National Retro Day is February 27th, so in honor of yesteryear, we’re taking a look back at items that were once in your home or ones that have transformed over the years. We also threw in a few modern tips to keep your home safe and groovy (baby).
After hitting the home in the late 1880s, sewing machines became a favorite household device and streamlined the family’s clothing creation and mending, saving the home seamstress time and money. These practical devices generally came with cabinets, which also housed sewing needles, numerous threads, and even those infamous pin cushions.
Modern safety tip: Looking to channel your inner seamstress? Check out the Janome 2212 Sewing Machine, one of the best sewing machines for beginners. No matter which machine you choose, mind the needle. You’ll need to change it after every project or every eight hours, whichever comes first.
“Wringer” washing machines
Today, you head downstairs, toss your clothes into a washer, and then return to whatever you were doing before – such as writing a retro home blog or making sugar cookies. However, back in yesteryear, you might have had a “wringer” washer where you’d put your clothes in a bin, let it work the stains out, and then crank the clothing item between two rolling pins to drain the soapy water. To dry, you’d hang clothes outside on a clothesline.
Modern maintenance tip: Today’s washers require a braided metal hose to keep the water from going places it doesn’t belong, like on your floor. For your dryer, clean out the dryer vent annually to prevent a fire hazard.
Long before plasma TVs became art on your wall, you’d find a box-like TV with cathode ray tubes to display images and an antenna to transition the feed. At times, these sets were housed in a cabinet where you would also find video tapes (remember Blockbuster?), a videocassette recorder (VCR), and video game consoles.
Modern maintenance tip: According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a child is killed from a furniture or TV tip-over every 10 days. A child is taken to the hospital with a tip-over related injury every 30 minutes, but you can prevent these injuries by having a licensed furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) contractor install anti-tip devices. You can also make this a DIY project. Installing one of these devices only takes a few minutes.
Make sure your home is safe for toddler exploration with these top safety tips!
Rotary phones with party lines
If you’re Gen X or a Millennial, you should remember a circular dial on your phone that would spin with each number. However, do you remember the party lines? Back in yesteryear, not everyone had a private phone line into the home (let alone a private, handheld phone). Instead, “party lines” consisted of two or four lines, each from a different household. If you lifted the dial, you could hear your neighbors’ conversations. Of course, if you had to make an important call while they were using the line, you had to negotiate. Cup of sugar, anyone?
Modern safety tip: Consider keeping your landline. Even during a blackout, landline phones still work (smartphones lose reception if the towers lose power). Landlines also provide emergency personnel with your exact location and are less prone to static or interruptions in service.
Radio alarm clocks
The original home entertainment system, a slide projector enlarged photos and displayed them on the wall for family gatherings or history class. These became all but obsolete with the introduction of video from the old camcorders, which became all but obsolete during the smartphone era. Today, you might still be able to find some slides in your attic from the days of long ago.
Modern safety tip: With older appliances, be mindful of heat that can create a fire danger. If you smell smoke or feel your device is warm to the touch, unplug it immediately. Also, don’t ever plug in a device if it has frayed cords or broken plugs. Never plug something into a discolored outlet; instead, call a professional to examine the damaged area.
From your banking statement to your property survey, (almost) every important document is digital nowadays. Gone are the days of sifting through paper to find that report you need, which can not only help you keep track of everything but also save a few trees.
Modern organization tip: While a cloud may be great for those pictures or documents you don’t need to see on a regular basis, it’s not helpful for a property survey, a home inspection report, or the last maintenance project you completed. vipHomeLink, a home management app, can keep all your important home documents, warranties, and information in one place, saving you time and money. Plus, the app also sends you personalized recommendations for home maintenance and tailored recommendations for home improvement.
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Originally published on February 26, 2020; updated on February 26, 2021
Learn more quick tips for maintaining your home in these posts:
Top tips for keeping your toddler safe at home
Warning signs of a gas leak in your fireplace
No cold water in your faucet? Here’s what you need to do (before it’s too late)