When I decided to embrace being a Homemaker, it definitely was not a popular thing to do! 14 years later, I feel like I’ve come a long way. Although I’m always learning more, and will never feel like I’ve got this gig down pat, here are what I consider the 25 homemaking skills you should know.
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Homemaking didn’t come naturally to me
I had just graduated with a 4 year university degree, and had given birth to a precious baby girl. I was so torn between pursuing a career, which is what society told me modern women should do, and staying home with my baby, which is what my heart called me to do.
In the end, my heart won. I hung that degree on the wall, and threw myself into learning some homemaking skills.
I didn’t grow up with these skills. When I moved out on my own, my idea of home cooking included boiling a bag of pasta and heating up a jar of store-bought pasta sauce (and yes, I actually considered this cooking).
Baking was popping some pre-made frozen bread dough into the oven and smelling it as it baked. I had no clue how to keep my home clean, let alone doing it while also caring for a baby.
In short, I had a lot to learn!
I fumbled. A lot. I cried. A lot. I felt frustrated.
Shouldn’t mothering and taking care of a child come naturally?
Sadly, it does not. I actually bought books on the subject! And scoured blog posts. I still felt like a failure. If I wasn’t contributing to my family financially, then at least I should be able to keep a clean house and have a hot meal on the table at the end of the day!
Bit by bit, I learned new skills. I shifted from opening a jar of spaghetti sauce, to learning how to make real sauce, from scratch.
I learned that you could actually make your own bread dough from scratch (who knew??!). (Now that my whole family has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, the whole bread thing is moot… but still…).
These are homemaking skills I learned over time, and now I’d like to share them with you.
25 Homemaking Skills You Should Know
1. Success is scheduled
What I wish I had figured out first, is how to come up with a daily and weekly schedule. Homemaking seems easy and fun when you’re looking in from the outside (how awesome would it be to just stay home all day long and bake cookies! And light pretty scented candles!), but when you’re in the throes of it, especially with a new baby, it can feel a bit like drowning.
What do I do first? Start laundry? Make breakfast? Shower? Feed the baby?
Coming up with some kind of a schedule is key. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but just a general idea of how your days should flow. You can always tweak it if something isn’t working.
We have both a daily and a weekly schedule (I prefer to call it rhythm). Because it’s not set in stone. But it does help me to keep on top of most of the things.
Sorting things into daily chores and weekly chores helps immensely.
What things need to be done daily?
What things can be done once a week?
Our daily rhythm looks something like this:
I get up early, before the kids, and spend a couple hours working. This includes blogging, or working on my essential oils business.
Then I jump in the shower, get dressed, and do basic morning chores – wipe down the bathroom, make my bed, do a quick pick-up, and start the day’s laundry (FlyLady taught me that “a load a day keeps the chaos away!”).
I have the kids do the same – get dressed, teeth brushed, beds made, laundry picked up and sorted.
Then I move into making breakfast, and putting away the clean dishes from the night before (this is now the kids’ job – yay!).
After breakfast, we clean up the kitchen, begin supper prep, and start our weekly chores.
Then lunch, then homeschool. Then supper, clean up, etc.
Dishes get done throughout the day, not piled up for the end of the day.
Our Weekly Rhythm looks like this:
Monday – Kitchen Day
Tuesday – Cleaning Day
Wednesday – Office Day
Thursday – Errand Day
Friday – Laundry Day
Saturday – Gardening Day
This is where we focus on more in-depth, weekly tasks.
It took me a long time, and lots of trial and error to find a daily schedule that worked. But now it’s like auto-pilot and I don’t even have to think about it. Over the course of the day and the week, we are able to hit most of the things that need to get done.
The Home Management: Plain and Simple book changed my life. It revolutionized the way I look at housework. If your’e struggling with homemaking, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you get this book. Between this, and Flylady, suddenly everything made sense. I learned what I was doing wrong, and how to fix it.
2. Learn some basic cooking skills
Get a repertoire of about 10 simple meals that your family can rotate through. You don’t need a huge repertoire. Start looking for recipes and trying them out. Anything that gets a thumbs up from at least 75% of your family members should get added into the rotation.
When you’ve found your favourites, print them and put them in a binder. It doesn’t have to be a fancy binder, anything will do. Just get them all in one place so when you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know what to cook for supper, you can grab your binder and pick something.
3. Get a laundry system
The larger my family got, the more I felt like I was drowning in laundry.
As I began to explore sustainability, we eliminated most disposable products, which meant cloth diapers, cloth napkins, cloth menstrual products, etc. There was so. much. laundry.
I experimented with different laundry methods. Doing cloth diapers as needed, and all other laundry once a week. Doing cloth diapers every 2nd day and a regular load on the in-between days. Washing all bedding on cleaning day and everything else on laundry day.
A load a day keeps the chaos away
I found that what ultimately worked best, is one load a day, whatever needs to get washed that day.
I found that having one giant laundry hamper (which I would take down to the laundry room and sort each day) was a huge waste of time and energy.
I switched to pre-sorted laundry.
We have 3 baskets, one for whites, one for colours, one for darks.
Each morning I grab one (which ever one is the fullest) and dump it in the washer. At some point during the day it gets moved to the dryer (or if I’m really on top of things, the clothes line or the drying rack). While supper is cooking, it gets folded and put away.
Sheets & bedding get done as needed, or if there is no other laundry that urgently needs to be done. I try to rotate through the beds so all bedding gets washed on a somewhat reasonable schedule.
See our family’s detailed laundry routine here.
4. Wash your dishes
The biggest lesson I learned after I had a baby, was that waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes left me feeling overwhelmed before my day had even started. I couldn’t relax and drink a cup of coffee, because the dirty dishes from the night before were staring me in the face.
No matter how rough of a day we had (hello, colic), I learned to never, ever go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.
That habit has carried through even to this day. I cannot go to bed until the supper dishes are washed. That way we are starting the next day fresh, not feeling behind because we haven’t even finished yesterday’s chores.
We also wash dishes as we go.
As we prep meals, any dishes used get washed right away and put in the dish rack to dry.
After we eat, those dishes get washed. Before the next meal, the clean, dry dishes get put away, and we continue with washing as we go.
Nothing depresses me more than walking into a kitchen with dirty dishes. So I strive to always have them done. (Maybe one day I’ll have a dishwasher, but it’s still good to develop the habit of not leaving dirty dishes).
5. Do little things as you go
While I do have a daily and weekly rhythm, I find it’s also necessary to be doing little things as I go, so things don’t pile up. If I’m leaving a room to go into another room, I always look to see if there’s anything I need to take with me. Going downstairs? Grab something that needs to go down and put it away while you’re there.
Teach the kids to do the same – never go up or down the stairs empty handed!
Surprisingly, I’m most productive if I’m chatting on the phone! I tend to putter and tidy up while I’m chatting. Then I get to be productive and catch up with a friend at the same time.
6. Learn to hang laundry to dry
This might sound silly – who doesn’t know how to hang laundry?
I didn’t. I had always used a dryer. While convenient, it wears down your clothes, and isn’t great for our planet.
I don’t always hang my laundry to dry, but it makes me happy when I do. Nothing smells better than line-dried clothes. It’s also better for your clothing, and better for the planet.
It also helps with preparedness, because if your dryer breaks, you will already be efficient at hanging laundry.
When you hang your laundry to dry, it forces you to keep up with your laundry schedule. My clothesline will only hold one load of laundry, so I need to keep up with a load a day so I don’t fall behind.
7. Make your own cleaning products
Once you’ve got the basics down – you have a good daily and weekly rhythm, keeping up with laundry, and have a reasonable repertoire of simple meals, you can start drilling down into things like sustainability and non-toxic living.
I went from buying traditional, toxic cleaners, to buying natural (expensive) cleaners, to learning to make my own.
You can find my simple homemade cleaning recipes here.
8. Grow some food
This post could also be titled “25 ways to live a more sustainable life”, since homemaking and sustainability overlap in so many ways.
Growing food was completely foreign to me – as far as I was concerned, the only place to get food was at the grocery store. Then I experimented with a few small containers, then graduated to raised beds.
Gardening is an exercise of trial and error. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Every year I learn more. But there is nothing more satisfying than growing your own food from scratch, and then turning it into a meal.
It is like a longing that I can’t describe. I feel connected with my ancestors when I do things like grow food & preserve it for winter.
I recommend the Square Foot Gardening method. It’s how I learned to garden, and still my favourite method to this day. Think of it like Gardening for Dummies!
(See my post on Why I Love Square Foot Gardening here.)
9. Learn some basic canning skills
Over the past few years, I have been practising my canning skills. Don’t expect to go from never canning anything, to living off your home canned food for an entire year.
It’s a process. You will have failures. You will learn as you go.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Get a good book about canning and learn basic canning safety.
Use reputable recipes. As much as I loved my Grandmother, her canning recipes do not meet current safety guidelines, and in most cases had as much sugar as food. Since health is a priority for us, I only can sugar-free recipes. It takes time to find great recipes that you like.
When you find one that’s a hit, add it to your recipe book and to your annual canning repertoire.
Focus on the canned goods that your family uses most.
Do you go through an insane amount of salsa? Start with that.
Does your family eat pickles like they’re going out of style?
Do you use canned tomatoes several times a week?
Pick one thing that would put the biggest dent in what you buy at the grocery store, and start there.
10. DIY your own personal care products
Way back before we had grocery store shelves lined with lotions and potions, people made their own personal care products out of food from their fridge and pantry.
My personal philosophy, is not to put anything on my body that I wouldn’t eat.
Again, start simple. Don’t expect to throw away everything in your bathroom and have only DIY products.
I started with the thing that seemed the easiest (toothpaste!), and expanded from there.
Here are two DIY books that I find inspiring:
11. DIY condiments
It’s funny how we think certain things we can make from scratch, and other things must be bought at a store. It took me a long time to realize I could make my own ketchup and mayonnaise. Even mustard! (go figure).
Anything you can buy at a store, you can make yourself. Even Vanilla Extract.
I began experimenting with fermented condiments (here is my recipe & video for fermented salsa), which are even better, because they support gut health. If I was going to make them anyway, why not ferment them??
12. Get a budgeting system
Having a great system for managing your finances and paperwork is imperative. You need to know how much money you have and how much is budgeted to each spending category.
Not budgeting is what sends people into debt. They live by their bank balance, and spend it down to zero, and then when something comes up, they have no money set aside to cover that expense. Out come the credit cards.
I am a huge proponent of the envelope budgeting method. Every dollar that comes into my home, has a job.
In the old days, people used real envelopes for this. They had one for rent or mortgage, one for groceries, one for gas, etc.
In our digital world, that doesn’t work very well (trust me, I tried), and now I use a digital envelope method. Every dollar in my bank account is assigned to an ‘envelope’.
When I want to buy something, I first check the envelope (not the bank balance) to see if it’s in the budget. If it’s not in the budget, I can either shuffle things from one envelope to another, or just not buy the item.
It makes you much more conscious of your spending. I would never steal money from the mortgage envelope, or the hydro envelope, or else those bills won’t be able to be paid when they come in. If I steal money from the Christmas envelope, we will have less to spend at Christmas time.
It’s all about making conscious choices, and telling your money where to go.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only way to stay out of debt. I budget for home repairs, vehicle repairs, etc. – because even though they aren’t monthly expenses, they are inevitable, and shouldn’t be a surprise when they pop up! Knowing there is money set aside, eases a ton of stress.
13. Batch similar chores
This also falls into the ‘success is scheduled’ category, but batching chores is efficient.
I only run errands
one day per week (we now only grocery shop once a month!), which saves time and gas. I have a running list of errands, and I do them all on Thursdays.
I plan my route efficiently so that I’m not re-tracing my steps. I try to slot appointments into this day too, so that I don’t have to keep leaving the house.
Leaving the house constantly, is the quickest way for my home to fall into chaos. Any time I go out, I find it seems to take forever to get things caught back up.
I do most of my gardening one day per week, because I’m already getting dirty, so I might as well get it all done.
You can read more about our weekly routine here.
14. Basic sewing skills
Learning to sew is handy, if for no other reason than you will be able to repair items. Even if you have no desire to make your own clothing or household items, being able to patch some jeans, hem a pair of pants, or sew a button on, is an extremely important homemaking skill.
It will save you money because you won’t have to pay someone else to do it for you (or worse, throw the item away and buy a new one).
I don’t do a ton of sewing these days, but I do appreciate knowing how to do it.
Here is a book on Sewing Green (how to sew in a sustainable way):
15. Reduce waste
Nothing feels better than making a positive impact on the planet. One of my favourite parts of being a homemaker, is that I get to focus on waste reduction.
We try to use very little plastic, and send almost nothing to landfill. We focus on reusables over disposables.
It greatly simplifies our lives, because less disposables/single-use items = less clutter. It also saves tons of money.
If you want to learn more ways to reduce your family’s waste, check out my post on 10 ways to reduce your waste.
I also recommend the following books for inspiration on waste reduction:
16. Learn to use (and season) cast iron
NOTHING makes me feel more like an old-fashioned homemaker, than using my cast iron pans! They are, hands-down, the best things to cook on (as long as you know how to care for them). I have a cast iron pan, a griddle, and 2 dutch ovens. The pan gets used at least once a day, so it just stays on my stove.
There’s a bit of a learning curve to cast iron (ie – it has to be HOT if you don’t want your food to stick), so go get yourself a pan and start practising. My preferred brand is Lodge. It’s been around a long time, and holds up very well.
I recommend a basic 10″ pan to start:
17. Break up with the grocery store
Ok, you probably will never 100% break up with the grocery store – they are just so darned convenient.
But I challenge you to work on reducing the number of things you buy at the store.
You can do this by:
- growing some of your own food
- cooking from scratch with real ingredients
- sourcing food and other products from local producers
- buy as much as possible from your local farmer’s market
- learn to make your own products
The less you depend on your grocery store to provide for your needs, the better off you’ll be. You’ll know how to take care of yourself and your family if things ever go bad. You will have formed relationships with local producers which will put you in a good position if you ever need to barter for things.
In short, shopping at the grocery store is the opposite of sustainable.
Challenge yourself to start crossing things off your grocery store list.
18. See how long you can go without shopping
Preparedness is a homemaking skill, and an important one at that. Learn to begin stocking your pantry and your freezers so you don’t need to run out and buy stuff all the time.
Challenge yourself to see how long you can go without shopping. In the winter, I try to only shop once a month! In the summer, I aim for once a week, since there is so much fresh produce.
Start canning and freezing seasonal produce and begin stocking your pantry. The longer you can go without shopping, the better your family will fare in an emergency or disaster situation.
19. Get prepared
Preparedness is a vital part of homemaking, and one that our foremothers took very seriously. They would always have a well-stocked pantry, and knew all the skills they would ever need to know. They weren’t dependent on stores to provide for all of their needs. In an extended power outage, they would have just cracked open a home-canned jar of stew and heated it in a cast iron pot on their wood stove, with barely a blip in their plans.
Begin researching preparedness skills.
Bit by bit, learn how to do stuff, and what things you will need to have on hand.
- a basic first aid kit
- waterproof matches
- know how to make (and keep) a fire
- have something to make a fire in (a fireplace or wood stove), and have it inspected annually.
- have easy to prepare foods on hand
- have basic sewing skills
- know how to grow at least a little food
Check out my post about winter preparedness here.
Here is my favourite book on preparedness:
20. Learn natural remedies
Taking care of your health naturally is a vital skill.
If there was ever a time that you weren’t able to get to a doctor or a hospital, would you know how to take care of things yourself?
Do you know how to support your immune system and stay healthy, so you can stay out of the doctor’s office?
Do you know how to remedy a tooth ache if you can’t get to the dentist?
Natural health and wellness is something that I love, and I’m always learning in this department.
Begin by finding a couple of basic herbs and start experimenting with using them. Get a good book on herbalism.
Start an essential oil collection, and learn how to use them.
Essential oils are basically really, really concentrated herbs – so they are potent, and fast-acting. Knowing how to use them, and which oil to grab in a hurry, will serve you well. ie) when I burn myself, I know to run for the lavender oil – it stops the burning and heals the burn very quickly.
Start a natural medicine cabinet and begin stocking it – but slowly. Make sure you know how to use what you buy.
Here are some excellent herbalism and essential oils books to start with:
21. Get organized
It’s hard to be an inspired homemaker when every drawer and cupboard is a mess, or when you have so much stuff that you can’t put things away properly because there’s no room.
You can’t organize clutter, so start by getting stuff out of your house. If you haven’t used it in a year, chances are you probably don’t need it (emergency supplies would be the exception to this).
I do the ‘a bag and a box‘ method. I always have a bag and a box, ready to accept things that we no longer need. The bag is for things like clothing, and the box is for everything else. Every time I come across something I no longer need, it gets put in either the bag or the box. When one is full, it gets put in my vehicle, and we drop it off at the thrift store the next time we’re out.
Work on minimizing your possessions over time. It’s like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the better you’ll get at it. Maybe last week you weren’t ready to get rid of a certain object, but this week you are. The more you get rid of, the more you’ll realize how little you actually need.
This book was a game-changer in terms of decluttering and living more minimally:
22. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is an important homemaking skill. It’s what allows my family to eat local, healthy foods on a somewhat reasonable budget. This was a skill that took me awhile to learn.
I was previously in the habit of going to the grocery store once a week and just buying what we needed for the week. This was not only expensive, but wasteful, as there were lots of things in small packages.
Now, I buy things in the biggest quantity that I can, as long as it won’t go bad before it gets used up.
Items I buy in bulk:
Potatoes get purchased in a 50 lb bag in the fall and winter when I can store them in my cold room. 50 lbs of potatoes usually lasts us a month (we are a family of 5, so that’s 10 lbs per person per month).
Sweet Potatoes we buy by the half bushel and they keep quite well in cold storage.
Apples are purchased by the bushel, as that’s pretty much all my kids eat for snacks. A bushel will usually last us 1-2 weeks. These are stored in the cold room.
Onions also store well in the winter, I buy these a half bushel at a time.
Meat I purchase a whole pig or 1/4 cow at a time. This is a significant savings over buying individual cuts. You get to choose what cuts you want, and they cut and wrap the whole thing for you. You pay a flat rate per pound no matter what cuts you get, so it evens out to be a very good value. Plus, it makes meal planning so much easier when all I have to do is pick up my weekly veggies at the market, and pair them with some kind of meat from the freezer. It’s almost a no-brainer.
I invested in an upright freezer, which is much easier to keep organized than a chest freezer.
Coconut Oil is our fat of choice and gets used lots of different ways, so I buy it a case at a time, in 7 lb buckets.
Coconut Milk also gets purchased by the case.
Basically, think about the things you use a lot, and figure out how to purchase them in the largest quantity possible. This not only saves you time and money, but significantly increases your food storage in case there was some kind of situation where you couldn’t get to the store for awhile.
23. DON’T meal plan
At least not in the traditional sense.
When I was trying to get better at planning meals, I would pick out some fancy recipes, then make a list of ingredients, then go to the store and buy everything I needed to make those meals. This was expensive, and did not encourage local, seasonal eating.
Here’s how I meal plan now:
I start by checking my fridge to see what needs to be used up asap, and I plan the next meal or two around that.
Then I go to the garden and see what needs harvesting, and come up with a meal idea.
Then I go to the farmer’s market and pick up some seasonal veggies.
I pull some meat out of the freezer to defrost, and between the meat and the veggies I bought, I come up with meals for the remainder of the week.
So it’s somewhat backwards, in that I don’t start with a plan and buy the food to match.
I start with the food, and then make a plan around that.
This serves multiple purposes:
- prevents waste
- teaches real cooking skills (not just following recipe skills)
- helps us to eat seasonally
Here is my post about why we have a weekly Kitchen Day.
These are my two favourite cook books for cooking in season:
24. Learn food storage techniques
Once you have a pretty good grasp on growing food, planning meals around it, and eating seasonally, you will want to learn different ways to preserve it.
There are lots of food storage methods aside from canning. There’s:
- root cellaring
If you don’t have a root cellar or cold room, there might be a drafty corner of your basement, or a back porch that doesn’t freeze. The key is that the temperature has to stay above freezing, otherwise you will lose all of your beautiful produce. Ideally you want it to be in the 2-3 degrees range in the winter and stay fairly steady.
My cold room is under my stairs, and it maintains the perfect temperature during the winter months for produce storage.
Root cellaring is an extremely simple method of food preservation, and I use it as often as possible. This was how our ancestors preserved much of their food.
This book goes into detail about how to use a root cellar or cold room for food storage:
This is the one that I think most of us struggle with the most. It’s easy to get caught up in all that needs to get done, and neglect taking care of ourselves.
When we don’t take care of ourselves, then the rest of our work feels like a burden. We’re grumpy, we snap at people, we are not joyful.
Taking a little time for self-care makes all the difference in the world.
For me, this looks like:
- Getting up before the kids every day, and drinking my coffee in peace.
- Having an epsom salt bath once a week, complete with essential oils and candles
- Getting out without the kids once in awhile
- Having a friend over for coffee
- Taking my vitamins and supplements daily, to keep my energy up
- having a weekly date with my husband, even if it’s a couple hours during the day on Sunday.
I’d like to add in:
- weekly yoga and strength training workouts
- a daily walk
Homemaking is a Journey
Learning homemaking skills isn’t about perfection. If you dropped by my house unannounced, you’d likely find at least one room that’s a disaster. The laundry might not be folded. Maybe we had appointments that day and I didn’t have time to cook supper, so we stopped for take-out.
Homemaking is about making your house a comfortable, stress-free place for your family. It’s about not dropping too many balls at the same time, or at least rotating through the balls you drop, so eventually, everything gets done.
When I first decided to become a Homemaker, I wish there was a list like this (maybe there was, but I didn’t even know to look for it).
I literally had NO idea what I was doing, and just fumbled from one thing to the next. When I felt like I had one thing down pretty good, I’d figure out what I wanted to learn next.
Homemaking Skills ARE Financial Contribution
When I first became a homemaker, I felt guilty – like I wasn’t contributing to my family financially.
Since learning the above homemaking skills, I have realized that these skills ARE a huge financial contribution to my family. The more I learn to do myself, the more money we save.
The more intentional we become about the way we spend our money, as we realize that we buy things not with dollars, but with hours of our lives.
It allows me to create a beautiful partnership with my husband, as he works hard to bring home an income from us, and my job is to stretch it as far as possible.
Every homemaking skill you learn, will allow you to stretch those dollars just a little further.
Always learning new homemaking skills
This is a journey with no end.
Even when my kids are grown, I will always want to learn more homemaking skills, or perfect the ones I do have. Our needs and schedules will change as the kids get older, and that’s ok too. Once you have a good solid rhythm to work from, you can move things around to suit your needs better.
Homemaking is also very individual – maybe you work outside the home full-time, so you squeeze in what you can on the weekends. If your kids are in school, and not homeschooled like mine, you might have more time in a day and don’t need to schedule as much.
Take the parts that work for you, and leave the rest.
I hope you’ve found these 25 homemaking skills you should know helpful!
Leave me a comment and let me know what skills you’re currently working on!