Some lost arts and habits I’d like to see revived.

Even if they never will be.

past

Spring Cleaning.

clean

Admittedly this is moreso for the younger among us, as I’m fairly sure that most people over the age of forty have embraced their inner domestic goddesses and gods when it comes to dettol, vinegar water and the hoovering.

It seems that with the advances of female employment and the two-worker household we have started to let cleanliness slide. Oftentimes we stay at home for most of our youth, maybe leave briefly for university and then move straight back into our room. The cost of living has just reached a point where being a full-time homemaker or hiring a cleaner are not feasible options, even with our reduced living spaces. So we let our space get cluttered, after all, it’s small and we have a lot of stuff. We may sometimes tidy it, but a lot ends up under the bed, piled unattractively in a corner or thrown unceremoniously on a chair. We dust and wipe the obvious things, like tables and windows, and clean things we use regularly like TVs and books. Everything else can be left to collect dust behind it and rust stains under it. Our sinks and baths have clogged drains and limescale staining. Our trinkets have collected dust over and behind them. Under our bed the dust-bunnies breed like… bunnies. And it feels OK. Until we get it into our heads we’re going to clean. Then we despair.

But it really isn’t that difficult. Sure, maybe we can’t thoroughly clean every day. But we can tidy a little every day and keep on top of dust and dirt weekly. Then, once or twice a year, we have fun.

Spring Cleaning consists of several stages.

1: Declutter. I hate that word, but it explains it so well. Look at all the stuff you’ve accumulated. First of all, pick a theme for your room based on what you like from your clutter. It can be a style. a colour, an item, a patter. Maybe it’s butterflies, football or ebony and teal. Now, pile everything that doesn’t fit that theme to one side. Go through it and pick out only the things that mean the most to you. Also, maybe you don’t need so much clutter.

2: Deep Clean. Take everything. Dust it, wipe it down, rinse it, varnish it. Do whatever you must to make it clean. Same goes for the surfaces. Start with the laundry, like pillow covers and curtains. Next, start from the top, cleaning curtain rails, door-frames, shelves and window-sills. Move down until you reach the carpet. Leave the carpet for now. Next, dust and scrub all your trinkets and gadgets.

3: Organize Stuff. Maybe rearrange it from where it was before. Delegate your cat-sculpture collection to the windowsills. Put the DVDs and games nearer the TV. Or hide the gadgets entirely into drawers and make a display of books. Or finally hang your collection of vintage pinup posters. Make it functional, but good looking. Make it different enough to be proud of it.

4: The Carpet. A separate job entirely. Now that the floor is mostly clear, see whether or not it needs stain treatment. If it does, shampoo it or rent a carpet cleaner. If it doesn’t, hoover at least twice to ensure everything is clean.

5: Finally replace curtains and pillow covers. Light some scented candles, incense or plug in an air-freshener.

This doesn’t need to be done too regularly. As I said, once or twice a year. But the house or room will feel a lot better, be easier to look in and be cleaner for the next few months.

Entertaining.

entertaining

This is something so underrated I can hardly express it. You see, we regularly interact with other people. Co-workers and family, mostly. Or our “duty” socializing. Lots of time spent with people we only moderately like in a setting that’s less than perfect and often a little stressful. Then we have our friends. We see them less frequently, but we love to spend time with them.

But we’ve also developed some bad habits regarding our time spent together. We go all-out, spend too much, drink too much and forget to actually socialize a little. After all, no inhibitions means no worries! But all this is also expensive and, let’s be honest, not all that nice. If you’re a teen or uni student first experiencing some freedom and having a bit of money, then sure, maybe this is the best use of it. Especially if you share living quarters.

But there is a cheaper, more personal, more private way of getting drunk with your best friends: entertaining. I know, it’s a weird and outdated expression. But it’s a lot more fun than you’d think.

Basically, pick a group of friends. If you’re on your own you just have to pick ones that will get along with each other. If you’re in a relationship then you can either pick shared friends or dedicate a night to one social circle, though I am not accountable for what happens if one of you always has their friends round and the other doesn’t get a chance. That’s between you.

Next, you decide on what you’ll do. This is very personal, so just think of what you’ll have fun doing. Maybe a posh dinner, or a movie night, or a house party, or a games night. Anything you want.
Finally, arrange it. You’ll have to consider your budget as well as what to buy and what you’ll do to fill in the time as well as how long it will go on for.As an example, Jon and I semi-regularly have MeatFeast’s. Basically we get one or two shared friends round, cook up piles and piles of meat, add some eggs and some garnish, I mean veg, and feast. Generally we play good music, have a chat and get absolutely stuffed before we move on to some nice strong drinks and a film at the end. The friends is an easy option because I’m OK with most of his friends and don’t live near anyone I find OK myself, so we usually agree on who’s coming round. We’re also rather introverted, so one, two or three is enough. So no planning is really needed there. In order to organize the food I need to have the morning free to get an obscene amount of roasting and frying done. Usually I will see whatever meat and root veg is going cheap a few days in advance and then plot the recipes the day before. That means any soaking or rubs are done and that all I have to do is slice and cook. Then I will look at how long they will stay and plan accordingly. Usually the meal takes one to two hours at the most, during which not a lot of drink goes in. Sometimes there is a pudding, but that is often had with the drinks. Then I will select the drinks and film according to how much longer they will stay. Usually something light, so we can continue chatting. Then we say our farewells, Jon and I watch another film and I have a lot of washing-up for the next day.Yours could be easier on the cooking and cleaning or a bit wilder. Whatever you’re comfortable doing. Just remember to consider:-People. Who gets along with who, age ranges, tastes.-Food. Will there be any? What? Any dietary requirements?-Drinks. Alcoholic or not? Consider the food.-Entertainment. Think of how much time, how many people and what sort of people there will be.-Cost. Probably shouldn’t buy a BBQ for a single BBQ dinner.-Time invested. How long will it go on? And how long will it take to prepare?

Make, Do and Mend.

mdm

Another home-making essential that has gone by the bye along with housewives. But it makes so much sense. I’ve already written on this, but it ties into all the above. When you set up your own shelf, darn your socks, make paintings and decals for the walls and maintain a garden you’re saving money, developing valuable skills and perhaps even enjoying yourself.

It usually costs far less to buy a spare socket than get an electrician in to fit one, or to darn socks than to buy them new. This means that over time we save a reasonable amount of money. The more DIY you learn, the more you save. It will also help you develop an array of skills which could make work, social life and further DIY even easier.

We can group it into seven categories, all of which have their own levels. The best thing to do is to work your way through each level as you need to. When it’s time to darn socks, you learn to darn socks. When a shelf needs fitting, you read up on woodwork. When the oil needs changing, you open up the car manual. This ought to keep the learning focused, useful and low-stress.

1: Art.

This encompasses anything from paintings to hang on the walls to decorating a room. Stages would progress from organizing, to wall painting, to decorating, to making paintings and customizing ornaments, to putting decals on walls, to designing whole rooms. Whenever something pretty and artistic is required, learn it.

Possible money spent if you were to get a designer in to help you with your room, buy two paintings and new ornaments and get a professional artist in to make a wall decal: £2250.

Possible money spent if you buy some interior design magazines, make two paintings, buy charity-shop ornaments and make your own decal: £35.

Skills you could develop: creative painting, charity-shop hunting, colour-combining, organization, awareness of your living-space, wall-painting, customizing interior decoration.

2: Woodwork.

This starts light with cutting plain shelves and steadily progresses onto light furniture, fitting doors and free-standing buildings.

Possible money spent if you were to hire someone to fit an already purchased door and a shelf, buy a table and four chairs and a playhouse: £230.

Possible money spent if you were to fit the door and shelf yourself, make or fix-up a table and chairs and make a playhouse from scratch: £65.

Skills you could develop: sawing, joinery, sanding, curing, sealing, painting, measuring-up, fitting, moving heavy and awkward materials, making things watertight, maintaining woodwork.

3: Gardening.

The basics are mowing the lawn, weeding and shaping hedges. Then we progress onto plant care and growing from seed. Then digging flower beds, irrigation and growing hedges. And finally ponds and landscaping.

Possible yearly money spent if you were to hire a gardener to keep on top of your garden once a week, pest control once a year and a landscaper to plant everything out and organize everything once a year: £2000.

Possible yearly money spent if you landscape on your own, grow your own plants from seed and look after your garden yourself: £320.

Skills you could develop: plant identifying, weeding, pest control, flower arranging, growing your own, seed sprouting, incubating, irrigation building, landscaping, pond digging, lawn mowing, hedge trimming, hedge shaping, animal control, fence building, paving.

4: Clothes.

This covers everything you could do with your clothes, from fixing things, to customizing charity shop clothing and hand-me-downs, to making things from scratch by sewing, knitting, crochet and weaving.

Average yearly money spent on clothes by a family of four: £1216.80. Possible in-store cost of a non-branded outfit: t-shirt £10, trousers £25, underwear £5, socks £1, coat £35, shoes £35; total: £111.

Possible yearly money spent on clothes by a family of four through using hand-me-downs, charity shops and home-making items: £500. Possible cost of an outfit: charity-shop t-shirt £3, fixed-up trousers £0.75, home-made underwear £2, home-knitted socks £0.50, charity-shop coat £5, charity-shop shoes £10.; total: £21.25.

Skills you could develop: sewing, darning, knitting, weaving, crochet, patching, customizing, jewellery-making, pattern-making.

5: Electrics.

It starts out easy with replacing unusual batteries (so anything outside of the A-C range), moves onto socket and lightbulb replacement, fixing small electrical goods and right the way up to rewiring a wall or even making your own small electrically powered goods.

Possible cost of an electrician outcall to replace two sockets: £120.

Possible cost of installing them yourself: £10.

Skills you could develop: wire recognition, fuse handling, wire stripping, rewiring, battery changing, wire planning, installing permanent fixtures, safely working with electricity.

6: Plumbing.

The basics are unclogging drains, closely followed by taking apart and cleaning pipes and u-bends, installing outdoor guttering, fixing leaks, replacing sink parts and fitting shower-heads. Most of plumbing is easy once you know how to do it and could save you a bomb.

Possible cost of a plumber outcall to unclog a drain and replace a ball-valve: £143.

Possible cost of doing so yourself: £14.

Skills you could develop: moving pipes, shutting off water supply at various points, knowing the working parts of plumbing, replacing pipes, taps and cisterns, fitting shower-heads, new taps and washing machines.

7: Cars.

The basics are tyre maintenance, water and oil top-ups and cleaning. Then we progress onto changing batteries and parts like wheels and tyres, engine check-ups and oiling. Finally we have actual engine part maintenance and diagnosis.

Possible cost of minor service on a car (spark plugs, coolant, oil, air-filter change): £120. Possible cost of a full-valet cleaning: £50.

Possible cost of doing so yourself: £40. Possible cost of fully cleaning your car yourself: £15.

Skills you could develop: understanding of your engine, working with oil, water, etc, piecing machinery apart and together, cleaning and waxing a car.

All of these DIY areas could save you money, help you develop skills and even consider a career change if you like what you’re doing and feel capable of pursuing it full-time. This could be the time you decide you want to earn money as an artist, carpenter, gardener, tailor, electrician, plumber or mechanic. Or simply an extra £1000-3000 in your pocket at the end of the year.

Clothing Changes.

clothing

A small section that makes a big difference. Many of us work in office-wear or uniform, study in uniform or school-appropriate clothing. We may then have our lounging about the house clothes and definitely have our “going out” clothes. But rarely do we change outfits more than two times a day. We get up, put on our work or school clothes, maybe change out of them when we get home and wear either lounging or work clothes until we go to bed. But there are many reasons to change clothes more regularly.

First of all, we have environment. Sometimes it’s too hot, too cold, too windy or too rainy not to change clothes. Sometimes it’s just impractical to wear certain clothes in more than one situation. If you’ve got in from work and it’s a bit cold and rainy, it’s best to change out of your wet jacket and trousers into some comfortable, warm, dry jeans and a woolly sweater. If you wear a cheap uniform to work, it would be advisable to change into an old t-shirt and trousers to do the gardening. What you are doing greatly impacts the functionality of your clothes. Think about the weather, the climate indoors, the movements you’ll be doing, how strenuous the work will be, how close you may be to dust, dirt and staining materials.

Next comes hygiene and wear and tear. Most of us don’t have a suit or school uniform for every day, Monday to Friday or even Saturday. We get by either by washing our clothes every day and rotating two or three sets of clothing or by just wearing one uniform or one suit for two to five days in a row. The first involves many small, non-eco-friendly, expensive washes a week. One every day. The second involves potential hygiene issues. Both increase colour-fading and wear and tear on the clothes. The way to save your clothes, save your money and save your hygiene all at once is to make sure you only wear your clothes for work or school. When you get up, get dressed after sorting everything around the house and eating. When you get home get changed out of your clothes into something more practical or comfortable. This means your clothes were only worn for work, which, provided your hygiene is good and you don’t do much manual labour, should keep you clean. It also means you avoid any scenario where your environment may cause staining, discolouration or extensive damage to what may be company property or an expensive suit.

Then comes social life. Different social settings require different dress. This is still understood on a basic level in general society. You don’t wear the same clothes to work as on a date as to a PTA meeting. It is understood in even more depth in the small pockets of highly cultured people that remain around prestige universities and associated clubs, businesses and the likes. Yet few everyday people could tell the difference between smart, smart casual, casual, casual evening and lounge clothing. And it’s nobody’s fault, really, we just aren’t taught any more. But dressing exactly the right way for social situations can seriously make a difference in life. Your ex may have liked small cocktail dresses for nights out, but your new partner may prefer you in long skirts and blouses. Working at a primary school you could be expected to wear tracksuit trousers and a t-shirt, but working at a secondary school you could be expected to suit up. Going out with your goth friends will involve different make-up than going out with your childhood friends. Going out to a club will involve a different length of skirt than going out to a bar. When you dress even slightly inappropriately for a situation, you lose out on small social perks, status and interest. You don’t have to like it or think it’s fair that people won’t always, unconditionally, 100% accept you for who you are. If you want a cheaper drink, to be invited to the next event or to catch someone’s attention, dressing just right will help. Of course, some don’t care for those perks, status or interest. But there’s no denying that social structure is beneficial to humans and that keeping that order and scaling it will help you somehow.

Finally we have aesthetics. A pettier one, but also a benefit. You should be able to balance the practicality of your clothes with how attractive you feel in them. If you wouldn’t wear a McDonald’s uniform to a date, how comfortable and attractive do you really feel in it at home? Think about what looks good on you, weigh it against its practicality and appropriateness and decide what to wear from there.

I would suggest just starting with six different sets of clothing.

1: Work. Something that fits the dress-code, flatters you, fits into social conventions regarding your job and won’t get destroyed by work. For example, as a private tutor I need something that lets me bend down, stretch and move around without exposing flesh; as someone with an hourglass figure accenting my waist or hips is the best way to flatter myself; as a teacher I am expected to dress modestly and fairly sharply; as someone who’s not too active in work but who deals with a lot of paint, chalk and markers, I need something that is easy to clean if not robust. Therefore I wear high-waisted, long skirts, sharply cut blouses or tops, not much jewellery, no exposure of legs, midriff or bust, slippers as shoes.

2: Dates. Something that flatters you, that your partner likes on you and that suits the venue. For example, Jon likes me in skirts, tight clothing and blues and oranges; accenting my waist and hips shows my figure. Depending on the venue I may wear an above-knee down to an ankle-length skirt or dress, a tight top with a little cleavage and usually pick clothing he likes me wearing, plus heels.

3: Housework. Something that can get dirty, torn, mauled by kids and pets, washed to death, etc. For example, as I garden a lot, I like to have a robust t-shirt that doesn’t get worn often alongside some old jeans that are already torn and stained from something else or from past gardening, with old trainers or wellington boots to keep my feet dry and clean. That way it doesn’t matter if I rip or stain anything and I can focus on work.

4: Workout. Something that is flexible, robust, suited to the activity at hand, not prone to sweat-stains or holding smells, easily covered or added to if you’re going out in it. For example, as I lift weights and walk a lot, my clothing needs to be loose enough to be comfortable, but not baggy, expose or outline my arms, legs and back clearly so I can check on my form and stretch with my movements. So I wear loose elastic trousers (almost like pajamas), a sports bra and converse shoes.

5: Friends. This will expand based on how many social circles you have, but in principle let’s use one as an example. Something that lets you feel one with the group, stand out a little and that is venue-appropriate. For example, if I’m going out I don’t want to be too dressy, I want to be comfortable, I don’t want to give off the wrong signals to local men, but I want to look my best within that context. So I will wear a tight-fitting t-shirt, feminine jeans, note much make-up and a piece or two of jewelery as well as my ring, with Doc Marten boots and a nice coat.

6: Work casual. Look at what you wear for work and just make it more attractive. I don’t have the option here, so I’ll give a few random examples. If you usually wear a suit, make your shirt brighter or wear well-fitting jeans. If you usually wear a floor-length skirt, wear a slightly shorter one with tights. If you usually wear a loose-fitting outfit, wear something a little more form-fitting. Use colours, cuts and styles that you normally aren’t able to and that you know will flatter you.

In principle, those are the only ones you need to give much thought to, however, you may also need to consider appropriate homewear, eveningwear,  partywear, working-around-kids-wear, interviewwear etc.

A typical day of clothes for me would be:

-dressing gown to get the hens fed and out of the coop

-t-shirt and jeans for housework

-blouse and skirt for tutoring

-blouse and shorter skirt for when Jon gets home

-pajamas or nightie for bed

And always bear in mind that your wardrobe is probably flexible enough to dress appropriately for each situation. I have a suit dress, suit skirt and suit jacket I could combine with my tutoring shirts for an interview. I can wear my long skirts for work, on a date or for an evening at a friend’s house. My gardening jeans are also suitable for cleaning the house or just lounging. My casual t-shirts are good for light housework and exercise as well as for visiting friends or going on a more active date with Jon. Think it through and you’ll see how many options you have.

Book Clubs.

book club

It’s quite well known that fewer and fewer people read. After all, we used to read because there was no TV, no internet, no radio to entertain ourselves with. And there’s only so much socializing, so much poker and so much drinking someone can do before they want to be a little more entertained. Escapism is naturally human. Even tribal people who do not use written words will tell campfire stories and act plays among themselves to escape their everyday lives and imagine the lives of gods, ancestors, demons, foreigners and animals. So it was only sensical that literate societies would seek out books to entertain themselves with. And, with the progression of other media, it also makes sense that we would pursue the idler forms of entertainment available.

However reading provides many benefits. From newspapers and magazines to comics to novels to textbooks, simply reading anything boosts your memory, decreases stress, builds your vocabulary, etc. Just check that link. Reading is good for you. Not to mention the expanded knowledge from reading a variety of literature.

And the next step is to make reading a social thing. Making it social will encourage you to read at a good pace, immerse yourself in the book and pick up the next one as swiftly as the last.

There are many ways to organize a book club. Firstly you should find people who want to join it. Maybe as a circle of friends, maybe suggest one at the local library, maybe ask on a forum. Your book club can meet in person, online, through a messaging system or a chatroom or on facebook. You can pick a book for everyone to read or a theme for everyone to find a book on. You can read for entertainment or in depth. You can keep your club meetings to yourself or use them to write reviews. You can meet once a month or once a week. You can read together or on your own. You can meet when you’ve all finished the book or when you’re halfway through. Just get organized, read, review, motivate each other and make progress.

Men’s and Girls’ Bonding.

club

No, not together. All the opposite. The idea of men and women separating to spend some time on our own was fairly common until recently. Tribal women and men would spend from a few hours to a few weeks apart whilst the men hunted or fought and the women defended the grounds, reared the children and gathered. In early societies women and men would segregate either naturally or through enforced laws. And let’s not forget that when boys and girls start becoming more social their first behaviours regarding sex differences are “cooties” and “no smelly boys/girls” signs. The message is that boys and girls and men and women like a little time apart.

But with an ever-inclusive workforce, clingy partners, the slow erasure of gentlemen’s clubs and the creeping appearance of the “token” girl or guy in every social circle, these gender-focused spaces are becoming rarer. And the problem is worse for men than for women. Women can claim women-only spaces under the pretense (honest or false) of safe-spaces, of doing girly things boys shouldn’t be doing, of wanting to talk without feeling embarrassed or of being uninteresting. Yet for men these options aren’t really available as they just won’t work. However, both genders increasingly face the same issue: a lack of time for men to interact with men as men and for women to interact with women as women.

Whilst our roles in work are increasingly becoming the same, our roles in society still differ. Men and women face different trials, different beauty standards, different embarrassments, different social requirements. We calm down doing different things. We have different physical and emotional needs. Some of these can be shared with the opposite gender some of the time. But when we spend all or most of our social time in mixed-gender groups we are essentially engaging in a social experiment that hasn’t been attempted before. We are repressing things that we would like to say or properly discuss because the social group isn’t right. How many women wait until they’re left alone with their female friends so as to complain about heavy periods? How many men hold back emotional outbreaks because they don’t want to be seen losing it in front of girls? How many men and women alike have that one friend they can talk to about sex and relationships, because they’re scared of something they say becoming public? Deep down, we still want that little bit of privacy between ourselves and our girls/lads.

This doesn’t have to mean segregation of the genders, or gender-typical behaviours. It doesn’t even require segregated spaces, although this would help. You can spend 9/10 social meetings in mixed gender groups or take your female friends and your sisters hunting. You can have ten hours a week dedicated to general socializing and only half an hour for socializing with people of your own gender. Just a few times a week sitting down and building bonds with those people around you who share more intimately in your struggles, achievements, pains and everyday experiences can refresh you and help build you as a person.

.

And that’s it for the arts I’d like to see revived. Six habits from the past that served solid purposes that we have left by the wayside in the name of idleness, political correctness or simply a lack of awareness. Six habits that would still do us some good to engage in, to some degree or another.

I doubt we’ll bring them back. Not intentionally. We prefer slovenliness to cleanliness, clubs to dinner parties, buying to making, ease to practicality, laziness to mindfulness and political correctness to emotional wellbeing. The marks of our society are media, money and mediocrity. And all of these will guide us towards the more common behaviours. But the fact they won’t return to society in general doesn’t mean that they won’t do you any good.

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