10 Skills Our Grandmothers Had That We Should Learn Again

The modern world has an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude towards just about everything. We no longer look to our elders as beacons of wisdom. Instead, we rely on ourselves — the younger, more “enlightened,” and more innovative generation.

By Molly Farinholt4 min read
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By doing so, we’re missing out on a great wealth of knowledge and insight that older generations have acquired through years of hard-won experience. We would do ourselves a favor by humbly learning from them. Our grandmothers, for instance, can teach us much about the art of womanhood. 

Here are 10 things we can learn from the smart women who have gone before us: 

1. Making a House a Home

Stores like Pottery Barn, Target, and Pier 1 make it easy to decorate our houses in the fashion of the day. But simply choosing pretty bedding and a trendy rug from Anthropologie doesn’t transform square footage into a home. My mother still fondly recalls the way in which her mother would find creative ways to adorn the house for each season — handmade autumnal wreaths in the fall and bowls of pinecones painted gold for Christmas. She would come home from school to find every room spruced up with decor to match the changing seasons. The simple touches were personal, unique, and done with great love and patience. 

Home is personal and should feel that way — not as if it were clipped out of a catalog. 

There’s certainly a difference between tossing Christmas-themed placemats from Target (the same ones that everyone has) on the table and arranging boughs of holly and a hand-painted family Nativity scene on the mantle. Home is personal and should feel that way — not as if it were clipped out of a catalog. 

2. How To Host a Good Party

Last-minute texts and Facebook invites get the job done, but our grandmothers would have been appalled at such party invitations. They took the time to plan a gathering, and this included sending out beautifully-crafted invitations. Then, the house was cleaned from top to bottom, meals or refreshments were thoughtfully planned and put together, and — when the day of the party came — the hostess graciously greeted guests at the door, ensured that everyone felt at ease, and kept the fun going. Every party doesn’t have to be a Gatsby party, but we can step up our hostessing game by taking a cue from our grandmothers. 

3. Having a “Well-Stocked House”

How many of us have a tidy linen closet stocked with fresh sheets for guests? Or a hutch displaying lovely China and serving dishes? I’ll be honest, I don’t even have an ice cream scoop, let alone an extensive serving set. But I strive to eventually be as well-equipped for guests as my grandmothers always were. How nice would it be to host brunch on a whim and not have to worry about whether or not you have enough teacups or serving spoons? To always be prepared for a short- or long-term visitor is something that our grandmothers did so well.

To always be prepared for a visitor is something that our grandmothers did so well.

4. How To Make Do with What You Have 

Our grandmothers’ generation was often forced to make do with less, so they improvised. Old bed sheets could become just about anything under the sewing machine. An assortment of vegetables and canned items could become a stew or a casserole. They could make scarves and quilts and their children’s Halloween costumes. Our grandmothers were crafty and resourceful. They didn’t need Amazon Prime or Etsy; they did it all themselves. 

5. Dressing Classy all the Time

Our grandmothers never left the house without fixing their hair and putting on a dress and lipstick. I'll admit I've gone to the grocery store in my husband’s old college sweatshirt too many times. But when I take the time to dress in a cute and classy outfit, even the most mundane chores like grocery shopping become a fun little adventure. And I feel way better about myself when I’m walking through the produce section in a dress instead of that morning’s workout clothes. As my grandmother would say, always dress as if you’re going to run into your worst enemy or — if you’re single — your future spouse. 

Always dress as if you’re going to run into your worst enemy or your future spouse. 

6. Having Good Manners 

My best friend was named after her great grandmother and looks to her as the model of a classy woman. One day, while telling me all about the incredible woman whose name she proudly bears, she said, “I think the most impressive thing about her was that she always treated everyone with such grace, even when many would say they didn’t deserve it.” 

Grace and good manners certainly did characterize the women of our grandmothers’ (and great grandmothers’) generation. They followed the etiquette guidelines laid out by women like Emily Post, always showing kind regard for others — even when it was difficult to do so. 

7. How To Be a Good Wife

Everything I learned about being a good wife I learned from my mother and grandmothers. They taught me — mostly by example — that a wife and mother loves in a selfless and sacrificial way. They devoted themselves to their husbands and children and were always immensely happy in this devotion. 

It’s the quiet strength of a woman that keeps her husband strong. 

In a more practical sense, they taught that the way to a man’s heart often is through his stomach; a warm meal after a long day of work will always put a smile on a man’s face. They taught that small acts of service — like ironing their shirts — are great in the eyes of men. They taught that it’s better to calmly address hurts and annoyances rather than to hold one’s tongue until it results in an explosive tirade. Most importantly, they taught that it’s the quiet strength of a woman that keeps her husband strong. 

8. How To Be Treated by a Man

In the same way that our grandmothers showed how to treat a man, they showed how to be treated by a man. A woman should demand respect from a man —  and she does so by acting in a way that is deserving of respect. Our grandmothers didn’t get asked on dates via text, and they didn’t stand for casual and undefined relationships. Rather, they expected knocks on the front door, firm handshakes for their fathers, and proffered bouquets of flowers. They never wasted their time on someone who didn’t recognize their worth. 

9. How To Nourish Our Bodies Simply

Every day, we’re hit with a new fad diet or workout challenge to try. We have over-complicated health, fitness, and nutrition. My grandmother has always been fit and trim but never subscribed to any diet or fitness program. She — like most women of her time — kept it simple with home-cooked meals made of whole foods and enjoyable exercise like brisk walks with friends, bike rides around the neighborhood, and caring for children (which truly is a workout in itself). 

Keep it simple with home-cooked meals made of whole foods and enjoyable exercise.

Women in our grandmothers’ day were not expected to work out like men. But even without P90X and green smoothies, they always looked incredible and — more importantly — had the energy to care about things other than getting to the gym and whipping up a ketogenic recipe. 

10. How To Dance

I’ll just say it: our generation doesn’t know how to dance. Our grandmothers did the jitterbug and the jive and kept the dance floor alive. We rarely dance at all anymore, and, when we do, it’s a ghastly selection of moves we learned (and probably shouldn’t have learned) in high school. If only we could all take dance lessons from our grandmothers and bring back “dinner and dancing” dates! 

Closing Thoughts

Grandmothers are wonderful founts of wisdom and knowledge about how to survive and thrive in this life. They have “been there, done that” and can tell us how to do it all properly — with class, dignity, and grace.