The Useful Hour

By Alison November 26, 2013 6 Comments 1 Min Read

“How blest the maid whom circling years improve Her God the object of her warmest love
Whose useful hours, successive as they glide
The Book, the Needle, and the Pen divide.”

This precious sampler was stitched by one Anne “Nancy” Mouton in 1796, and in her ten year old wisdom she added the words above to the more typical of alphabet and number fayre…

And what inspiration it has turned out to be for me, your dear old Vintage Housekeeper! For couldn’t we all do with a “useful” hour or two carved into our week?  The very concept of an hour specifically destined for “useful” tasks delights me. Though I cannot be sure how our lovely Anne divided her hours between the book, the needle and the pen, might I suggest that we modern day vintage ladies choose one hour per week to do something less puttery, and more useful instead?

Think then not of flowers and fragrance but an hour spent labeling every lead and charger in the house. Of making a list of the light-bulbs necessary for every lamp in the house. Of  spending your “useful” hour shopping for a pillow that will not make your neck ache, or organising your packed lunch supplies so mornings aren’t quite so much of an effort. Use your “useful” hour to brainstorm absolutely everything there is to do between now and Christmas, dedicate it to learning a domestic skill you haven’t got, or wander around with a paintbrush in hand, touching up the scuffs and scratches on your skirting boards.

Do something practical. Do something that will make your life easier. Do something dull that you will thank yourself for doing later.

Do something useful. 


  1. Gill says:

    Oh dear, I spent this cold misty November day curled up by the fireside with a long playlist of Christmas music on quietly reading one of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon on my iPad…Useful hours will have to come tomorrow:)

  2. Annmarie says:

    Well, it does say book and pen — reading and presumably writing letters ( don’t think it meant schoolwork, think of the Bennet girls.) And by useful time, I believe she means free-time. Don’t forget all the work women had to do back then that was just expected of them, and therefore, not considered “useful” time.I agree, though, about using free-time to DO something we are always planning on doing, and not wasting it. Try to get your regular “work” done in one big go (Times haven’t changed that much. Cooking and doing dishes are still considered just something that is done, it’s not really work), that way you have a bigger chunk of time in which to do something “useful”.

  3. brocantehome says:

    Oh I think you are absolutely right Ann Marie: that by useful time she no doubt meant free time… but I think we are all too willing to avoid what could now be considered useful and indulge ourselves with the pretty and the mindless now: so I was suggesting the re-purposing of the useful hour for something more well… useful!xOoooh and Gill I do believe these useful hours can wait!x

  4. sharon says:

    That is an inspired idea! An hour spent organising or fixing some niggly little thing would go a long way towards creating a more pleasant home to live in. I should get off the computer (the modern day book?) and do something more useful myself!

  5. Annmarie says:

    Allison, I do agree about indulging ourselves. I do it WAY too much. I have a few health problems, and use the doctors advise to take it easy as an excuse to sit for an hour at a time instead of 15 minutes. Plus, “Never put off ’till tomorrow what you can do day after tomorrow,” has become my motto the last few years.
    But as an example of useful time, my garage door keypad hasn’t worked for almost a year. Right before Halloween, instead of sitting down and having a cup of coffee, and without planning on it, I grabbed my son (so I wouldn’t have to climb up and down the ladder), and we fixed it! It took about a half an hour — cleaning the light cover included — and we are still both walking around with that great feeling of accomplishment.

    I can’t make it every day, but I’ll start with 1 hour on Thursdays, and take it from there. You know, I’m really Psyched!

  6. maria smith says:

    Once a year, before the holidays,, I hire a cleaning service. That gives me time to think :and plan 🙂

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