Both my Nans were very capable women. They accumulated skills. Nana L was the youngest of thirteen children. They lived on a farm and everyone helped. It was inevitable you learned a lot of skills as you went along. And she had so many older bothers and sisters to learn from. Nana B was an accomplished florist by her teenage years and made an income from making flowers for weddings and funerals. Later she became a a wonderful seamstress.
As a child I just took it all to be normal and under appreciated how capable they were other than enjoying the beautiful baking! But later I realised their talent. Nana B was featured in several books.
Nana L ran a spinners and knitters group that gathered at her house, she would take a raw fleece and comb it, spin it and dye it with natural plants from the garden then knit it up. She fed us beautiful things all our childhood years and into adult hood. Both Nans mended, darned, baked, preserved, hemmed and altered, kept animals, never wasted anything.... it was not until years alter that I understood they had been through the great depression and the wars... they had known hardship but never talked about it. As they had always been in good families and happy they still had not felt deprived. Nana L had brothers go away to war though. This was a hardship of it's own. The stress on parents of their child going away to war is beyond what I can imagine.
I remember how Nan and Pa looked after things. They kept things in good condition and fixed things and made them last. The re used and recycled. Pa's car was sold years after he passed away as it was in such mint condition a collector bought it!
With all this in mind it is no surprise Mum is very capable. Preparedness books today don't have a patch on Mum's capabilities in a crisis, power outage, illness, injury... Her pantry and stores cover everything. First comes the families needs then helping others is high on the list too. Like the Nans many things to Mum seem wasteful and crazy. She saw a recent fashion magazine and was appalled to see the models looked about twelve and their dresses were thousands of dollars. She thought it was ridiculous!
So somewhere after Nans and Mums younger times things changed dramatically. Times were more prosperous and convenience became the big thing. Skills were not necessarily passed on anymore. Over time so many things that were once just the norm became specialist services. Instead of hemming your jeans you take them to a seamstress. Instead of washing your windows you hire professionals. Even walking and washing the dog is something you hire someone to do. You can pay someone to do everything and instead of live your life you work for someone else and pay others to do your stuff. Sometimes there is a financial profit in all of this and sometimes not.
Some years ago I noticed advertising attempted to diminish any form of domestic activity. There was an ad on TV where one older lady said to another "Oh you don't STILL make your own jam DO YOU?" as if to let everyone know you would have to be stupid to make jam yourself and not buy it from a certain brand. Then you have the whole "you deserve it" advertising... go ahead you deserve it... whether you can afford it or not! haha!
I have written before too about people who will attack you for being a homemaker! It is implied that homemaking is a waste of time, as is caring for children and surely you would want to do something else to be "fulfilled." Most of us have experienced some of this. I have to the extent that it seems to UPSET some people that I do all of these things and enjoy it. My theory on this is that the devil hates a homemaker and he has many good reasons to do so. I have always kept Proverbs 31 in my line of sight and I do not buy the worlds view of homemakers one bit!
We have already covered how Nana made do and would be so trendy if she was here now as she already recycled, re used and never wasted anything. She didn't use plastic bags she used her basket. Everything "new" now is not new at all. It was largely how Nana did things! You can read that post here.
Then we covered how Nana beat prices in the laundry here in How to beat rising prices (or shortages) in the laundry like Nana did.
Then How to beat rising prices like Nana did. Cleaning.
Then How to beat rising prices like Nana did and how to make meat go further.
I have been slow as a wet week to get to a new subject just because of being busy and having had both Dad and Andy rushed off to hospital since then!
Having followed Flylady I think she nailed it in regards to one of the reasons why we have gone away from doing things ourselves. Besides convenience there is perfectionism. We feel if we do something ourselves it might in some way be sub standard, a failure, somehow less than perfect. She says that housework done imperfectly still blesses your family. Well, I can tell you a cake you make for your child does not need to be perfect. They will think it is wonderful that YOU made them a cake. And so will your friend. And so will your Mum... And the same with something you have sewn, knitted, crocheted etc... your small child will love that you made it. (Teenagers are more dangerous territory lol!)
As for a whole list of skills that need to be practiced and improved on... this is NORMAL. No one is born a wonderful seamstress, baker or anything else. It is usual to have a go at something, gather information on how to do it, ask someone to show you and try. First time will likely be wonky. We cannot improve if we don''t persist. The number of times I have heard someone say they are no good at something amazes me. I will ask "how many times did you try?" and the answer is usually once! Like you fall out of bed just BEING a good cook or knowing how to do anything!?
The next objection is about no time. Great Gran had thirteen children and no washing machine but mended. She would probably have a good laugh over our idea of no time. She might be amazed at how much people watch tv and drive around from one place to another, spend on their devises and the phone. She would think she would just not have time for these things!
None of us can do everything. And I am all for making easier ways. But if we identify where the budget is really breaking we might be able to learn a skill to help. A quick way to work out what these may be is to calculate the annual cost of things. If you have five children and haircuts are costing a fortune per year then hair cutting equipment and some study might save you hundreds per year. If taking up pants and jeans is a regular cost this is a really easy skill to learn. If your family spend a fortune on yoghurt this might be a good one to study.
I am mortified to share this but here goes. We once spent $50 a week on pizzas. It was a Friday night thing from a fancy pizza place. They were divine I admit. But that is a whopping $2,600 a year!
Learning to make a decent pizza base (and later a good gluten free one) and yummy toppings reduced this to well under $10 a week. And it was easy. And saved over $2000. Nan would have said I needed my head read to ever have paid that. Anyway now I don't and I routinely price the cost of things annually. This is always amazing and you realise that it is absolutely worth doing it yourself, finding an alternative, making do or learning how...
We are so blessed to be able to study any skill for free online. If you are lucky enough to still have your Nan or Mum and can ask her to show you how to do something that would help your household then do! It will be a beautiful time together! If not then you have an endless choice of free tutorials, you tube, the library... It is exciting to learn a new skill. It might save you a fortune.
A couple of years ago I learned soap making. I had a fear of caustic soda I had to overcome first. Today I saw homemade soap is selling for $10 a bar. Knowing how to make soap is something I am so glad I learned.
My friend Laine decided early on that with four children she would need a lot of birthday and celebration cakes. So she took a short course in cake decorating. She long ago lost count of how many cakes she made and how much that saved her. But it would be a fortune. What a good investment that class was!
Here on the farm I have learned to take good care of leather boots. It has reminded me how Pa always polished his shoes. Shoes were expensive and you took good care of them. Leather boots are an investment and I take care of mine. Then I learned how to keep them waterproofed.
Knowing how to make bone broth and stock is a skill that means you can feed your family nutritious food very cheaply. Soups and stocks are very economical. Stocks can be made from things you normally would throw out!
If you develop skills you may also have an alternative income stream or ability to trade. These could come in very handy!
What skills do you use that save you the most?
Do you have something you would like to learn that could save you a lot?
Are there any jobs that you could do that are not so much skill just time and mess? Mine was windows. I thought I was really bad at windows. Now I use the cheats method.... for outside windows I hose everything down. Then I use a window washer dipped into a bucket of a few drops of dish washing liquid and half a bottle of Finish Rinse Aid. I give them a rub with this. Then I hose them down well and walk away. They dry practically perfect! My neighbour in Adelaide paid $300 to have the windows all done. I timed it and I could do all mine in under an hour. Not perfect but still wonderful. I gave up perfectionism for good shiny windows!
Approaching Christmas things are busy! But now I really start to think over the year and about next year too. My presents are all made and wrapped. This is largely because of The Tuesday Afternoon Club.
We encouraged each other, shared skills and ideas and started in January!
Now I will think about what skills I should learn that will help us in the future. It is not only money saving but it is fun! And good for us! Have faith in yourself as you can save a fortune taking things on yourself.