Friday, 4 October 2013

6 December 1884 - 'How I Keep House on £250 A Year' by Mary Pocock - Part 3: How I Arrange the Daily Routine Work

In chapter 3 Mary Pocock describes her daily routine of household management, and breaks down the housecleaning into a weekly routine. Chapter 1 is here. Chapter 2 is here.

In this paper I purpose going through the house work day by day, but before doing so I will take the work that has to be done every day. It is hardly possible that this should be the same in any two houses, yet I am sure that many young housekeepers will find it an assistance to see on paper the ordinary work to be done in a house. One is so apt to say "Oh, the servants have only so-and-so to do", forgetting the numerous small things that take time. The result is, we often expect too much then complain of work being negligently done.

Our servants are down by half-past six. As I object to disturbing the rest of the household by ringing for the servants, I never call them; if they say they cannot get up without, I tell them they must wake or go. The result is that they do wake. Perhaps being an early riser myself keeps them to it. I always come down at ten minutes to eight, and certainly should not be pleased if everything were not in order and prepared for me. at the same time, I make a point of not appearing before my usual hour. Every day before breakfast the cook lights the kitchen fire and cleans the hearth, cleans the boots, does the dining-room, and prepares the breakfast; the housemaid does the drawing room or sweeps the stairs, takes the hot water to the bedrooms at seven o'clock, lays the breakfasts in the dining room and in the kitchen, and after prayers put our breakfast on the table at exactly eight o'clock, and goes down to her own.

They finish breakfast in the kitchen before we do in the dining room. Cook then does the door and steps, and the housemaid goes up to strip the beds and open the windows. In each room the bed clothes are stripped right off the bed and placed on two chairs, and the mattress is turned over the foot of the bedstead; every bed has to remain open an hour to get it thoroughly aired and cool, except on Sunday mornings, when they are made as soon as the washstands are done, to enable the housemaid to get to church in good time. When the beds are stripped the housemaid attends to the baths and washstands. As soon as she has done them and filled the jugs and cans and put filtered water in the water bottles, she goes downstairs, washes out her basin cloths, hangs them up to dry, and fills up the filter. Meanwhile, the cook has washed up the breakfast things, tidied the kitchen, and been out to the larder with me, and is ready to go up with the housemaid to make the beds. The housemaid carries up with her whatever she will need in the way of brooms, dust pans, cover sheets, etc., for any room she is going to clean. The cook answers all bells during the morning, and lays the luncheon and the kitchen dinner; the housemaid brings up lunch, we wait on ourselves, and she goes down to her dinner. If we are to partake of any dish that is intended for the kitchen we take at once what we wish, and the dish goes down again immediately. The cook washes all up after lunch, except the silver and glass does; afterwards she washes out her teacloth and puts it to dry, so as to have it nice for the dinner glasses. She always has two teacloths in use, and washes one out every day. In the afternoon, any dusting that there has not been time for in the morning has to be done by the housemaid, who then gets the kitchen tea. After tea a little needlework is done, either for me or for herself, until it is time to lay the cloth for dinner. A clean washleather is kept in the sideboard drawer, and I always expect each spoon and fork to have a rub with it before being placed on the table; if this is done regularly, silver wants very little cleaning and always looks nice. The table has to be ready a quarter of an hour before dinner time, and everything (such as cold sweets or cheese) that can be brought into the room before dinner is placed on the sideboard ready. By adopting this plan of having the table ready a little before time, I find my little maids rarely forget anything, and soon become quite good waitresses; it gives them confidence to know all is ready, whereas if they lay the table in a hurry they are flurried and nervous all dinner time.

There is in each bedroom a second jug or small can. Half an hour before dinner, and again when she goes to bed, the housemaid takes up a large can of hot water, and from it pours some water into each of the jugs provided for the purpose. The cook washes up the dinner things after dinner, and the housemaid her glass and silver, takes the latter upstairs, and prepares her bedrooms for the night. They have supper in the kitchen at nine, and go to bed at ten.

If hot water bottles are required, the servants take them up with them when they go to bed. To prevent the bottles singing, and the water oozing out, they should be screwed down as soon as filled, then after they are taken upstairs unscrewed again to let the steam escape, and screwed up again as tightly as possible.

In the afternoon, while she is cooking the dinner, the cook stews down any bones she may have, or makes soup for the next day, or if there is a cake or pastry to bake it is done while the late dinner is being cooked, as doing so saves the expense of much fire being kept up during the morning.

If there is suet in the house, that is chopped in the afternoon so as to be ready for use, and it keeps better when the veins are taken out and it is chopped and covered with a little flour. Any pieces of bread should, at the same time, be carefully dried white (not brown), pounded in a pestle and mortar, and put in a tin ready for frying fish or other things. The housemaid (as we call her) being really a very young girl, the other servant has to help upstairs some mornings in the week, so that anything that can be arranged the afternoon before the midday meal.

Having gone through the general work, I will now take the special work of each day:-

Monday morning. - Housemaid sweeps stairs before breakfast. Immediately after, the beds are made, the clothes are looked out for the wash, I sort out and write down the things that are to go to the laundress, and put aside those that are to be washed at home, and also see what wants mending, for table linen, sheets, etc., should always be repaired before being washed; shirts and starched things should be rough dried before they are mended. The mending done, I go down to the kitchen and give my orders and take a look round; occasionally the inside of the dust bin and the coal cellar are examined, the former to see that there is no waste of cinders, coals, or other things, the latter to notice whether the dust and small coal are being burnt fairly with the lumps of coal.

I always arrange on Saturdays that there shall be enough in the house for Monday's meals without my going out, so I have a clear morning to look after things in general, see to my cupboards, and give out soap and starch for the washing. I have so often lived in places where all the washing for the household is done in cold water at the edge of a lake or stream, or in a sort of stone trough, through which water is always running - done, too, with most satisfactory results as to colour and cleanliness - that I have long abandoned the idea that it is necessary to boil clothes; even our kitchen cloths keep nice washed in cold water. The great advantage of our way is that we have no smell of washing in the house. My cook manages the wash in the following way:-

A quart to half a pound of cold water soap (depending on the amount of washing to be done) is cut up and boiled in two quarts of water. The saucepan must be kept covered to avoid the smell of soap in the house. When the soap is all melted one quart of the liquid is mixed with three or six quarts of cold water, according to the quantity of soap used. The things to be washed are put in two pans or tubs, and the boiled soap that has had the water added is poured over them. They are then left to soak until Tuesday morning, but occasionally, as cook passes, she gives them a stir with a copper stick. Tuesday morning the things are taken out of the water in which they have been soaked (and which is always quite dirty), and washed in the remainder of the boiled soap, to which sufficient cold (or in winter just tepid) water is added; no extra soap is used, but plenty of clean cold water is used for rinsing in. I believe those who try cold water washing for the first time will be astonished at the result, for the things are often nearly clean when taken out of soak; but I warn them that they will have a good deal of prejudice to overcome on the part of servants who cannot understand that hot water often fixes the dirt in things; but I find that when they once get into the way of it, they do not seem to mind how much washing they do, for of course there is no steam to make them warm, it is much quicker out of the way, and cold water does not draw the hands as much as warm does.

This process does not answer for coloured goods or flannels. The latter should not be put in soak, but should be washed out quickly in warm water in which soap has been boiled (no soap rubbed on), and rinsed in plenty of warm water.

After the clothes are sorted on Monday morning, and the beds made, the housemaid turns out and sweeps the largest bedroom, cleaning the washstands, fittings, windows, etc.; this occupies her until lunchtime. In the afternoon, after she is dressed, she dusts the other bedrooms.

Tuesday morning. - While the cook is washing, the housemaid does the second large bedroom, and dusts before lunch. In the afternoon the clothes are folded and put ready for the mangle, and any starching is done.

Wednesday. - The stairs are swept before breakfast, and after the housemaid does the two remaining bedrooms. The mattresses on one bed are brushed each week in turn, and the blankets shaken in the garden; in this way every mattress is brushed and every blanket shaken once a month. The cook cleans her tins and coppers, and scrubs her kitchen during the morning; in the afternoon the fire is made up, and they do the ironing between them.

Thursday morning. - After breakfast, the drawing room is done; the two servants do it together, so to get the hall clear again as early as possible. The housemaid dusts the bedrooms after the drawing room is finished, and in the afternoon when she is dressed she cleans the silver; as it is always carefully washed and kept rubbed, it really requires very little cleaning.

Friday morning. - The dining room is thoroughly done, the grate before the remainder after breakfast; the two servants do it together. The cook then does the hall, and the housemaid the stairs and landing thoroughly, cleaning sides of stairs and rods when necessary. Cook cleans her larder in the afternoon.

Saturday. - The kitchen flues are cleaned before breakfast; after the breakfast things are washed up and the beds are made, the kitchen is cleaned, so that the horse can go round the fire and the linen for the week be aired. Then, too, sometimes I like to make a little pastry or some cakes on Saturday, and a clean kitchen is pleasanter to work in. Saturday morning I give out the wood, black lead, soda, kitchen tea, sugar, etc., and anything that may be wanted; also fill dining room caddy, sugar basins, etc. I then go out and do my shopping, which takes me until lunch time.

At half-past two I go into the kitchen; the servants' dinner is cleared away, and all looks clean and tidy; what I require is on the table ready for me, and while I am making any little things I wish, I superintend the airing of the clean clothes and also the drying and sorting of what the laundress has brought home, and see if any buttons or strings are off. Meanwhile cook is cleaning her scullery, passages and lower stairs.

The housemaid cleans her pantry on Saturdays, and also looks to her water bottles, filters, bread platter, knife box, etc.

I am about an hour in the kitchen doing what I have to do. I generally spend the rest of the afternoon in the garden. The housemaid comes to me as soon as she has finished, and we get an hour or an hour and a half's work done there before tea.

Sundays I have as little work done as possible. The housemaid goes to church in the morning, and as I do not require her to be back until half-past one, she can if she likes take a little walk after service.

The cook lays the dinner cloth, and she may go out as soon as she has washed up from dinner, tidied her kitchen, and put ready what will be required for the dining-room tea. The cook has to come in at half-past nine punctually. I always interest myself in her movements, and, without my appearing inquisitive, I frequently learn the nature of her outings, the church she has attended, and the friends she has visited. I nhever allow the housemaid out in the evening, but occasionally the cook dresses herself for the afternoon to allow the housemaid to go for a walk.

I expect the servants to fasten up properly at night, but I go down now and then after they have gone to bed, and examine the bolts and bars and see that the kitchen fire is quite out, and everything left as it should be. The knowledge that I may go down keeps things right. Small as our household is, it must not be imagined that it can always be managed without trouble, nor can a young girl who probably knows worse than nothing be at once turned into a good little servant; it takes time and great patience to accomplish this. I often think of what a noted violin player said to a pupil who had learnt a little before he went to him: "I can always teach, and my pupils make progress, but it is the unteaching that troubles me".

Having to study economy in every part of my housekeeping, I have adopted a plan that I find considerably lessens breakages. I have a list of the kitchen crockery pasted up in the kitchen, and a list of the housemaid's glass and china fixed up in the pantry. At the bottom of each list is a blank space; in these spaces is written what is broken, when, and by whom. These lists are revised every six months, and, of course, account for all missing things. Servants much dislike posting their breakages, so are generally more careful. Of course, this plan has also an advantage for them as one is apt to forget when a thing has been broken upstairs. In going through the crockery, sometimes I find something that does not quite match the set, but I always pass it without comment, understanding that the breaker has done her best to remedy the accident in preference to posting it, and will be more careful in the future.

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