January is National Organization Month and also National Hobby Month, so I thought, why not combine the two and find out what the latest fads in cleaning and organization have been throughout the past century. We'll start with turn of the century cleaning techniques.
In the earliest part of the 20th century, the top 10 causes of death (as listed by the Physicians' Pocket Reference to the International List of Causes of Death, United States Bureau of the Census, 1916) were a horrifying list of communicable diseases including:
- Typhoid Fever
- Typhus Fever
- Small Pox
With a growing understanding of disease and medicine occurring throughout the late 1800s, it is no wonder that it became a national obsession in the first decade of the 1900s to keep a pristine home. By 1908, with the debut of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute and Seal of Approval it had become a household name, harpooned by the new national fascination by cleanliness and thrift.
The December 1908 issue of Good Housekeeping featured an article called "First Lessons of Keeping House," by Grace H. Russell. This edition explores the topic of "Soiled Clothes."
Housekeeping would be an easy and relatively simple process if the washing and ironing could be eliminated from the routine, but it seems impossible to eliminate them. But it is possible to systematize and organize the laundering in a way to make it much less burdensome and far less taxing than it is at present.
A very good beginning for the system is to provide for every person in the home a laundry bag in which soiled clothing may be put from day to day. Then when wash day comes, it is a very simple matter to gather up the laundry bags and carry them down to the room where the washing is going to be done.
The dining room, too, should have its laundry bag. It should be hung in a place where it will be impossible for mice to get into it, as the small particles of food are very attractive and exceedingly alluring to the animal's delicate sense of smell. A kitchen bag should also be provided and all soiled pieces should be kept their. Be careful however, not to permit the insertion of wet cloths or greasy rags in the kitchen bag, for the wet cloths may mildew, and greasy rags will contaminate dust cloths and dish towels.
Russel, Grace H. "First Lessons of Keeping House." Good Housekeeping, December 1908, pp. 108-110.
You can read the complete text of this article, or the entire magazine here.
Hi, I'm Tara! I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed. I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week. Learn more about me and my work here.