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Making a home, and keeping a house are two different, but related tasks. You cannot make a home, unless you know how to keep a house, but there is also a certain amount of love, patience, grace, and etiquette which goes into maintaining a home in order to elevate it beyond a simple house. The “necessary” skills involved in homemaking varied a lot over time, culture, and place. A housewife in 1956 New York just didn’t need the same skills as a housewife in 1890s rural Kansas. We could spend all day discussing the differences in those sets, and that’s without even getting into the traditionally masculine skills that are associated with keeping a home running properly! There are, however, certain skills and hobbies which are traditionally associated with homemaking, and which can bring a quality of warmth into a house.
Homemaking is a traditionally feminine occupation, though you do see more young men becoming “house husbands” and stay at home dads now adays too, and I have to say, whatever works best for your family, my friends! Whatever your gender, if you’re interested in being a truly successful homemaker, or even just in picking up a few hobbies that are useful around the house, then this list is a great place to start exploring new interests! Who knows, you may even find a new passion!
I’ve created a list of some of my favorite homemaking skills, in no particular order. I’m going to talk a bit about how each one is relevant in my opinion, and I’ll include some links for beginner resources too.
Cleaning is an incredibly useful skill for anyone to have. Unfortunately, a lot of us never really learn how to clean. We end up figuring it through trial and error sometimes, but I’ll admit that I’m still learning the right way to clean different things. Learning to properly clean can also be a bit daunting if you think that you need a bunch of different chemicals and fancy tools.
I cannot recommend the book How to Clean Practically Anything enough for someone who is just really starting to properly clean and care for their home! How to Clean Your Home Like a Professional is another good option, and slightly less expensive.
If you get the chance I 100% recommend checking out either of these books. The little tricks you can learn will take your house from clean to sparkling! It makes a real difference in how you feel, when you walk into a room and everything is clean. I used to think I did a good job of cleaning my house, and then I got How to Clean Practically Anything and I realized there was actually a lot of stuff I was missing. Now my home is clean enough that my husband has said it’s like walking into a show home or a high end hotel! Now, that’s a compliment!
Be aware though, not to become so focused on a clean home that you take away the pleasure of actually being home. A home is used, and that means that it will always be accumulating small messes, and that’s okay. Do your best to keep a tidy home, but don’t fret when it shows signs of ordinary use.
Ironing gets it’s own spot on the list because it such an important skill. Have you ever put on an outfit, even a nice one, and just felt frumpy? What about if you’ve ever seen someone looking crisp, clean, and professional in jeans and a plain shirt? Ironing is most likely the secret there. Of course, tailoring a blouse or dress can make a big impact on how it looks as well, but baring that (and even after that), pressing your slacks, ironing shirts, and keeping clothing wrinkle-free is a great way to make sure you always look your best. Even a wrinkle-free t-shirt will look more put together than one that looks like it sat on your bedroom floor, unfolded for a week.
If you are lucky enough to have a family member who knows how to iron, ask them for some tips and maybe even a lesson. Otherwise, I suggest checking out How to Iron Clothes.
- Setting a Table
Okay, so this isn’t a hobby, but it is a skill! It’s not really a priority, unless you entertain a lot, so you can take your time learning and perfecting it, but I do recommend you pick up this skill. Properly setting a table can make any event or meal feel important, it’s an easy way to impress people like bosses and in-laws, and it can make an ordinary dinning room look simply beautiful.
Gardening, for a lot of people today, is a luxury hobby, but for our grandparents, it was common place or even a necessity. My grandparents never bought herbs, tomatoes, or onions, because they always had a garden. As someone who has lived in an apartment though, I can tell you it’s not so easy for a lot of us to start a garden anymore. As someone who has also had the opportunity to grow her own herbs and a few veggies though, the rewards from having a garden are immeasurable!
If you’re brand new to gardening, I recommend figuring out your Hardiness Zone, this tells you which plants will grow well in your area. If you’re somewhere you can’t put things in the ground, then also pick up a copy of The Vegetable Gardner’s Container Bible, it’s a great place to start for gardening. Mini Farming (look for the free ebook on kindle) and Backyard Homestead are great if you’re got a small yard, and want to start growing some of your own food.
You may not end up growing enough to reduce food costs, once you calculate water cost, soil, planters, ect….though some people actually do make out better financially! The most rewarding parts of having a garden for me are the fact that you’re making something, and that you can actually make some amazing friends by having a garden. When you’ve got more zucchini than you know what to do with it, it’s a good time to get to know your neighbors! Gardening, isn’t strictly necessary for running a home, but it’s something that I hate to give up. Plus, when/if you have children, the experience of teaching them to care for and grow their own food is one that will give them a lifelong respect for where their food comes from.
If you’re gardening, I strongly recommend learning a preserving method or two. Otherwise, no matter how much you give away, you’ll still find some of it going to waste. Plus, if you learn to preserve your own foods, then you’ll have access to them year-round!
The Ball Caning Back to Basics guide is a great place to start. Preserving Everything is another great book, and it has a lot of different methods for preserving a variety of foods. Even if you don’t produce any of your own foods, the techniques in these books are great for preserving seasonal produce you get from the store.
- Cheese making
Okay, okay, so cheese making is technically just an extension on the point of preserving food. But! It’s fun, tasty, and can be super simple. Plus, it’s a hobby with some personality to it. How many people do you know who make their own cheese? I know one, and he makes some of the best cheddar I’ve ever had. Cheese making is less about actual usefulness, unless you have any milk producing animals, and more just about an interesting skill that enriches the household. Preserving Everything includes a section on cheeses and yogurts but you can also check out Home Cheese Making 4th ed. It has 100 different cheese recipes, from easy cheeses to more complicated ones.
Sticking with the food theme, cooking is an invaluable skill for a homemaker to have. Being able to prepare your own nutritional, delicious meals, right at home, means you can cater meals directly to the health needs of your family, without compromising value or increasing grocery costs too much. What you buy pre-made is the base, even if you try to flavor it up a bit, and you can only add to, not reduce anything in it. That means sodium levels may be higher than you like, your food may have too much sugar in it, or the fat or carbs are higher than you want them. Making food from scratch lets you control exactly what’s going into your and your loved ones bodies. In an age where everything is pumped full of preservatives and chemicals, this is a huge relief for a lot of folks. But, it’s also a skill that requires practice. My post Curating a Recipe Collection deals more with how to learn to cook and put together a family recipe book.
Baking is a quintessential homemaking skill. When I think about growing up, and home, I remember my grandma baking. Whether it was cookies, bread, or cakes, I remember the smell of baked goods filling the home. It’s one of those things that sticks with you, and makes a place feel welcoming. Plus, baking is a great way to make sure you can always provide snacks for guests! And, I have to say, showing up to fundraisers, bake sales, and school events with fresh, homemade baked goods is incredibly satisfying. Any bake sale I showed up at, my treats always sold out before all the store bought goodies did!
Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is perfect for ambitious bakers who like to try all kinds of new recipes, but the new baker may want a smaller book. Something like Easy Baking From Scratch. Dutch Oven Breads is another one I really like, and I picked up the ebook for free.
Moving out of the kitchen, let’s take a look at the textile arts. Sewing, knitting, crochet, each has it’s own use and application within the home. I’m a bit biased, but I’m particularly fond of sewing as a versatile skill. From sewing on buttons, darning socks, fitting dress shirts, and hemming slacks, to making brand new clothes, pillow covers, bead spreads, curtains, and more…sewing can be used in any part of the home.
Proper care and repair of clothing can make your husbands work shirts, or your favorite dress, last for years! Fitting clothing can make any store bought item look expensive, professional, and crisp. Recycling older fabrics into new items can extend their usefulness. Creating your own clothing can provide you with couture looking pieces that are quiet literally made just for you.
If you’re interested in sewing, I suggest checking out First Time Sewing, and How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns. My post, Vintage Advice for being a Classy Woman, also contains additional resources for getting started sewing. A good free ebook is Free Sewing Patterns for Spring, and it will get you started making dresses and such!
- Crochet or Knitting
I’ve included crochet and knitting under the same heading, even though they’re different skills, because they have a lot of the same application and uses. Those uses are pretty varied and useful though. Baby clothes, lace, blankets, towels, scarves, mittens and gloves, socks, hats, pot holders, mug warmers, and more can all easily be made with knitting or crocheting. The best part in my opinion, is that either of these skills compliments sewing rather nicely, and vise versa.
Embroidery is the last of the textile hobbies I’ll talk about, and it’s primarily used for decorating. I don’t think I’d ever call embroidery a necessary skills to have, but I also don’t regret knowing it. We all need beauty in our lives, and embroidery is a great way to add your own version of beauty to clothing, blankets, towels, pillows, and of course art. It also fulfills the human need to create, to actually make something with your own two hands and have a physical thing to show for it. A Step-by-Step Guide to More Than 200 Stitches is a great option for learning, and really, once you now the stitches, you can use any pattern or even make your own design!
- Have a Conversation
Having a conversation is an art form, especially if you’re entertaining important people that you want to impress. The Fine Art of Small Talk is a wonderful resource for anyone who has difficulty with this particular skill. Still, I cannot stress how vital a skill it is, both in general, and to homemakers. Being able to get along well and hold intelligent conversation with your spouse’s coworkers can be critical in the impression that they make at work. It may seem a bit old fashioned, but bosses still like to promote people they like, and people with families they like. Another advantage to being able to have a great conversation with anyone, is that you’d be surprised just how many people will give you discounts, references, or be willing to do favors for you simply because you know how to have a good conversation.
- In Conclusion
This post just scratches the surface of things that a homemaker can add to their skill set. Contrary to popular belief, a successful homemaker is intelligent and skilled. They take pride in their work, partially from the joy of the work itself, and partially because of the great level and variety of skill needed to be successful. Us homemakers always will have work to do, and ways that we can improve both ourselves and our homes. Did I miss your favorite skill or hobby? Would you like to see any of the above topics expanded on? Let me know in the comments!