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Trading in Pieces of the Modern Life

May 10, 2008

Mysti recently posted about appliances and amenities that she would give up in order to decrease consumption. I think this is an excellent topic and one that deserves serious thought. As such, I’ve been contemplating it over the past two days and thinking as I am showering or hanging my laundry or walking on errands, of how things have changed in my own life in the past couple of years, how it has changed our quality of life and what other changes we can make. The simple fact is that we use too much and consume too much in our Western lives. Sure, we are more comfortable and all these measures save time, but to what end? Do we work 60 hours per week so that we can afford all these modern conveniences that save us 40 hours? I don’t know that it’s such a great trade off. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy many of our modern conveniences but I also think there’s a beauty and simplicity, a natural peace and rhythm to doing without some things.

Here is a list of the modern conveniences that we have and that most people have and take for granted:

  • Furnace/central heating
  • Air conditioning
  • Computer
  • TV
  • Car
  • Dishwasher
  • Refrigerator
  • Stove/oven
  • Clothes washer
  • Dryer
  • Microwave
  • Hot water heater
  • Electric lights
  • Toilet
  • Freezer

Furnace-I would be more than happy to give up my furnace and central heating for a wood stove. When we have discussed building our dream home, it has always included a masonry stove for whole house heating and not a gas furnace or electric heat. I am also very interested in geothermal heating and high efficiency wood furnaces. If one utilizes a wood stove for heating, it can also be a primary heat source for cooking.

Air Conditioning-We have a window unit in our living room that we installed the summer before last, at my husband’s insistence. I admit that it is nice to have a cooler room, but I could live without it. We don’t get prolonged periods of intense heat here, so it is certainly an amenity.

Computer-This is something that I wouldn’t want to do without. It is my primary form of communication and I also learn a lot from it. I’m always researching and it’s is an invaluable resource to me.

TV-I enjoy the TV. We Tivo many things and it is something that I would certainly give up if I had to, but it wouldn’t be the first on my list. I’d actually rather give up my washing machine or dishwasher.

Car-I’d give up regular use of my car, I’d still like to have it for longer trips. I’ve cut down our use significantly in the past month or so. The girls and I have been walking on many of our errands. The price of gas is getting too high, too quickly to drive unnecessarily. I’d really like to switch to a smaller, more economical vehicle, but it isn’t in the budget right now and hubby is also worried about me driving a smaller car in heavy traffic.

Dishwasher-Really like it, but could give it up without much pain.

Refrigerator-I would have a difficult time giving this up.

Stove/oven-I would have difficulty giving this up without a wood stove as an alternative. I cook and bake a lot.

Clothes washer-Strangely, Becca at Diary of a New Old-Fashioned Gal, just posted about the last washboard company in the US, this week. I looked at their website and considered buying a washboard. They are very reasonably priced and you never know when they might come in handy. Since starting to hang much of our laundry on the clothesline to dry, I could actually see doing this. I really don’t think that it would be as difficult as one might imagine. Not that it isn’t hard, but when you start to be more deliberate in your actions, you examine circumstances. Is this shirt really dirty? Does it need to be laundered? Many times I find that the answer is no. We throw things in the hamper out of habit or laziness. It is frequently easier to throw it in the hamper than it is to hang it back up or fold it and put it away.

Dryer-It is nice for smaller items like cloth wipes and socks, but it’s not necessary. I wouldn’t have a difficult time giving it up.

Microwave-I could give this up easily.

Hot water heater-I’d not want to give this up, but I could give up my gas hot water heater for a solar one.

Electric lights-This would probably be one of the last things that I would have on my list of things I’d give up. I’m a night person, so lights kind of come in handy.

Toilets-I’ve seriously tried to talk Lawrence into installing composting toilets. We have friends who are experimenting with humanure and I find it fascinating. We kind of have the “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” rule here.

Freezer-I would have a difficult time giving this up. It enables us to buy pastured meat affordably in bulk and store it long term. I also store locally picked fruits and veggies this way. This wouldn’t be on my list to give up.

The biggest change that I’ve made in giving things up has been in the past couple of months, that’s when I started hanging 2/3 (or more) of our laundry to dry on our basement clothesline. We have also started walking much more. There’s something wonderful and refreshing about using our body and mind to do something that can be done so mindlessly by a machine (either the dryer or our van). I consider it organic exercise and I’m seeking ways to incorporate more of it into my life. If I can do that, I can forget about my hated elliptical machine.

What would you all give up? What do you think you couldn’t live without? If you post on your blog, would you let me know in the comments? I’d be interested to see everyone’s thoughts.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve and Paula permalink
    May 10, 2008 10:06 pm

    I put together a list.
    Thanks for encouraging others to do one.

  2. Evelyn permalink
    May 11, 2008 12:22 pm

    I think all we have done to ourselves with all of our so called modern coveniences, is make things harder on ourselves so we can work more to get all of them. I too would much rather have a simpler life. I would love to be able to walk to do some of my errand or ride my bike. I do ride my bike over to Laura’s part of the time rather than always driving there. It depends on rather some of our neighbors have their dogs inside the fences where they are supposed to be. I had one run after me on my bike and try to get my foot.

    I never have been one to have all of the latest things. Not just because we can’t always afford it, but i think it is pointless. My happiness is not to be found in “things”. I am happier with the simpler things in life. I love your post and hope it makes more people think about this.

  3. Mysti permalink
    May 11, 2008 1:39 pm

    Lisa~ Fantastic post! The more I think about it, the worse modern amenities are. They are wonderful to an extent but they also leave us lazy. If they are doing the majority of the work for us, how can we really appreciate it all? Teenager and I have talked a lot about it. There was a time when letters were treasured, homemade gifts and toys were special (because it took time, energy, and love to make – not a credit card and batteries) and clothing was treated special because they had to be custom made. We are a wasteful society today and we have completely lost sight of what it means to have things rather than just WANT things. Life was tougher, yes, but would we really know HOW tough if modern conveniences hadn’t been invented? If we were still washing clothes by hand, we wouldn’t know the difference.

    Go over to Wendy’s place ( and let her know you’ve posted your list. She’s the one who really got me thinking. 🙂

  4. Lisa permalink
    May 12, 2008 6:39 pm

    Paula-I enjoyed reading your list as well.

    Mom-I probably inherited your sensibility.

    Mysti-I think you hit the nail on the head.

    I am lucky to have a rather unique perspective. My hubby grew up in a tiny town in Europe and he remembers having an ice box, his job was chipping the ice block. He also remembers going to get shoes fitted and made. They got one pair of leather shoes and they were valued, because they were so special. He’s not that old either! (Mid-40’s) Clothes were mended instead of replaced. I used to laugh at him, but now, I really appreciate the access to his memories and his support and willingness to go along with my “crazy” ideas and changes.

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