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Lost Skills That Used to Be Common

Updated on March 26, 2018
Jadelynx-HP profile image

Tracey has been writing online for over 10 years. She also is a graphical artist for social media sites. She loves writing about home life!


Dependency - The Way Most People Live Today

The way people live today is to be dependent on others. We depend on others to make and mend our clothes, to heal us when we are sick, to grow food for us to buy, to repair our homes and cars, to protect and defend us.

Is there anything we actually do ourselves?

It really is unfortunate that we do almost nothing to sustain our own life. We have lost the skills that it takes to make it on our own; to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, heal ourselves or take care of ourselves in most ways.

How did this happen?

That can be summed up in two words: time and convenience. We stopped doing things ourselves because it took too much time. It became easier and more *convenient* to pay someone else to do these things, so we could move on to work more and play more. After a while another ingredient was added to our demise: laziness. We got used to doing everything the quick and easy way, and we have become lazy. Why bake bread when you can buy a loaf at the corner store for a couple bucks. Why repair a pair of underwear when you can go to WalMart and pick up a six pack for $5?

I hope you will know why, by the time you finish reading this page.


Cooking From Scratch

Do you know how to cook from scratch? I mean real cooking like baking your own bread or making cookies and cakes without a mix. Can you make pasta without a machine? Can you make homemade gravy? People used to cook every single meal from scratch with real food like potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, milk and real butter. They did not get up and pull a Jimmy Dean's breakfast bowl out of the freezer. They made real oatmeal from oats and toast from home baked bread.

The practice of cooking from scratch is pretty rare these days. You will not find too many people that do it, but the people that do will generally be healthier and happier. If you don't know how to cook, it is a very good idea to learn because that breakfast bowl may not always be available for you to buy or you may not have the money, in the future.


Food Preservation - Canning Dehydrating, Freezing

Food preservation used to be a part of everyday life, in most families. This was before we had stores on every corner with all kinds of food trucked in year round......and the money to buy it. Used to be that the end of the summer was the busiest time in any household as the family canned, dehydrated or froze the fruits (and veggies) of their labor, so they would have food to eat all winter.

What would you do it someone gave you a whole bushel of tomatoes, green beans or corn? Would you have any idea what to do with the excess that you could not eat before it spoiled?

Furthermore, what would you do, if something happened and all those corner stores could no longer get any food to sell you? What if all the sudden you were unable to buy food anywhere? What would you do?

These are questions that help you understand why it is a good idea to learn how to preserve food for yourself and your family. Canning, dehydrating and freezing food is not terribly difficult to do, but it is a skill that must be learned and done right, if you want to be prepared. Prepared for what? For an earthquake, flood, or any type of disaster that will disrupt the delivery of food to stores. It is also good to have extra food on hand for other reasons, such as unexpected company, job loss of the primary provider, or the dreaded ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!!! (yes, I am kidding ;)

Mending Clothing or Sewing Garments from Scratch

What would you do, if you put on a pair of socks, and your toe poked through a hole? Or if a belt loop ripped off your favorite jeans. What if you got a gorgeous dress for a great price, but it was three inches too long? What would you do?

I can tell you what most people, today, would do: throw the sock away, safety pin the belt loop, and take the dress to the alteration shop to be shortened.

Fifty years ago we would have darned the sock, sewn the belt loop back on, and shortened the dress ourselves. When did this change? Why did it change? Sewing and basic mending used to be taught in school. When I was in high school in the late 70's, we took Home Economics as a basic part of our education. I am not sure if it is even offered as an elective, today and considering the price of clothes, it is a real shame that so few people know how to perform even the most basic of repairs. Imagine the money you could save, if you could mend small holes in sock, underwear, jeans and pants. You could save even more if you knew how to sew from scratch and could make some of your own clothes for yourself or your kids. Sewing is very worthwhile to learn!


First Aid - From Skinned Knees to Heart Attacks

First Aid is a skill that is so important that you can literally save someone's life, if you know it. I find it amazing that First Aid is not taught more in schools. I am not talking CPR, or the Heimlich Manuver, both of which are important to know; I am talking about what to do if someone cuts their hand very badly while chopping vegetables. Or a dog attacks someone and bites them severely. Or you see a bad car accident and people are bleeding and hurt.

Would you know what to do?

Sometimes what you do right after an injury occurs makes the difference in whether or not they keep their finger or limb, or even their life. It is very important to know the basic tenants of first aid for cuts, bruises, burns and trauma. The best way to learn these is to take a class. However, if you cannot take a class, there are many books and videos that can teach you almost as well. It is not difficult to learn first aid, and it could be such a huge help to someone that is hurt.

First Aid Manual


Gardening - Growing Your Own Food

I was raised in the suburbs, and my parents still had a large garden in the back yard. The thing I remember the most was the luscious strawberries we had every June. We also had a blueberry bush, a green apple tree, and potted herbs on the patio. My parents came from farming families before they moved to the city, so gardening was second nature to them. I can't say it is that way with most people today. Backyard gardening, while it is starting to make a comeback, is still not very common. Many people don't do it because they believe that in order to grow food, you have to have a lot of land.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

You can grow food on your balcony if you live in an apartment. You would be surprised how many tomatoes you get off of just one plant. Same with peppers. You don't need to live on acres of land to have a food garden. Some plants will even grow inside, on your window sill. Vertical gardening is also gaining popularity, if you don't have much space, or even hydroponics, which is growing plants in water instead of soil.

Growing your own food is a win/win situation on many levels:

1. Saves money

2. Pesticide Free

3. Healthier (no chemical fertilizer)

4. Convenient (you don't have to go to the store)

5. Sets a good example to kids, friends and neighbors to be more self reliant

If you have never had a garden, now is a good time to start! If you feel daunted, then try container gardening first and then move on to ground gardening, if you have the space.

How to Begin Gardening

Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening
Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening

Everything you need to know about starting a garden, even if you never had before. Simple instructions, fully illustrated.


Basic Tool Skills - Using Hand Tools and Power Tools

If you aren't already familiar, you need to introduce yourself to tools. A hammer, screwdriver, pliers, measuring tape, wrench and other hand tools are easy to use and with a little practice, you can handle them like a pro. Driving a nail straight, or turning a screw can be mastered with time, all you have to do is to pick one up and go for it.

Power tools, on the other hand, are a bit more tricky and dangerous. You can do some real damage to yourself, someone else or whatever you are working on, if you lose control of a power tool. If you do not know how to use a power tool, I suggest you find someone that does and have them teach you. If you don't know anyone, then try the local Lowe's, Home Depot, or hardware store to see if they have any workshops that teach tool skills. You might want to make it a habit to attend any workshop offered locally, you can pick up a ton of knowledge at them for little or no cost.

Learning to handle common tools is important. Doing simply repairs around the house can save you money. Shingles blow off your roof? Find them and nail them back on. Your downspout fall off your gutter? Climb your ladder (or borrow one) and put it back on. There is no need to call a handyman and pay ridiculous fees for simply jobs you can do yourself. Buy yourself some tools and do it yourself, and if you don't know how, there's always YouTube. :)

Hand and Power Tool Safety Video

One of My Favorite Books

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition

I love learning old fashioned skills, so when I saw this book on Amazon, I just had to buy it. It is a treasure trove of information on living self sufficiently and learning to do things yourself. I find myself going back to it again and again for information on how to do things such as making homemade toys, how to make fabric dye from plants, raising chickens, making jelly and jam.....even how to paddle a kayak and square dance!

This book is 456 pages jam packed with information about how to be more self reliant and self sustaining. If this subject interests you, this is one book you do not want to miss.



Submit a Comment

  • Carol Ann Taylor profile image

    Carol Taylor 

    17 months ago from Thailand

    A fifties child my mother taught me all those skills and along the way I have picked up a few more. I have always cooked from scratch and so do my children. I still sew and mend and have added making jewelery to my skills but that has only been since I retired. A great post which highlights how many skills have been lost over the years but also how many have and are being revived.

  • smine27 profile image

    Shinichi Mine 

    4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

    This is so true. I know I tend to forget what I should be able to do myself. At least I can make my own pie crust. hehe

  • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

    Dawn Romine 

    4 years ago from Nebraska

    I'm glad to know that i'm keeping some of these skills alive, I garden, freeze food, and can. Just made 16 quarts of spaghetti sauce and I'm only 1/3 of the way done for the season. Probably will can another 30 quarts this weekend.

    I also cook from scratch, it's not hard, and saves money. A LOT of money! I'll never buy Campbells soup again.

  • profile image


    4 years ago

    I love cooking from scratch too, but it was very difficult while I was holding down a full-time job and being a mom. Now, I am retired and learning ways to conserve and cook from scratch. I cook more from scratch now, but I also have the time to do it and that really makes a difference. I am amazed at how our money can be stretched even as food prices and everything else costs so much. It's fun to be self-reliant.

  • thebrownbear profile image


    4 years ago

    Great hub. I agree that many of these are important skills that have been forgotten. My grandfather passed away this winter and we took over planting his garden. It has been such a lovely experience planting and harvesting it with my husband and girls.

  • MartieG profile image

    MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

    4 years ago from Jersey Shore

    Nicely done- we love making our own pickles and jelly from the fresh produce in the garden--hopefully it won't become a lost art.

  • Pam Irie profile image

    Pam Irie 

    4 years ago from Land of Aloha

    Two things I regret not learning when my mother was still alive to teach me.....canning food and baking a pie. She was a pro at it and growing up I was too busy to take the time to learn these valuable skills.

  • Emilynicoley profile image


    4 years ago from Virginia

    this make me want to go make a cake from scratch and start canning things again

    gives me a nice warm fuzzy feeling, i like it.

  • fullyalive profile image

    Diana Wenzel 

    4 years ago from Colorado

    You describe the world I grew up in. It is the world I am reclaiming even as we speak. There is such deep satisfaction to be attained in being able to be self-sufficient.

  • ecogranny profile image

    Kathryn Grace 

    4 years ago from San Francisco

    SO important! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Since I retired from the 9-5 routine (7-7 would be more accurate), I've reclaimed many of the skills I had as a young mom--baking bread, preserving food, doing all the cleaning. When I was young, it was a full-time job, and I had two children underfoot to boot. My then-husband would come home after his 7-1/2 hour day and ask what I did all I day. I was still doing it!

    It's still a full-time job to make everything from scratch and keep a household running well. I was better at it when I was younger and had more energy. But it is so rewarding. The food I make in my kitchen is so much better than food we can get anywhere else. When I clean, and I'm not saying I do it as often as I should, I do a much better job than the services we used while we were both working long hours outside the home. Plus, I know exactly what is in my homemade cleaning solutions.

    All that just to say, yes, we must keep these skills alive, and I thank you for helping with that by sharing your insights and wisdom.

  • OhMe profile image

    Nancy Tate Hellams 

    4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

    Very interesting and yes, there are so many Lost Skills. Great article. Enjoyed very much. I remember my mom making pimiento cheese using the grinder hooked to the table.

  • Jadelynx-HP profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracey Boyer 

    4 years ago from Michigan

    It really is sad, isn't it?

  • profile image


    4 years ago

    I went to a potluck recently and took my yummy Applesauce cake with a butterscotch walnut frosting. Every young woman there had no idea that you could make a cake without a mix!

  • GiftsByDiana profile image

    Diana Burrell-Shipton 

    4 years ago from Hubbard, Ohio, USA

    Sadly, this is too true these days.

    I sew gifts by hand and have folks ask me exactly what that means as so many people call what they do "by hand" or "handmade" when all that his/her hand did was to push the buttons on a machine so they're not sure who is the real deal any more. I have had to show them my needle and thread - LOL

    Same thing with cooking.

    I cook from scratch and so many folks have no idea about even the basics... and have asked so many questions over the years - so sad :(

  • pkmcruk profile image


    4 years ago from Cheshire UK

    These are all great skills that do appear to be disappearing. However, they also represent a great opportunity for learning new skills and hopefully people will be encouraged to try some of them by this great page.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 

    4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    Homemade By Jade sounds like a great website. I will visit!

  • Elsie Hagley profile image

    Elsie Hagley 

    4 years ago from New Zealand

    Awesome!. I still do all the things you wrote about, have been all my life except for one thing. I would really upset my husband of nearly 55 years if I pick up a tool especially power tools and did some repairs, he say that's his job and I'm glad to let him do it. Just love my style of life and wouldn't change it for anything.

  • Susan300 profile image


    4 years ago

    Excellent topic! I remember when sewing was more than 'arts & crafts'.

  • colorfulone profile image

    Susie Lehto 

    4 years ago from Minnesota

    A very down to earth hub. I like handmade and homemade, fix it yourself down home living.

  • profile image

    Scott A McCray 

    4 years ago

    I'm another that's headed back to the land as soon as I can - I grew up on a small farm - gardening, canning, raising livestock, hunting, fishing. Can't wait to get back!

  • Ladymermaid profile image

    Lorelei Cohen 

    4 years ago from Canada

    We have a garden, fruit trees, and a ton of raspberry bushes spread throughout our backyard. I still do most of my baking and we logically have a lot of homemade apple dishes to use up our apples. Nice to see that you also have made the choice to live a bit old fashioned as well. You never know when the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE will make its appearance.

  • Brite-Ideas profile image

    Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

    4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    It's true, all these things were done by hand - funny how the world became so techie to save us time but we seem to have less of it! I miss the days of homemade pies and canning - it's time to make a pie!

  • Sierra Dawn Comer profile image

    Sierra Dawn Comer 

    4 years ago from Lomita, California

    I think you are most likely right about us Baby Boomers being the last to use these disappearing skills. An excellent article! I am in the middle of moving back to the farm where I can better use all of these skills.

  • profile image


    4 years ago

    Bravo! This article ticked a lot of boxes for me. I was a child in the 1950s, so there was more of a post-war 'make, make do, and mend' spirit then, particularly with clothes, making things for the home, and growing food. We in the West rely too much on buying cheap clothes from the Far East and disposing of them before they are hardly worn. This sort of demand leads to exploitation of the labour that make these clothes - manufacturers demand more output from underpaid workers, as the emphasis in these factories is on quantity at the lowest production cost.

  • BloNo Mom profile image


    4 years ago from Central Illinois, USA

    Great article!

    I try to do many things at home from scratch - I bake a lot, make home-cooked meals, make my own yogurt and kombucha, but I would much rather run out and buy a 6-pack of underwear than get out the needle and thread!

    I think that some "crafts" are experiencing a comeback, but there are some that will definitely be lost in time.

  • boutiqueshops profile image


    4 years ago from Corpus Christi, Texas

    I agree, it really is a shame that so many skills are being lost. I imagine that when the baby boomer generation is gone, the skills we learned from our parents will be lost. The generations that have come after us don't always seem interested in learning them - too much work, they say.


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