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?