What makes your life easier?

When exactly did life become so difficult for the majority of people we know?  I can walk backwards in time and see how experiences are changing how we view the world. When it comes to our expectations for adulthood the changes have been extraordinary.  We are being told we need to have XYZ to be happy.  Do we really?

 

Recently I have been spending time with a neighbor who is approximately 20 years older than I am.  While I grew up in the city, she grew up on a farm.  The stories she has shared with me have made me wonder why we ever allowed life to get so complicated when it should have gotten easier and less complicated.

Listening to my neighbor’s memories brought back a few I had forgotten.  One experience was especially telling for me.  I was a single mom with two small children.  I needed a babysitter I could trust while I attended college classes.  The woman I had the best connection to was a woman from the Philippines who had children of her own.

My sitter, being relatively new to the states, was blown away by what I owned and how easy she believed my life to be.  Seriously?  I felt stressed and near the breaking point many days.  I felt like a juggler who had all these balls in the air and can’t lose his concentration or they would all come tumbling down. How could she see my life as easy?

We became fast friends, the two of us, and I quickly began to see my life through her eyes.

  • She had never had a washing machine and used the bathtub to wash her clothes.  She asked me one day how my clothes came out so bright as hers were dulling.  The pollution in our city wasn’t as easy to clean out of the clothes in a bathtub.  Here I was complaining about needing to do laundry after the kids were in bed, when all I did was toss them in a machine and she got on  her knees to scrub hers.
  • Prepared baby food, disposable wipes and diapers had her stymied.  She had  never used a disposable diaper before and had prepared all her babies’ food from scratch.  One day I came home to see my baby son bare bottom in the kitchen sink where she was rinsing his bottom with water.  When I asked her why she was doing this she replied that she didn’t trust my baby wipes as they had soap in them and would leave a residue on his skin.  She used the wipes because she thought I wanted her too, but then rinsed his bottom before diapering him at each changing. I had never previously thought about what might be in those wipes  I  had been using on my infant son since birth.  I quickly changed to rags to clean him up to her satisfaction and savings on my wallet.
  • She refused to use my microwave, telling me she didn’t trust them.  Anything that cooked food in an unnatural way couldn’t be good for the food and she wouldn’t feed my children food cooked in it.  She would only cook food on a stove. I rarely used the microwave except to reheat foods, but now began to question the safety of this appliance.
  • I would come home to find she was  bored and was scrubbing my kitchen floor with a rag and bucket of water (I insisted I only hired her to care for my children).  She said she wasn’t used to having life so easy and wanted to help me.  I asked why she didn’t use the mop if she was insistent on helping me,  her answer was that a mop couldn’t do as good a job as a hand using a cloth could.

I could go on, but the point is I learned a lot about how I was living and how easy I did in fact have it.  The question I was left with was “What in the world was I doing with all the time I was saving from the lifestyle of having machines that could do all the work she did by hand all her life”?

I finally saw that I was working myself crazy to buy all these things I was now conditioned to believe I needed to run my household.  I didn’t need the TV, cable, VHS player, microwave, disposable diapers, wipes, and on and on. I also began to question the other cleaning products I used, and found simpler and less expensive healthier alternatives.

I began to make little changes, no I didn’t get rid of the bigger purchases then like the TV and I was never going to wash my clothes in a tub.  But I quit using disposable dishes, instant baby food.  I actually didn’t need a phone and got rid of that along with the cable.  I saw a huge savings in money and could spend less time trying to earn the money for these things and more time playing with my children.

We don’t have to get rid of the things that make our life easier, but we do need to realize which things make our life better and which simply are unnecessary in making our life better.  Since that time I have grown and given up much more.  Yes technology can contribute to a better way of life.  I own a computer with internet access in my home,  I own 3 lamps, and a fan for summer days that feel uncomfortable without it.  I own a couple of appliance like my slow cooker and blender and I own a cell phone today. Of course, I still own my car which I now only use when I need to go out-of-town to visit my son and his family.

What I don’t own any longer is a TV, and the stuff that goes with that, or  a microwave.  I share my a washer and dryer with my neighbors so I no longer need town my own. I have cut my expenses down to the point that I now the exact amount I need to earn on a daily basis ($20) to pay for my basic necessities and a little left over for a splurge now and then.  By doing this I only have to work an hour or two per day and can set my own hours which makes my life even nicer.

What do you own that doesn’t contribute to bettering your life?  Was there something you got rid of to make your life better?

 

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6 comments

  1. I love this post. I want to marry it and have it’s children I love it so much!

    “What in the world was I doing with all the time I was saving from the lifestyle of having machines that could do all the work she did by hand all her life”? – That indeed is the question. And I think that for so many people the answer is they’re working their rear ends off to pay for it all, and then collapsing in a heap in front of the television because they’re so exhausted from working all the time!

    I mean, I think back to when I was a kid in the 1970’s… we had one telephone that hung on the kitchen wall. There were no answering machines – if you weren’t home people just had to call back… and there was no expectation that everybody would be available for whatever the world wanted from them 24/7. Plus, we had no VCR or microwave, or clothes drier, or dishwasher, or computer, or internet, and television was 5 channels that went off the air at midnight.

    I could go on and on… I just think we pay such a HUGE price for all of our “conveniences,” and don’t even get me started on the other things we’ve all been tricked into believing that we “need” in order to “fit in” to this crazy society of ours.

    BTW – I am totally impressed by your $20/day breakeven point – mine’s about $60. It will go down significantly next year when the mortgage is paid off, and if the health care reform law doesn’t get overturned, it will get even better. Aside from all that, my cats are my biggest expense (probably nearing $10/day just for them.) Now, if only I could get them to pull their own weight around here! 🙂

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    • Yes, my childhood was similar. We had one “corded phone”,and were still on a party line (can you imagine people today having to share a phone with 3 other households?), one TV, but only 3 channels. Once things went into reruns we didn’t bother to turn it on, unless we wanted to catch one we missed. I actually forgot about the channels going off the air at midnight but you are right they did. We did have a clothes dryer but still used the line outside when weather was good.

      I don’t have a mortgage, but then again knowing your home will be paid off soon you will be in a much more secure place than I am. I spent a lot of time considering the pros and cons and finally decided renting made more sense for me.

      I don’t have any pets, while this is a pet friendly building, we have to pay $600 deposit per pet, but I do miss having a dog. Let me know if you find a way to get your cats to pull their own weight 🙂

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  2. I’m going to have to figure out my break even point now. I know it won’t be as impressive as yours though. We live pretty simply, but the mortgage blows it out of the water. I hope to have it gone in the next couple of years though.

    I admit to liking the is dishwasher and washing machine, but never understood disposable stuff. We used cloths to wipe baby bums, cloths for cleaning, etc. the microwave was bought at a yard sale for $5 and gets used foe defrosting. I could probably live without it without any loss.

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    • There is no way my daily breakdown could be so low if my children were still living at home, that makes a huge difference. When I wanted to work from home, self employed, seeing how much I needed to make for the month scared me so I began to break it down to weekly and then finally daily. Once I saw how little I needed I was no longer afraid of starting my own business, it actually made it seem easy to know how little I needed daily. If I hadn’t done that I know I would have become obsessive about working most of my day away in fear I wouldn’t have enough, I tend to be OCD.

      I never got the hang of a dishwasher the few years I had one and gave up. I was good about loading it, but horrible about unloading it. So my kitchen was messier because I had dirty dishes waiting to go into the dishwasher frequently. I actually don’t mind hand washing dishes, it’s what I grew up knowing.

      As for the microwave, when all I did was heat a cup of water in it, it became an albatross on my counter and I wanted it gone!

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    • I would desperately miss my washing machine, but I share the one I use with 15 other apartments. It’s good to see more people deciding against owning every gadget out there. The one gadget I have learned to love is my smart phone. It has replaced, my clock, camera, video camera, paper calender, and even paper for grocery lists and the like. When a gadget makes life easier and can replace having other gadgets then it’s worth it to me.

      Like

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