-Fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life by Susan Waggoner

Published by the folks at Country Living, Simple Country Living features a hospitable and homey note of charm that will make this a reference book for any homemaker. In this book, Waggoner lists tips on creating a charming home, even by the simplest of means. She discusses nearly every part of the home, offering helpful advice for creating a harmonious and inviting dwelling. One of my favorite parts? The baking section.:)

3. Home Economics: Vintage Advice and Practical Science for the 21st-Century Household compiled by Jennifer McKnight Trontz

This book celebrates centuries of developing the science of homemaking by offering practical, but invaluable, help to the modern homemaker. This book discusses it all – developing a home management system, cleaning, cooking, entertaining, mending/doing laundry, decorating, and pursuing some much-needed leisure time. Another lovable element of this book is the design. The book itself has a vintage-motif, and its petite size adds to its charm. This would make a great gift for the bride-to-be!

4. Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping: Timeless Wisdom and Practical Advice by Miriam Lukken

I. Love. This. Book. It is so refreshingly simple, yet stuffed with insanely good advice. Miriam Lukken created the character of Mrs. Dunwoody – a 19th century Southern woman with charm, hospitality, and common-sense – based on her great-grandmother and the thousands of other women in the South who had mastered the art of homekeeping. One of the best parts about this book is the style in which it’s written. Mrs. Dunwoody “writes” the book with a motherly tone, addressing the reader herself. She offers a hodge-podge of great information – from her own family stories, advice on basic housekeeping principles and techniques, and places for the reader to document their own homemaking endeavors. I really love how Mrs. Dunwoody stresses the importance of how the people in the house make it a home. This is such a refreshing read in a world where families often don’t even get to eat dinner together every night. Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping is bound to be a cherished heirloom in any family.

Home economics need not disappear with vacuum tubes and rotary dial phones. Books like these are going to help keep the art of managing a home alive for generations to come.


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