The I Hate to Housekeep Book

by Peg Bracken, 1962

This is a funny book loaned to me by neighbor Ben. It’s full of housekeeping tips for a by-gone era. I’m so glad we don’t have to do all of this. Life must have been so hard when you had to cook from scratch every day, keep a spotless house, iron your pillow cases and guest towels and hankies, dress up, wear hats, put on leg make-up under your nylons, etc. We have it so much easier now, 70 years later, when people wear their jammies and slippers to the grocery store, maybe even on airplanes. One thing we don’t do any longer is smoke in the house. She includes tips on ashtrays – have a special coffee can with a lid and go around and empty them into this can. Yuck! Anyway, here are some tips:

  1. Don’t cover things up unless it’s absolutely necessary. It just means you’ll have two things to take care of and keep clean instead of one.
  2. One more word, before we press on: never think unkindly about someone else’s housekeeping, nor speak unkindly either.
  3. Five or six year olds can make their own bed, put their clothes away, put their toys away, water the house plants, empty ashtrays, feed the pets, set the table, unset the table.
  4. For whipped cream to stay firmer longer, whip it with either honey or powdered sugar (not granulated).
  5. For corn on the cob, boil it, not in salted water, but in water with two tablespoons of vinegar and two tablespoons of sugar, for 6-7 minutes, then turn off the heat but leave the corn in the hot water until someone is ready to eat it.
  6. Mingy is a fine old Scottish word that rhymes with stingy but doesn’t quite mean the same thing.
  7. Things you can do with salt: add a pinch to whipping cream to make it whip faster; sprinkle it on grapefruit to make it taste better; add a teaspoonful to the water you’re boiling a cracked egg in, and the contents won’t ooze out; remove perspiration stains with it – use a handful to a quart of water, and soak the stained item for an hour; gargle with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda per glass of water; clean drains by pouring hot water and salt down the drain.
  8. In the chapter, How to Be Happy When You’re Miserable: “At these times you must realize–should you ever be troubled by this–that it isn’t all that big and bright out there, nor is it roses, roses all the way; and that the people who are out in it are also getting their share of the universal thump…At these moments, too, you may take three slow deep breaths. Then you can reread Ecclesiastes 3, and realize that it’s true as true that for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
  9. “How to Comfort Yourself When You Have Acted like a Jackass: Everyone does this occasionally, and you shouldn’t feel too upset about it unless it happens quite often, such as three times a day, in which case you must simply get used to it. Remember, other people like you as well or better for it, because it makes them feel so superior; so you’ve at least spread a little sunshine.”
  10. Time yourself doing various tasks. “So, by hanging mental time cards on various jobs, you can cut them down to size, and possibly get around to doing them a little more often.”
  11. In the chapter on clothing, How to Look As Good As the Lord Intended: “In other words, absolute meticulousness is a little fearsome. Whereas, someone who is a bit rumpled looks as though she might be rumpled a bit more, and if you are in the mood or market for rumpling, it is just as well to keep this point in mind.”
  12. The 9 places a woman should wear perfume: At the bend of each elbow, on the pulse of each wrist, behind each ear, on each eyebrow, at the base of your throat. … “And I know a charming Viennese girl who puts perfume in her mouth–touches it lightly to her gums with a finger tip.”
  13. How to look good in a picture: twist a little – stand squarely facing the camera, then put your right foot behind your left foot, and twist your body toward the foot that’s behind. Make sure you straighten your shoulders and hold your chin and rib cage high. You will look slimmer this way, and more graceful too…Wear pale blue, or tan, or green, or something of about that color intensity…say words with a long or short E or I sound, like cheese or whisky.

Ben also loaned me the “I Hate to Cook Book” by Peg Bracken, 1960.