Non-Traditional Homemakers, Unite!
March 22, 2012 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I recently find myself 41, married, child-free, and a housewife in a rural area (I am no longer working due to a currently moderate but progressive disability). It's important for my health to stay active and engaged, and I like to be busy. In trying to research the fine art of being a homemaker, I can't find ANY websites that cater to people in my particular situation (2 adults, no kids). I've even tried websites about how to live life as a retiree, but they seem to think all people over 65 do is travel and play golf with their financial adviser. Any suggestions on sites about how to be an "alternative housewife"?

All I can find when I Google terms like "how to be a homemaker" are sites devoted to running a household full of children, usually with a very creepy emphasis fundamentalist Christianity (the quote "I truly believe that I am meant to be the best housewife and homemaker for my family through being submissive, as it describes in the Bible", made my Steinem-era blood boil as I cringed and hissed like a vampire from holy water).

Not only do these sites primarily discuss things that don't pertain to me (90% of their content is about getting kids to do chores, cooking for 5, saving for college, etc), I personally can't stomach the fundamentalist rhetoric. I may just end up making a site myself (I certainly have the time now), but I still would like to find other sites, forums, etc that cater to the needs of the retired or child-free "binary household" homemaker. It is a completely different way of life; it isn't just about scaling back recipes or dividing the workload in half.

Any links or books are appreciated.
posted by evilcupcakes to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 106 users marked this as a favorite
The Radical Homemakers book might be of interest. Many of the women involved (including the author of the book) are moms, but the focus isn't solely on that. The fundamentalist aspect is thankfully absent, which is why I can stomach it as a non-religious queer socialist person with a job who also happens to like growing and preserving food. (Fair warning: The whole "Can you imagine, women with PhDs not working?!/aren't we so special attitude prevails, and bugs me - YMMV.)

Punk Domestics is another favorite of mine, mostly for cooking/preserving techniques and recipes.

Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking is a neat cooking/diy blog written by a woman who (I'm 90% sure) doesn't have kids (not that that means childfree in the strict sense, but I digress).
posted by brackish.line at 12:28 PM on March 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

The fascinating but somewhat terrifyingly comprehensive Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House is focused (um, intensely so) on just the practical side of housekeeping. So while the idea of many families having children certain crops up in the text from time to time, it's in a nonideological way (e.g., the proverbial "how to get kids to pick up toys/how to get grass stains out of play clothes," rather than "your bounteous womb is what has given your life meaning").

So for the stuff that does mention children, it's pretty easy to skip if it's totally child-specific (such as safety tips) or to gloss over if it's just a passing mention. But really, there's so much in-depth, practical, detailed information that the majority of it simply doesn't have anything to do with kids at all.
posted by scody at 12:28 PM on March 22, 2012 [20 favorites]

What about the home-steady type things like gardening, preserving, beekeeping and the like? The fruits of those are delicious things to eat. This is just about the time of the year to get things in the ground, though your dates may vary based on your zone and last-frost. Many local extension offices do classes on preserving and there are more beekeeping groups out there than you can shake a stick at.
posted by jquinby at 12:30 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have any websites to mention (aside from seconding Punk Domestics) but if you do decide to start that blog, I'd happily read it. Chime back in and let us know if you do!
posted by SeedStitch at 12:32 PM on March 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

Scody just beat me to recommending Home Comforts. Note that it's nearly 900 pages, but structured as a reference book, so if you want to get to the 3 pages on folding linens, you can go straight there. It's also nice that it's truly comprehensive: There are discussions of issues that are not traditionally considered "women's work" but relate to home management, such as purchasing insurance and managing paperwork.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:34 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sounds like urban homesteading might be something for you to take a look at! Personally I'm very drawn to the idea and wish I had the huge amount of TIME it takes to garden, put food by, do things in energy-saving ways, optimize household for minimal waste/polution, etc.

Another link, and another.
posted by Cygnet at 12:43 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like the Flylady. It is not directly religious in anyway I've noticed though there is the idea of counting your blessings. It is not directly aimed at mothers though children get mentioned but it doesn't seem to revolve so much around any one area of housekeeping it just offers ideas on ways to organise getting things done and declutted for everyone. As the stay at home member of a no kids married couple I find it a little too cheery sometimes but the ideas have helped me keep motivated when it is easy to keep putting jobs off until tomorrow as your days seem so wide open.

You might have more luck if you break things down a little into areas you are interested in. Say gardening, cleaning, organising, cooking or what ever areas of interest you have. As there are a huge range of sites on all those topics,.
posted by wwax at 12:43 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! So far I'd mark everyone of these as a best answer! I am ordering a copy of Home Comforts as we speak. Keep the info coming, please!

Re: the homesteading info, I am interested in that to an extent, but my disability limits my mobility to an extent, so most forms of strenuous activity are out of my scope for the moment.

I have been doing a lot of research into things like coupon clipping (we only have one income now), best days to shop for certain items, menu planning, cooking for 2, laundry hints, organizing your home, etc, and I kept thinking how much better it would be if I could get this info in one place without having to constantly wade through the pages of how to make your own baby food, playtime with the kids, and decorating the nursery. I even tried to print out some chore rosters and they came with bible quotes for each task. Because Jesus cares if your sock drawer is organized, I guess?
posted by evilcupcakes at 12:58 PM on March 22, 2012

I've often found helpful hints on laundry, diy projects, and how to organize, etc... on tipnut.
posted by patheral at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2012

It's not exactly what you asked for, but I bet you'd find some useful info on The Simple Dollar. It's a personal finance/frugality blog but there are many many posts on homemade/DIY projects.

Unfortunately there will be a lot of wading through irrelevant stuff, since he posts very often, so you may or may not care to do that.
posted by randomnity at 1:11 PM on March 22, 2012

Don't overlook Martha Stewart. The Living archives have a lot of this under the moniker "homekeeping." Rarely if ever mentions kids.
posted by libraryhead at 1:12 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Martha also has this book, which is bizarrely hard to find on the website. I've not purchased but have drooled over in the store.
posted by libraryhead at 1:15 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

+1 Martha Stewart. That woman is a goddess and a genius.

Have you ever looked at the Foxfire Book or any of the Foxfire magazines? It's not necessarily super useful in that you might never need to build your own log cabin, but it is basically the Ur-text of the Homesteading movement. And I find it very entertaining to browse. You might get some ideas of projects to tackle from it.
posted by CheeseLouise at 1:16 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I really like Lifehacker for stuff like: when during the year to buy things, ways to hack home organization, inbox management, and so on. Some of it can be pretty tech-y but I'm always finding good ideas there.

I've heard good reviews of The Gentle Art of Domesticity, although I haven't yet read it myself.

And +2 on Martha Stewart.
posted by stellaluna at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2012

Response by poster: @cheeselouise: I have the first 5 Foxfire editions. I love those things! I actually have several books in that genre.

@libraryhead: the Martha Stewart book looks amazing (I usually find her annoying, but the woman does know her stuff), but it's $30, so that's going to have to wait a few weeks...
posted by evilcupcakes at 1:24 PM on March 22, 2012

Try apartment therapy. It's geared towards the single or couple in an NYC apartment. Might not suit you exactly but i think you'd find it helpful / interesting.
posted by bunderful at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2012

The title of this book is going to make you think it's more creepy-religious-vibe-housewifery type stuff, but it's not. It's called A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, and it's a really charming housekeeping manual in story form from 1917. Most of it isn't directly applicable to modern living--I doubt you'd want to cook most of the recipes, for instance--but it's aimed at young married couples who don't (yet--it's 1917, after all) have kids and I think you'd find it fascinating.

And if you do make a blog aimed at the "alternative housewife," make sure to post it to Projects. I would definitely be interested in reading it!
posted by HotToddy at 1:44 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

hello! you are me! well, with some niggling changes - i'm 31 and don't officially have a disability (although, this arrangement works around my health issues really well). we're child free and we're staying that way. we live in a pretty backwater place in the middle/southern area of the country. all volunteer groups center around church and i don't feel comfortable there, so i am also always seeking out ways to stay engaged with the world around me.

i'm glad you're getting the home comforts book! i LOVE that book. got a stain? it will tell you how to get it out. want to make a housekeeping schedule, it will give you tips. it's also just fascinating if you like to read about things through the eyes of someone veering towards OCD. i will never be a tenth of the homemaker she is, but i will totally crib her research to impress my husband.

i personally love to cook so i think most of my energy goes towards there. i read a lot of cooking blogs, google around for pages of old cookbooks, and try to find new ways to challenge myself. presently i'm in the middle of trying to learn how to make my own black bean sauce for stir fry. the great thing about being a homemaker is you have a lot of time, that's also the bummer of it - you can feel like you're not getting things done or not learning. lucky for us, we live in the age of the internet, basically anything you want to learn is at your fingertips. but, you're right, you have to go and seek it all out. married homemaker without kids is sadly underrepresented in the blogging world. i've considered changing that myself, but i suck at scheduled writing. :)

like you've said, this area is saturated with kid stuff, god stuff, or empowered woman on the go stuff - it gets frustrating and i feel pretty lonely in it sometimes. when that happens i just try to look around my life and realize how much i love it. the outside world will have a lot of opinions about your lifestyle and you can feel free to ignore all of them. for me, the feminists think i've given up and my religious family thinks i'm being sinful for not having kids. i could get a job or have a kid and satisfy the world, or i could run my home and please both myself and my husband. we've chosen to please ourselves.

if you just want someone to chat with or bounce ideas off of, feel free to memail anytime.
posted by nadawi at 1:46 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

The livejournal community Hip Domestics sometimes has some great stuff and links.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:26 PM on March 22, 2012

Nthing Martha Stewart. I don't have any websites to recommend, other than Martha, but if FlyLady interests you, you might pick up some books by the SideTracked Home Executives. They wrote a lot of similar concepts to FlyLady, prior to the internets. (I found FlyLady a little overbearing/overwhelming). They do mention children, but not excessively so, nor do they exhibit any fundamentalist leanings.

For learning frugality, I'd look at the Tightwad Gazette books. She's a pretty hardcore tightwad, but it presents some interesting ideas and as she says, you don't need to practice them all.

Also, count me in as another 40-something, married, childfree, domestic geek, blog reader, if you start that blog.
posted by sarajane at 3:06 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Along the lines of Martha Stewart, Real Simple magazine and the companion website give lots of tips about cooking, decor, organization, fitness, finances, and just generally living a more put-together life. I work part-time and am home during the days a lot, with no kids, and I find RS's stuff to be useful and inspiring. No religious overtones either.
posted by vytae at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2012

I'm 30, and in the same position (although I am a liberal Christian, I find many Fundamentalist beliefs horrifying).

I love Martha Stewart's "Cookie of the Day" that gets sent to my email saved just for newsletters etc. So sign up fot that!
posted by devymetal at 3:22 PM on March 22, 2012

I've also gotten some good ideas from The Simple Dollar on how to save money on groceries and that kind of thing.

I also like Chickens in the Road; she has a farm in West Virginia and is big into canning, keeping chickens, cheesemaking, etc. (She has kids but they're teens or older.) Her recipe for Whole Grain Grandmother Bread is just great and the one I use for most of my bread baking.

I hope you do start a blog about this; I plan to, as soon as I can get the software geek I live with to set one up for me. I'm also really sick of the Mormon Mommy Blog thing and my blog will be from the perspective of an atheist childfree lefty--should be fun!
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:00 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

A die-hard feminist here to +1 the Home Comforts book. It's just fascinating.

Have you looked at websites and blogs about frugal living? To me those always seem to be just as much about housekeeping as frugality.
posted by scratch at 4:58 PM on March 22, 2012

I'm in my 60s, childless, live on 6 acres and raise a lot of my own food. We live on a fixed income and I can hundreds of jars of food, make all my own stock for soup, bake our bread, etc. I consider myself a feminist and my husband pitches in on all of the chores.

I don't know if this would help you, but I have a blog on a website called It is a website for "mentally interesting" people, and we have members who have everything from mild depression to severe agoraphobia, etc. Anyway, I write my blog about my life in the country, doing my country thang, and you are welcome to check it out. We talk about cooking, hanging laundry outdoors, shopping at thrift stores, etc.

If someone asks me how to make vegetable stock, I write a blog about it and take pictures. I will answer any question about anything I know as completely as I can. I know how to sew, bake, cook, clean, garden (flowers & veggies), raise chickens, dehydrate food, freeze food, and other everyday skills. Feel free to come by and check it out. You don't need to be a member of the forum to read the blogs, although you can't comment if you are a guest. Also, a lot of the people there are physically disabled in addition to their MI issues, so you may find them to be of interest.

And we don't allow any religious proselytizing at all. :)
My blog is called "The House in the Country." Let me know if I can offer you any information.
posted by olga at 5:52 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You may be looking to Google the "child free forum." I know I've seen forums out there where they don't JUST talk about the evils of small children and the cluelessness of society, but home-y things as well.
posted by DisreputableDog at 5:58 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love Home Comforts, especially the first part where she talks about how her two grandmothers influenced her. At least one of them was rural, and I identified with that a lot.

You might check out Hobby Farms magazine.
posted by jgirl at 7:00 PM on March 22, 2012

You might like Down to Earth, Australian based blog written by an older retired-ish lady who homesteads with her husband - she has grandchildren she knits and sews for, but they're not much of a focus. Very simple outlook, lots of cooking, cleaning and growing related posts that are definitely aimed at wide range of people with a wide range of abilities.

Root Simple might work for you too. Less about the inside of the house than the outside, but no kids involved (only cats and worms) and definitely nothing strenuous due to their small sized yard. Lots about seasonal growing, bees, composting (not as hard as you'd think), emergency supply planning, edible and non-edible (basically beauty products) recipes. At the very least, you'll get a good idea of the best plants to grow at home with the least amount of effort.

One last one: daybook has children, but she's also a homemaker through disability rather than total choice. Very peaceful blogger, lots of crafts and whatnot. I read her mostly for inspiration, on those days when my brain isn't quite up to speed with where I want it to be.
posted by saturnine at 10:13 PM on March 22, 2012

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is the best resource for learning how to can.

And your blog should be called Evil Cupcakes!
posted by barnone at 9:09 PM on March 23, 2012

I know I'm coming in late enough that you might not care anymore, but you need the OLD (1950's- 1960's) Heloise! Don't pick up the newer books, they are shitty, and obnoxiously written, but if you look on ebay or amazon you can find some of her older books. They are amazing. There is sometimes the assumption that the reader has children/ is Christian, but it's not, like, a big deal- there will just be tips on how to make the kid's clothes last longer, or she'll say something about getting everyone to church on time... just because of the culture of the times.

Also useful is Peg Bracken's "I Hate to Housekeep Book", which is cute and clever.
posted by windykites at 11:50 AM on September 27, 2012

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