I love that we have the choice of running water, we can watch funny things on TV, and with the press of 3 buttons our laundry does itself and comes out fresh and clean (sometimes). I love flushing the toilet and being able to stock my pantry with a few shopping trips at stores filled with pretty jars and brightly colored boxes. And the vacuum, God bless it, let us not forget the vacuum.
I’ve added a few other items to my life to bring some modern ease into my domestic duties; a bread maker from the Hospice thrift and…hum, well I guess that is it. I did get a handheld milk frother but that isn’t so modern. I guess when held up to say a Nescafe Dolce Gusto, it seems victorian.
I once dreamt of owning a Dolce Gusto coffee and latte machine. I had it on my Christmas list. With Christmas, my husband and I don’t get each other gifts. We indulge the children and I make candy and cookies for neighbors and friends. I cook for family as their gift. But this is a magical time that I adore and I usually grant myself a wish or two as a Christmas gift to myself. It is usually an item to decorate the home to make it more charming like a lovely quilt for the family bed or a kitchen gadget to bring more joy into the adults lives like a stovetop Italian espresso maker. I think that is fair and fine.
I love old fashioned things to use in my house. I use them mostly to force me to slow down and be present when cleaning or cooking. I learned this from the Amish. Not that I’ve ever been around them but I’ve read enough Amish fiction and philosophy to get what they are working at. A connection and communion with the Creator, Spirit. You must slow down and get very quiet to hear that the Universe has to share.
I percolate my coffee on the stove to smell the aroma waft through the house in the morning and I use a wooden broom to sweep my wooden floors. That was inspired by Tibetan monks. Don’t ask.
Modern technology was meant to make life easier but people are so busy now. Busier than an 1800’s farmer. They at least slowed down in the winter. Most people cram jam as much into a day and week and monthly schedule as possible. And most people are using liquor or pills to calm down. Interesting, right?
Why not mimic some of farmer grandma’s ways? Let’s take some of great grandma’s frugality and thrift from the Depression Era. Then borrow a little 1950’s housewife scheduling and work, add modern tools and voila!! You have a balanced, cozy, pleasant life.
Farmers used to go with the seasons. Maybe they still do but I read about the old days often so I don’t know what farm life is like today. I would think they went by the natural days light and each season had its specific chores and routines. They worked hard but all the work was for their family, their farms, their land, their homes. They worked long hours when it called for it and had slow days in between. Although the farmer’s work is ongoing and can be grueling, it is also natural. Farm work is done with the hands, takes focus and being in tune with the flow of seasons and the needs of creatures that depend on them, and it’s mostly outdoors in nature with sunshine, fresh air, and the domestic and wild critters. No long days under fluorescent lighting and ringing phones and instant messages, and constant dinging cell phones. The commute is to the barn, to the fields, back to the barn, to the house and repeat.
Depression Era, now here is a subject that has fascinated me lately. I had a book suggested to me ( We Had Everything But Money) that changed my whole perspective on what we really need and how to live simply to survive any financial crisis…or to just have a peaceful existence and not be a slave to money. You learn to wisely work with the money to best have it serve the families needs.
Depression Era homemakers were shrewd, wise, creative. They learned to work with very little, repurpose everything and anything that came into their home and how to be sustainable and resourceful. They made dresses from flour and sugar sacks, had kitchen gardens instead of lawns, and knew how to can any food imaginable. They made every penny count and wasted nothing. They were living greener than anyone in this day and age.
The 1950’s housewife was still making things from scratch and hand cranking the laundry but life was getting easier with washing machines, supermarkets, and vacuums. Now she didn’t need the kitchen garden and canning was already done at the factory. It was new gadgets and a car in the driveway. However, there was still a woman in the home and a focus on tending to the running of it and the care of the family.
Now we have everyone at work and school, after-school activities, long nights at the office, longer commutes, sports and extracurricular classes for the kids, quotas to meet, standardized testing, hours of homework, bringing work home…how depressing just thinking of it.
People were driven by simple living and dreams, family and faith. Now they are driven by money, pride, greed, a desire for titles, raises, promotions, and success.
Children are being driven beyond breaking and literally crazy by the pressure. I was reading in Free to Learn by Peter Gray, that suicides have quadrupled since the ’50s amongst children under 15 years old. And yet we still keep increasing the hours at school and homework and now most kids study during the summer. There is no play, no relaxing, no being a child.
And adults…where do I start? There is definitely not much fun or time for much of anything outside the job work and housework and running errands and taking the kids around to forced classes. And it is all for what in the end?
If you wound up on your death bed tomorrow, what would you think of this life? Would you still be thinking of the files on your desk at work and the laundry? Or would you luxuriate in sweet thoughts of the last few days with your family and playing in your garden or baking sweet bread in your kitchen?
All this hustle and bustle is for kids to get into that college and for us to get that raise or promotion. Then there is the desire for more money. But when is it enough and where do we stop and say, “that is just about right”. We don’t. We want more and more and more.
I see it on YouTube where I live part time myself with my vlog and researching canning and homesteading. Some vloggers are very successful but the more successful they become the fancier and fandangled they get and the YouTubers start selling things and promoting companies that sponsor them…even though they are making more than enough and talking about sustainability and simple living. Ha! We get greedy, it’s in our cells. We are hunters and gatherers by heart and we just keep collecting, consuming, gathering, pushing…
I was getting a bit driven myself and became irritable and didn’t have that much time for my children and play. Play? what is that, good Lord?
Then I deleted all my social media. Ahhh…that felt nice and a cool breeze swept through the valley. Then I stopped writing books at my corporate pace. I stopped forcing things and setting goals. I took up colored pens and filled the kiddie pool. I’m baking more bread, purging the house of clutter because I’m tired of cleaning and organizing “stuff”. Have I completely changed my life? No. I’m still figuring it out because I have been on a hampster wheel myself with working and producing.
But what is helping me find that sweet spot is my memories of our lives in Walnut Grove, when we lived on a fruit farm by the river. We had just moved there from our community by the coast and it was isolated. The town had less than 800 citizens and four miles away. The large town was a 40-minute drive if you wanted to purchase groceries or shop at Walmart or any super store. My husband worked long hours and six days a week. We had one car and walking anywhere was out of the question. The river road had no sidewalk and people drove wild and fast. The only place to walk was around the alfalfa fields or through the orchards. Trips to town were planned once a week. All my friends and family lived hours away now and I only had one elder named Alice to keep me company and help me adjust to life in a pear orchard and scorching hot days.
Alice and my family along with a vacation house for the owners of the farm were the only houses there. We listened to the thick chirp and chatter of birds in the morning and the howls and calls of coyote at night.
It was lonely but one of the most peaceful and pleasant times of our lives. I had small children that required nothing more than lots of love, nursing, and me sitting nearby as they played with sand toys and blocks. We had an antenna but didn’t watch much TV. We just had these slow days of hanging out. The babies played and explored with me just there to make sure they didn’t get into dangerous situations or eat too much sand and I read stacks of Amish fiction, made casseroles, baked treats, hung my clothes on the old clotheslines, and cleaned my home.
On a farm, you feel the full seasons. In the summer you have routines to keep the house cool such as opening and closing blinds with the suns direction, running the whole house fan, and doing chores early and taking walks in the evening. In the winter you get up early to build a fire to warm the house and you bake and cook a lot to keep the house warm. You rise with the sun naturally and go to bed soon after the sunset and cleaning the kitchen. You learn what fruits are in season when and pick them at the peak of ripeness. You only go to town once a week and you make it count.
I wasn’t working on a writing career or any other side work back then. I was just tending to my house and family and I had all the time in the world to read luxuriously under our huge olive tree. We used to take drives through the country and farms to explore our area in the summer evenings. Friends loved to visit because it was so calm and quiet. We would lounge about eating good foods and talking endlessly.
Today I’m busy by my own making of goals and challenges and the boys are bigger and full of energy. We have gardens and homeschooling. But I crave that slower life once again. So, I’m on a quest to downsize and remove all that isn’t bringing this family enjoyment or enhancing the quality of our lives. I purposely buy gadgets that slow the pace and I do things by hand or make food from scratch.
My suggestion is to clear the calendar, clear out the clutter, clear that schedule, try to reduce work so there are times you put in a long day and times you sit about reading all day. Find ways and reasons to work and play outside. All that cement and fluorescent lighting aren’t good for the soul. Stop signing your kids up for all those classes. What will make them smarter, happier, healthier, and more confident is having time to be children, to play freely and if you would just let them be.
As for you the working parent or homemaker…find ways to simplify and learn to savor life. Plant a kitchen garden, start making your own bread, take time to learn sewing or painting, can jam. These things are like a balm to the soul.
Rates of suicides amongst children and rates of depression and stress-induced death amongst adults are rising faster every year. It is a serious thing and it is self-induced to keep up with the trends and chase the almighty dollar. No title, no promotion, no amount of money will be worth all the lost years with family and friends, with your children…with yourself. Take back your life, scale down life to something small and delicious and find ways to save money and live smaller by growing your own food, canning, mending clothes, living under your means, having one car, getting rid of cable and whatever else to bring down the bills.
Trust me, the less you have the more you thrive if done wisely.