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Friday, 25 March 2011

Life Before P&G : 1930's Housewife Challenge

It's 80 years since Procter & Gamble arrived in the UK - originally set up in Cincinatti, USA in 1837 by an English Candlemaker and Irish Soapmaker who brought floating soaps to market moving on to laundry detergents and washing up liquid ; a saviour to housewives everywhere!

We see their products everywhere : Pampers, Tampax, Duracell, Gillette, Fairy er Pringles...   some of which I use and some one which I choose alternatives for - sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the massive machine of brands and starting to choose very carefully... thinking of a positive impact on the planet. In either case, P&G have given us this choice to begin with, and 80 years on has challenged us to see if we could have coped before these products!

The challenge involved experiencing a day in the life of a typical 1930s mum - no washing machine, no batteries, no phone, laptop and undertaking domestic chores pre-convenience products. We were sent a pack and given 6 tasks including preparing our Beauty Regime, Washing the dishes with grated carbolic soap and scrubbing laundry by hand on a washerboard all in the realities of modern life where I fell I'm constantly running about! It wasn't as glamorous as it could have been - I envisioned a day of delightful properness and domestic bliss.  Find out how it went:

So - I think it went rather well - it brought me more into touch with my domestic side and I enjoy spending more and more time with physical things and spaces rather than on the computer! Though it may be about changing how you interact with objects- you'd definitely need to be more organised to fit all the tasks into your day. But it was a pleasure. I admire the 1930s woman and perhaps understand that they weren't as manic as us lot because they took the time to do everything and cherished the act of preparing the home life, serving her husband and bringing up the family... instead of finding a million and one other things to get stuck into... But modern ladies have far too many other things to think about ;)

The beauty regime was pretty much the same as I do now so no much change there but I missed my eyeliner and deoderant... I also cheated and didn't try washing my hair with soap -too scary, but they probably only washed it a couple of times a week ;) The cooking from scratch was OK as we pretty much do that anyway - but we just had a normal dinner that we realised came from all over the world... not very 1930s?
More home-made dinners, More washing up
It was just the washing up that would have been long a I'd be gutted without decent bubbly washing up liquid. But with a scourer and some elbow grease it's no task at all and can be energetic and fun! Same for cleaning, it's a way of moving round the house and ensures that everything is tip top. I appreciated the fewer chemicals too and the vinegar cleaned the mirrors really well! The laundry challenge was tough scrubbing away to wash six items, but luckily I had done 2 loads the day before in my washing machine with my usual Fairy liquitabs ;) Leon was content following me around and playing with his things while I was getting on with a task, rather than climbing up my legs when I'm on the laptop.

And I spent more time actually playing with Leon and introducing him to new games rather than flashing noisy toys.
Tea parties were all the rage in the 1930s

And what does a 1930s man do at the end of the day? Sits down to read the paper of course.
Your slippers are under the armchair dear

What will happen in the next 80 years I wonder...
Learn how to live with fewer things and less mess? 
I'm anxious about the large quantity of chemicals and packaging that these wonderful products are bringing to the earth and wonder if we can create uniform and reusable packaging that can be used for various brands - ie. take the Fairy Liquitabs box bag to the supermarket/for a refill - similar to the Ecover concept of washing up liquid, or the German beer bottle or milkan idea.


  1. Great post, what a fantastic challenge! I bet you were glad to revert back to some of the things we take for granted though!? Totally agree about us needing to be greener and demand less packaging, the packaging here is unbelievably bad (even down to pre-packed bananas!!), but we do have the bottle/beer can machines though! Emma

  2. Thanks Emma! Yes it was a lot of fun and made me appreciate my washing machine and so happy to be reunited with my washing up liquid again - though I've been a lot more frugal with it ;)
    Pre-packed bananas? Well they scarily sell them like that here too!

  3. Hi there!
    Lovely to meet with you again last night, love your challenge

  4. No deodorant?! You are dedicated! I love the look on your son's face when you confiscated his train - poor thing!
    Totally agree about the packaging, it's shocking how much is used these days.

  5. hahahaha i loooooove this post!!! i think the hardest part must be the laundry as you said, when i went to college i had to some laundry like that and it was awfuuuuuul!!! worst thing ever...

  6. @Mari You too! Nice to have met a couple of experts ;) x

    @Make Do Mum - TOTALLY dedicated - not going without that again anytime soon!

    @Patti It's such hard work isn't it!? My abuela had one like that too and it was outside. Que horror!

  7. I love doing laundry by hands with a bar of soap, my household rubber gloves and an apron like my grandmother. I'm an 26 years old woman.

  8. Hats off to you anonymous! I suppose you appreciate each garment more that way and can daydream as you scrub!