A 2020s Woman Living Like a 1920s Man – Tailors, Gardeners, Beauticians, Cleaners and Getting Things Done

(Interior of Caius Martius’s House, Lawrence Alma-Tadema)

Imagine that you have never washed a dish in your life. Never did a load of laundry. Never cleaned a toilet. Imagine that after you threw a shirt on the floor, someone else picked it up, cleaned it, ironed it and put it on a hanger. Imagine that every meal appeared on a plate in front of you at the correct time (and if you didn’t like it, you had the luxury of yelling about it) and then the dirty dishes disappeared.

That’s what it was like to be a 1920s middle-class man (and still is for some men…).

People dream of 5-star hotels (which require a lot of tipping) and castles (supervising dozens of employees) – the sweet spot is living as if you are in a German or Swiss Gasthaus: everything plain, clean and done for you so you can concentrate on whatever your passion is.

Darling, when people ask me how I manage to DO all the marvelous things I do, I don’t blather about time-management (much less getting up early or drinking vegetable smoothies), I say that I live like a man. Watering the plants? No. Brushing cob-webs out of the ceiling corners? No. Scrubbing, folding, bleaching, polishing? Moi? No. Do I look like I walk around on week-ends and dust things? I do not.

Do I hand-paint my Christmas cards, bring bouquets to sick friends, stay au courant on news, style, books and movies, travel, stay in touch with relatives and have fabulous frocks? Yes I do.

I emulate Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt and Napoleon – great men who were at least partly great because they could put their minds to the task at hand, not distracted by whether the hydrangeas are wilting or there is milk. With every meal prepared, every towel clean and pressed, every floor swept, every bed made, every piece of clothing made to fit you, you can get on with winning wars.

Watch Slow Horses – that the scene in Truefitt & Hill (or, for that matter, Geo. F. Trumper, Pankhurst, Alfred Dunhill or Sharps) in which a minion is getting shaved. He is starting his day with 10 minutes of reclining and relaxing. He is not standing over a sink, trying to make sure he doesn’t cut himself or miss a spot.

It’s not that you save time – but that the time is used differently. Shaving your legs/ face requires some concentration, plus the time and effort to make sure you have the supplies (sharp razor, soap) and you have to make an attempt to clean up vs. simply sitting down and letting someone else do all the fussing. That small difference creates a huge difference once at work – the difference between walking into a meeting knowing you look like a million bucks and walking in flustered.

I had a friend once whose husband (despite the fact that both worked) insisted that one weekend day was spent cleaning the house. So they cleaned the house together every week and after a few years she divorced him. If cleaning houses is truly your joy, have at it I say, but if you can afford it – get someone else in and go figure out your way to help yourself and help the world.

Moi, I am all in on the support team – someone cleans my house, someone waters the garden, a tailor does alterations and I am off to the beauty parlor every two weeks. My work presentations are things of beauty, my monthly reports could be framed, my spreadsheets could hang in the Louvre and I have never had a file sent back for review.

Pay fair wages, give tips, don’t hover while someone is working and make sure you can do the basics if need be (yes, I can trim date palms with a machete) and then off into the far horizon with you – creating crafts, supporting friends, excelling at work, giving your time to charities, saving the environment and making the world a better place.

alma caius martius