30 Old School Life Skills That are Making a Comeback
People are seeking simpler times and are learning vintage skills to do so. These old school life skills are making a comeback.
Home Beer Brewing
As craft beer grew in popularity, people decided to try making their own, at home. Now more than 1.2 million Americans are adding home beer brewing as one of the life skills on their list, according to the American Homebrewers Association.
There was a 24-percent increase in the sale of beginner homebrew equipment kits in 2013 alone. The Independent reports that many DIY brewers who started with these kits in their basement have transformed their operations into thriving businesses.
Gardening and Growing Your Own Food
More and more people want to know where their food comes from and what’s in it. That’s why growing your own food and community gardens are among the life skills that are making a big comeback. A report by the National Gardening Association found that one in three households are growing food, creating the highest participation and spending levels the U.S. has seen in decades. The biggest increases were among millennials aged 18 to 34.
One of the life skills more and more people are opting to learn is how to “live off-the-grid” or with less reliance on local utility companies. But off-the-grid living looks a lot different than it did in the past. People aren’t forgoing lighting or other modern amenities. Instead, they are powering their homes with sustainable energy, like solar and battery power, as well as making the most of rainwater. Solar capacity quadrupled in the U.S. between 2010 and 2014. CNBC says living off-the-grid will become even easier in the coming decades.
Sometimes you don’t need to grow your own food because nature provides it all on its own. That’s why foraging, the act of finding wild food sources in your own area, is making a comeback. Marie Viljoen is an urban forager who finds food and spices like spicebush, chokeberries, and field garlic near her New York City home. Lots of people like Viljoen are taking classes and studying online to learn how to safely identify local foods that can be eaten.
Beekeeping is among the life skills that have been on the rise in the past few years, even in urban areas like Los Angeles and New York City. People have picked up an interest in beekeeping for different reasons, according to PBS News Hour Weekend. Some want to harvest their own honey, while others are hoping they can help preserve bee colonies that are critical to agricultural production.
The New York Times reports that soap-making began as a “housewifely” chore before you could buy soap at the grocery store. How times change. Now you can even find the handmade variety at the grocery store!
Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild Executive Director Leigh O’Donnell told the news outlet that soap-making is one of the life skills that are on the rise. There are more than 300,000 soap-making businesses in the U.S. and that number is growing.
Spreading delicious jam on your morning toast makes it so much better. But the stuff we buy from the store can be filled with nasty chemicals. That’s why lots of people are opting to make their own jam. Thanks to the internet, there are endless recipes that show us how to do this.
Life skills like canning and pickling are making vendors big hits at local farmers markets. Lots of people are saying “We can pickle that!“, according to data from Pinterest which show that saves for pickle recipes in 2018 were up 114 percent year over year. And people aren’t just pickling cucumbers, you can pickle all sorts of vegetables.
Knitting and Crocheting
Knitting and crocheting used to be vital life skills needed to clothe families. Now people do it just for fun, to make trendy clothing items or to sell their wares online and at flea markets. Waejong King, the owner of knitwear and the DIY brand Loopy Mango, told WWD.com that while these handcrafting skills may have skipped a generation, they have boomed in recent years.
Thrifting and Looking for Deals
Thrifty shopping (thrifting) and sniffing out deals are life skills that are back in vogue. Websites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are making it a lot easier for people to buy important household items, like appliances and furniture, for less.
Wearing hand-me-downs used to be shameful for most young people. Now it’s trendy! The Christian Science Monitor reports that millennials are driving the re-sale clothing boom to save a buck and help the environment.
A straight razor was once the only shave a man could get. But, men eventually forgot how to use straight razors when plastic disposable ones were introduced. Fast-forward and now lots of men are opting for old-fashioned shaves, whether it’s at the barbershop or in their own homes. The art of shaving is returning as more men watch YouTube videos to perfect their shaving skills and more stores are carrying bar shaving soap, straight razors and shaving brushes.
It might be the popularity of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but these shows may have contributed to the resurrection of some seemingly outdated life skills. People are watching YouTube videos, taking classes online and becoming apprentices to learn how to become blacksmiths. Instead of making practical tools, today’s hobby blacksmiths can be found making movie replicas of weapons and armor.
Walking and Cycling to Get Places
In a world where people are increasingly concerned about the environment and carbon emissions, relying on your legs instead of a car has become a life skill. More and more people are walking and riding bikes in order to get around in big cities and municipalities are installing bike lanes to accommodate this. Wired reports that 84 percent of the 70 largest cities have seen an upward tick in cycle commute trends in the last 12 years.
Digital cameras made it a lot easier for photographers to do their jobs. But more and more of photographers are opting to go back to the old ways of printing on film. Kodak Alaris (the firm that bought Kodak’s film segments) told Time that it has seen its film sales increase over the last two to three years as professional photographers fall in love with the vintage art form.
Calligraphy is an ancient art form that lost its way over the years. But thanks to Instagram and celebrities like Meghan Markle, it’s making a comeback. The rhythm and movement of calligraphy captivates millions of social media users who find it “mesmerizing” and “satisfying.” So much so that they are learning the skill themselves.
The do-it-yourself craze has spurred people to get back in the woodshop. Life skills like woodworking are being passed down through generations so that people can boast of creations they made with their own two hands. Hobbyist artisans are making their own tables, chairs and bookshelves. They’re also finding a market to sell their wares on sites like Etsy and Facebook Marketplace.
Snail mail has gone by the wayside with the advent of email. But people are starting to miss that special feeling of receiving a handwritten letter or postcard in the mail. More people are handwriting letters to offer that personal and sentimental touch letter writing offers.
People are sick of paying high prices for low-quality designs and fabrics that don’t even fit right. That’s why sewing is one of the life skills that is making a major comeback. DIYers are making their own clothing from high-end materials that will last longer and fit better. Modern sewers are inspired by sewers on Instagram and buying trendy patterns and gorgeous fabrics online at places like Indiesew.
Taxidermy is one of the more, let’s say “scientific,” ancient life skills that’s making a comeback. But, today’s taxidermists engage in what is described as “ethical taxidermy,” according to HowDoYouScience.org. Instead of specifically killing animals to stuff and put on display, these folks will only use specimens that have died of natural or accidental causes.
Midwifery is among the life skills that are in big demand these days as women are opting for more traditional and less-expensive at-home births. Lots of women are looking to provide services as midwives and doulas. An editorial in Scientific American argues that more midwives are needed in the U.S. where mortality rates for infants and women are much higher than in other wealthy countries. A study edited by the University of Rochester suggests that the integration of midwives into the American healthcare system could significantly improve these rates.
The internet is largely responsible for re-popularizing butchery, according to Farmers Guardian. Photos of savory meat cuts are inundating Twitter and Instagram as places to buy quality cuts are popping up all over the country and online. People also want to know how their meat is produced and what goes into the process and are inspired to take up the craft themselves.
Now that woodworking has come back into fashion, it only makes sense that chair caning is one of the life skills that is also on the rise. This beautiful handwoven technique can be learned all over the internet.
At one point in time, all babies were breastfed. Then formula was invented. Now women are returning to this ancient means of feeding their children which experts say is far healthier for babies than formula. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more women in the U.S. are breastfeeding their babies and for longer periods of time.
Instagram is full of photos of stunning embroidered works of art. Embroidery is among the life skills that are coming back big-time. But, this isn’t your grandma’s embroidery! You’ll find embroidered scenes from beloved pop culture phenomenons like Harry Potter, potty-mouthed sayings and modern geometric designs.
Basket weaving was once among the life skills that helped communities survive and thrive. Now, people all over the world are looking to bring back this beautiful art form. Amateur basket weavers are popping up all over Instagram, while companies like Songa Designs are hiring basket weavers in Rwanda to create jobs in under-resourced countries.
According to MakeSupply, leatherworking is “… a blend of physical and mental focus that is unique. It’s both artistic and industrious requiring strength and finesse.” And, because many people are interested in knowing where their leathergoods come from, making their own belts and purses allows them to research the source of the leather. That’s why leatherworking is among the life skills making a comeback.
Composting is among the more ancient life skills making a comeback and is believed to have its origins in the Mesopotamian Valley. Food composting rose from 1.84 million tons in 2013 to 2.1 million tons in 2015 as peoples’ desire to protect the environment and grow organic has increased.
Block and Letterpress Printing
Computers made it a lot easier for documents, designs and fabrics to be printed. But, there’s a beauty in the old-school art form of printing. That’s why artisans are returning to the old ways of using block printing (shown here), as well as letter pressing, in their designs and work. Profits from Ichcha‘s block-print scarves and curtains go right back into local communities in India. Wired explains the resurrecting of letterpress printing here.
Cooking healthy meals is among the most important and basic of life skills. More and more Americans are opting to save some money and cook at home instead of eating out. A study by NPD Group Inc. found that 82 percent of American meals are prepared at home which is a lot more than were cooked at home just 10 years ago. While Americans dined out approximately 216 times a year in 2000 that number fell to 185 meals per year in 2018.
Map making has become an increasingly sought after skill. The number of people earning master’s degrees in cartography soared between 2007 and 2015 by more than 40 percent, according to Wired. The demand for cartographers is expected to grow by 30 percent by 2024. This is because of all the new technologies, like UberPool and Waze, that rely on cartography which is another among the ancient life skills that are making a comeback.