Productivity at Home

Increased productivity, the ability to get more value for our time, our land, or our invested money, is as important at home as it is in the workplace. Let's consider the case of our imaginary friend Jane, and her grandmother.

Jane's grandmother had just one occupation after marrying in her late teens: homemaker. She raised children, and she cleaned and maintained the family home. That was a full-time (and often more) job.

For example, Jane's grandmother spent at least half a day and often more, on Mondays, Blue Mondays, washing clothes. When Grandmother did laundry, she put a small load at a time into a wringer washer. First the clothes went through a wash cycle with soap. Then, she drained the washer, and refilled it with fresh hot water for a rinse cycle. At the end of each cycle, she fed each piece of clothing through a wringer which squeezed out the excess water. After a couple of wash and rinse cycles, the clothes landed in a tub, were carried outside, and pinned to a clothesline, one at a time. And after drying, each item was unpinned and carried back into the house. Of course, almost all of the clothing in Grandmother's time then had to be ironed.

On the other hand, when Jane needs only a few minutes to do a load of washing. She gathers up a pile of clothes, puts them in the washer, adds soap, turns on the water, and leaves. The machine automatically takes care of all those steps Jane's grandmother had to do by hand. When Jane returns to the automatic washing machine half an hour later, she simply moves the clothes to the dryer, which takes about a minute. In most cases, the clothes require minimal or no ironing, and Jane folds them and puts them away immediately.

Grandmother cooked on an electric range, which in itself represented a big improvement over the wood stove her mother used. Jane has a microwave oven, as well as an electric range, and can make a meal more quickly. After the meal, Grandmother spent at least half an hour washing dishes. Jane spends a couple of minutes loading the dishwasher.

Jane, obviously, is more productive than her grandmother. Not because she's necessarily better in any way or works any harder, but because she has tools that allow her to be more productive, to get the same amount of work done in less time.

That extra time allows her to earn an income outside the home, which in turn increases the family's prosperity. And so productivity in the home, like productivity at work, contributes to a family's increasing standard of living.

Robert F. Abbott is the author of the forthcoming book, Ownership Revolution: How Working People are Buying Up Big Business, from which this article is taken. If you contribute to a pension fund, mutual fund, or whole life insurance policy, you're probably one of the new owners of the big corporations. Find out more at

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