Life before P&G – The 1930’s housewife challenge

I have been busy, in fact that is an understatement and soon you’ll see why. A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I would like to accept a challenge by Procter & Gamble (P&G), I was sent a box of everyday house products and my mission in an envelope. Would I accept to spend 24 hours as a 1930’s housewife, banishing all my lovely products away behind lock and key, unplugging the television, washing machine, dishwasher and turn back the clock to the days when Prunella Stack (who?) was a celebrity and ‘If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake’ played on radios across the country?

How could I refuse?

The following week a second parcel arrived including the 6 challenges for the ‘Life before P&G’ and all of the products I would need; carbolic soap, plain soap, baking powder and pink toothpaste were among the ‘gifts’. I embraced this mission with the determination of Robocop and decided it was time to put Mari to the test…

My day always starts with breakfast and that day was no exception only my beloved tea was made with loose tea leaves and I was to eat porridge….easy! Call this a challenge? Next came the Outer Beauty Challenge

  • Wash hair with plain soap, rinse, repeat if necessary (who are you kidding?) and no hair dryer, straightners or curling tongs. Nada
  • Clean face with cold cream, rinse, pat dry and apply a liberal dusting of Pink Ivory face powder, blush and mascara.
  • Brush teeth with pink toothpaste as used back in the day.

Well this took forever compared to the normal jump in and out of the shower. My hair didn’t look or feel clean after, the toothpaste stung my mouth and the make up dried my already dry complexion even more but hey, not enough to stop me in my tracks. Thank goodness I don’t have to do this every day! I was asked to score challenges out of 5, 1= much less through to 5 = much more

Outer Beauty Challenge scores = Time taken – 5, Degree of difficulty – 4, Effectiveness – 1, how good I felt – 1

My second challenge would be cooking otherwise known Ready, Steady, Cook. I was to prepare a Butternut Squash soup for lunch and a Scotch Hot Pot for dinner. I was to follow Elisabeth Craig’s recipes from her 1930’s book Cookery Illustrated & Household Management! Again easy peasy!

Ready, Steady, Cook! scores = Time taken – 4, Degree of difficulty – 4, Effectiveness – 2, Enjoyment- 3

After a good cooking session it’s time to clear the surfaces but for the challenge, no dishwasher and no Fairy Liquid! Carbolic soap to be grated into the warm water and more importantly for me no rubber gloves to protect my hands!!! I wasn’t impressed with the soap at all and at the end of the day I re washed everything to make sure it was clean. I also had to clean the hob and the sink with baking powder which worked but required a fair amount of elbow grease.

Everything but the kitchen sink scores = Time taken – 5, Degree of difficulty – 5, Effectiveness – 1, Enjoyment- 0

Then we moved on to the dirty washing challenge and it dawned on me just how much I am in love with my washing machine. With twin toddlers in the house I use it frequently and my cleaning products are my saviours to obtain clean, nicely perfumed, soft clothes. For the challenge I was to use Lemon Household soap, a wash board and a lot of elbow grease….I sang a song to take my mind off the task which was exhausting. I’m sure I didn’t rinse enough as after a bowlful of clothes my upper arms were throbbing.

Dirty Laundry challenge scores = Time taken – 5, Degree of difficulty – 5, Effectiveness – 0, Enjoyment- 0

Not so easy peasy now I can tell you!

Challenge 5 – No Batteries included. You see P&G the guys who came up with this ‘bright’ idea also produce Duracell and seeing as many of today’s toys are battery powered we were to put them to side ofr one day too. They sent us a yo yo which the girls couldn’t really get the hang of and started walking it around the room like a dog, bricks, which were great as we’re used to building and a book Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree, one of my favourites form my childhood but still too advanced for the girls.

Batteries Not Included scores = Time taken – 3, Degree of difficulty – 3, Effectiveness – 2, Enjoyment – 3

The remaining challenge was ‘How Clean is your House?‘ For this I had to clean a window with 50% vinegar + 50% water, it worked a treat but was initially very smelly. I had to clean a mirror with pure vinegar, again great cleaning and lastly with half a lemon, some baking powder and water I was to mop a floor which didn’t clean as perfectly as my normal heavy duty products.

How Clean is your House scores = Time taken – 2, Degree of difficulty – 3, Effectiveness – 3, Enjoyment – 3

I think the challenge I found most difficult was the washing by hand as it was physically exhausting. The whole day was taken up with tasks and I spent significantly less time with the girls who I had to keep checking on as they were obviously getting into trouble! My 1930’s Housewife Challenge certainly made me realise just how much I rely on my products and how I missed them all. I’m embarrassed to admit I would have been a dreadful 1930’s housewife and if I think forward to the next 80 years and ponder on what differences may occur within the simple daily chores, I’m lost! Robots? Self cleaning windows? We already have self cleaning ovens and fridges that don’t require defrosting. I mean the sky’s the limit for inventing. I shan’t be here in 80 years anyway, unless of course they’ve invented the elisir of life!



    March 17, 2011 / 10:29 AM

    Omg I promise never to complain about my tumbledryer ever again!!! Well done you! Love the apron btw… Bet someone incredibly brilliant made that ;D xxx

    • Mari
      March 17, 2011 / 2:30 PM

      Wasn’t it just the perfect apron to use that day? You very clever lady! I nearly got in touch to ask you to make me a headscarf but ran out of time xx

  2. JDaniel'4s Mom
    March 17, 2011 / 12:03 PM

    This is so interesting. I am so thankful I don’t live then.

    • Mari
      March 17, 2011 / 2:31 PM

      Thanks, it was fun to do but very very tiring!

  3. March 17, 2011 / 12:20 PM

    What a great challenge. All I can say is I’m glad you were the one doing the challenge and sharing with the rest of us. There are so many things we take for granted.

    • Mari
      March 17, 2011 / 2:31 PM

      Too right we take everything for granted me being first on the list. Never will I swear at my dishwasher again for not washing properly…

  4. Karin @ Cafe Bebe
    March 17, 2011 / 2:03 PM

    You are FABULOUS!!! Outstanding effort! And boy did those blocks tire out the girls or what?? How was the G&T?? ;)


    • Mari
      March 17, 2011 / 2:33 PM

      Never has a G+T been so gratefully drank! Thanks for the compliment Karin, coming from you – I couldn’t ask for more :D

  5. March 17, 2011 / 1:24 PM

    Wow Mari! That was fascinating! Good for you for sticking with the challenge and documenting all so well. Sounds exhausting for sure. Was tickled to see you treated yourself to a well deserved G&T at days end. How was the Scotch Hot Pot btw???

    • Mari
      March 17, 2011 / 2:32 PM

      The Scotch Hot Pot was very tasty but too many potatoes for my liking. I suppose they had to bulk out in those days? That G+T went down like a dream believe me x

  6. March 17, 2011 / 2:05 PM

    I wasnt brave enough to video my hair at all, it felt horrible and I looked really bad! I found the cleaning and cooking fine, but boy oh boy I needed a man to wring out the washing or a mangle!

    • Mari
      March 17, 2011 / 2:34 PM

      I shoved my hair under a scarf, it was the worst ever in my life! Yeah my washing dripped all day and ended up being thrown in the washing machine the next day -Just In Case.

  7. March 17, 2011 / 3:17 PM

    This was a great post, right up my ally! In fact my post today was also about the house Wife. I love being a Wife and all my duties…. but am grateful for the modern machines that make it easier and faster. I would love to be on P&G mail list for things like this, how did you get chosen for such a task?

    Happy GREEN Day

  8. Raw Thoughts and Feelings
    March 17, 2011 / 6:32 PM

    My goodness, reading your post made me realizing that I took too many things for granted, even if they are as little as a hair dryer, or hair conditioner..

    You’re brave, and you did well!

  9. Rocky Mountain Woman
    March 17, 2011 / 8:36 PM

    I’m kind of exhausted just reading about it!

  10. Gattina
    March 17, 2011 / 8:42 PM

    Hahaha ! who said : “the good old times ?”

  11. Judie
    March 17, 2011 / 10:38 PM

    OMG! I agree with Rocky Mountain Woman! I am exhausted just watching you!

  12. Su-sieee! Mac
    March 18, 2011 / 1:42 AM

    No doubt you would’ve made a great 1930s woman since you wouldn’t know you had all of today’s wonderful conveniences. What a sport for taking on this challenge. :-)

  13. March 18, 2011 / 8:02 AM

    I have to confess, I do often wonder how the generations before us coped. I KNOW we have it so much easier – not just with online shopping and washing machines, but with emancipated husbands that do nappies and play with the children. Life for us as mothers is MUCH MUCH easier….


  14. March 19, 2011 / 3:23 AM

    it is a fun challenge as long as you love it.
    Glad to see you succeed.
    way to go.
    keep it up.
    Bless you.

  15. Pondside
    March 20, 2011 / 1:41 AM

    I would have made a terrible 1930’s housewife. I really admire my grandmother, who raised 12 children in the 20’s and 30’s. I can’t imagine how she did it.

  16. March 22, 2011 / 1:30 PM

    I loved this post.

    This was totally fascinating and I’m really thrilled that you shared it with us.

    I think we forget how easy we have things sometimes.

    This has been my absolute favorite post this week!

    Really, really fascinating.


    • Mari
      March 22, 2011 / 3:32 PM

      Thanks Jenny. I confess I still ahve to get back to my ladies this week, I think i’ll be back on track tomorrow – just in time for this weeks round up!

  17. March 27, 2011 / 12:54 AM

    Wow you did so well! I couldn’t face washing my hair with soap and I didn’t realise we couldn’t use washing up gloves… You made the laundry seem like such fun with your song and nice touch with the G&T at the end of your hard day’s work ;)

  18. Liz Burton
    March 30, 2011 / 11:58 AM

    Oh I love your video!!

    Great singing, and can I say what amazing hand-soap action you have!

    Lovely to meet you last night x

    • Mari
      March 30, 2011 / 12:07 PM

      …shame that hand-soap action won’t be getting much air play after this event eh? :D

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