- Vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, and car washes don’t need to be operated by humans anymore.
- Women still do more housework than men, but the gap has narrowed since the 1950s.
- Americans are cooking less and eating out more than in past eras.
Household chores used to be a full-time job. While cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry still require some elbow grease, many chores can be completed more efficiently than ever with the help of more advanced technology.
Here’s how household chores have changed over the years.
Vacuum cleaners were invented in 1901 and redesigned in 1908 to include a bag that collects dust and dirt via suction.
The patent was sold to William Henry Hoover in 1908, who added changeable bags and other features to the design in the 1920s.
Vacuums don’t even need to be operated by humans anymore.
These days, there are robotic vacuum cleaners that can memorise the layout of a home, clean at prescheduled times, and automatically return to their charging station.
Early electric washing machines had built-in wringers to squeeze out wet clothes.
Some wringers were powered by a hand-operated crank, while others ran on motors. Motor-powered wringers often caused injuries since the operator had to feed each piece of clothing into the moving rollers.
Washers look more like smartphones today.
Washing machines now have programmable touch screens to customise the temperature, speed, soil level, and other factors of a given laundry load.
When it came time to dry a load of laundry, hanging it on a clothesline used to be the typical method.
It’s still used by many households as a way to save money and prevent wear and tear. It’s also more environmentally friendly.
Clothing dryers are seen as a necessity, but their use is declining.
Clothing dryers now account for 5% of all residential electricity consumption in the US, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey.
In the 1950s, homemakers made hearty family dinners from scratch.
Recipes like Jell-O salads were all the rage.
Now, getting dinner on the table can be accomplished through apps.
People are cooking less and eating out more than in past eras. According to the US Census Bureau, Americans are spending more money on restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments than they are on groceries. People are also consuming more food away from home, according to the USDA.
The first dishwasher was patented in 1886 and became a standard appliance in the 1950s.
Josephine Garis Cochran first patented the dishwasher in 1886 with wire compartments placed inside a wheel powered by a motor. She went on to found KitchenAid in 1919. By the 1950s, dishwashers were a standard kitchen appliance.
Today, 54% of US households have a dishwasher and use it once a week.
The US Energy Information Administration found that overall, dishwashers are the least-used appliances in American homes. Almost 20% of households said that they did not use their dishwasher in 2015.
Hosing down the car and scrubbing it with a sponge was a standard chore in American suburbs.
As car ownership became more popular, it allowed families to move farther from urban areas and commute to work, and having a home with a backyard and picket fence became the “American dream.”
Automatic car washes have increased in popularity.
According to the International Carwash Association, an increasing number of Americans are taking their cars to professional car washes instead of doing the chore themselves, jumping from 47% in 1994 to 72% in 2014.
Lawn mowers were invented in 1830, but sales boomed after World War II.
Before World War II, 13% of Americans lived in suburbs, according to the Oxford Research Encyclopedia. By 2010, half of the US population lived in suburbs, and yard work became another household chore.
Now, there are robotic lawn mowers.
Similar to robotic vacuums, they’re powered by batteries and use sensors to stay on the lawn and out of the street.
In the 1950s, housework was considered a woman’s job.
The cultural emphasis on family life in the post-war 1950s meant that men often went to work while women stayed home and kept house. Women’s magazines ran articles about the best ways to clean and cook, and advertisements depicted women in the kitchen serving their husbands dinner in aprons and heels.
Men are pitching in more to help with housework and parenting responsibilities, but women still do most of it.
As gender roles shift and women focus more on their careers before having children, millennial men are also shifting to take on more housekeeping and parenting responsibilities – or, at least, they’re trying to. Women still take on a disproportionate amount of that unpaid labour.
The Bureau of Labour Statistics reported in 2015 that women spend twice as much time on household chores such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry as men do.
“The majority of young men and women say they would ideally like to equally share earning and care giving with their spouse,”Sarah Thébaud, a sociologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told The New York Times. “But it’s pretty clear that we don’t have the kinds of policies and flexible work options that really facilitate egalitarian relationships.”
- Read more:
- 6 tricks you can use to make your home look better and feel cleaner in 20 minutes or less
- Fighting over chores is one of the most common causes of divorce – but there’s an easy way to neutralise the threat
- The single best thing parents can do to make sure their kids are successful
- Here are 5 easy things you can do keep your home clean every day
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.