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Why housework is always too much

By Valerie Yule - posted Friday, 18 September 2015


Recently a radio station ran a campaign for more exercise. People rang in about how they exercised with gyms and bikes. None of it was useful, apart from exercise in transport to move from one place to another.

In the past, until about 1950. and in many countries still, exercise by almost everybody was useful. Only the wealthy took on useless exercise – or huntin', shootin' and fishin' (which brought something to eat at the end of it) or in ancient Greece, they went to the gymnasium to practise their wartime skills, so it was useful to them.

Most people rested as their recreation. Their work was their exercise - outside, growing their food, or inside, cooking, cleaning, child-care and making clothes.

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Today in our cities almost everybody uses electricity instead of exercise.

Yet we can reduce carbon emissions by reducing unnecessary use of electricity and exercising instead.

People could save electricity by housework in which they bent their knees, stretched their arms, strengthened their arm muscles, tuned up their wrists, and reduced their waistline. Thus with minimum electricity and carbon emissions, they sweep and garden, clean the floor, polish, and brush cobwebs off the ceiling.

It would improve their circulation, tone up pelvic-floor muscles, keep the heart fit, strengthen the legs and prevent osteoporosis, by doing housework almost like it was done up to 1950, without unnecessary electricity.

But people would have to enjoy it.

Enjoy housework?

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The thrifty housewives of old Aberdeen competed with each other in enjoyable housework– more enjoyable than with a boring machine in a gym. And they used their brains to make it even more enjoyable.

After the second world war, people invested in labor-saving electrical devices in their homes – Hurrah! no more tedium in housework, with their new electric vacuums, washing machines, dishwashers, food mixers . . .

But strange to say, housewives still spent as much time in housework.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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