Friday, July 18, 2014

Thoughts About Timesavers

Before you get excited, no....this not a list of my favorite timesavers. And no photos either because I couldn't  come up with anything interesting. A photo of a lawnmower just didn't excite me. 

I came inside mid-afternoon to take a hot shower and start up the woodstove. I was thoroughly wet from being rained on while taking care of the animals and a bit chilled. Once the stove was roaring, I thought that a nice cup of mocha would be the thing to do, taking into consideration that I have a bit of a cold at the moment. While sitting and drinking my mocha I got to thinking. For the past 10+ years I've been attempting a less complicated lifestyle, more simple and basic. That included using less modern conveniences....less equipment and power tools, less commercially prepared foods (people and livestock). Those modern conveniences are all timesavers. And sometimes money savers too. 

Hummmm. Time. My time is quite occupied now. I seldom have time left over and never have time to get bored......or watch TV, which I don't happen to own. So wouldn't it make sense to use as many timesavers as possible? Well, my parents and grandparents thought so. They lusted after timesavers -- automatic clothes washing machines, self defrosting refrigerators, no-iron wrinkle free clothing, automatic dishwashers, commercial foods from the store and ready made meals, instant foods like coffee and oatmeal, floor scrubbers, power tools, cars (vs horse cart). Some were work savers, but some were more an issue of saving time. 

Timesavers come with a price. And for some people the price might seem worth it because of other value attached to them. I saw that my grandparents and parents considered timesavers to be status symbols. As a young child I often heard the stories...."Your uncle gave me a new Frigidaire for Christmas, the first on our block." "I had your uncle take the old wringer to the dump to make room for the Bendix (automatic clothes washer). We were the first house in the neighborhood to get a Bendix." But I bet buying those status symbols grieved my uncles, who had to work hard to earn the money to buy them.  Sure, that frig and washing machine were convenient, but pricey. My one uncle was a nurseryman, so I suspect that he had to plant more shrubs and trees, work longer hours, try to find more customers in order to pay the bill. The other uncle had a better job but had to work overtime for extra cash. But status was important to both of them. More important than free time obviously. 

My parents saw timesavers as must-haves. They must have scraped together pennies to save for the next item (or the pay off the Sears credit card). Not just status symbols, they were actual timesavers, freeing them up to do more work. Rather than using the new found free time to relax or enjoy life with a hobby or something, those items just created a compulsive work ethic in my parents. My parents took only two real vacations during their lifetimes, and took maybe only 6 weekends off a year. Buying timesavers caused my parents to have to work harder to earn the money to pay off the debt that last one caused so that they could then go out and buy the next. Though they didn't see it this way, they had become slaves to their timesavers. 

To make things worse, timesavers just didn't cost the initial purchase price. They often broke and needed repairs. My parents, as with most people, never factored that into the equation and were always stressed out if something brokedown. So for them, their timesavers caused stress, worry, frustration, grief. 

What I see with my own life, and when I look around at other people, I notice that people cannot break away from their time saving devices. Either they don't want to or if they do, they don't know how. Get this, I've talked with young people who can't cook food without a microwave! They simply don't know how. Certain timesavers are now such a part of our culture and lifestyle that people no longer can function without them. The know-how just isn't there. I found that to be true when I started to shift to a homestead style life. I had to rediscover or research how to do things without resorting to the very methods I was shunning. 

I have no intention of ditching all the tools and other timesavers. But I have become selective on which ones I'll keep. Over time I've noticed at I'm abandoning more of them as I'm getting comfortable with my simpler lifestyle. No automatic dishwasher. I have a microwave but it seldom ever gets used. I use an automatic clothes washer but often hand wash smalls. For example, I go through 3 pairs of socks in the typical day. It's simple to hand wash them for a week before dropping them into the machine with the rest of the wash. I don't use a toaster and got around that by kicking the toast & jam habit. There's a lot of other kitchen timers savers I don't use because we both opted to change our diet. 

Timesaving building tools I'm not willing to give up. I'm not interested in hand drilling holes or hand sawing wood. But I do operate the farm without a tractor, backhoe, or other heavy equipment. It takes me longer but it's the kind of work I enjoy now. Hubby has often offered to hire a backhoe, but by using that timesaver I'd miss out on the close feeling to nature that I get while working my land. 

Thinking about it, I don't want to go back to ironing my clothes either. I never use an iron anymore. I'm very willing to live without a clothes dryer, but I like the modern fabrics that allow me to just take the clothes from the drying line and wear them. I have no issues with taking the time to hang the clothes out and then retrieve them when dry.

We seldom use a vacuum cleaner, both of us preferring a broom. All carpeting was ditched because of the mold problem in my climate so all our floors are either tile or wood. A hair dryer would get my hair dry faster, but I really don't need it., so I don't use one. A self defrosting refrigerator isn't worth the cost to us, so we use Stecas which are your basic sort of frig and freezer that need defrosting once a month.

Commercial livestock feed is a big, big time saver. I never thought about that until I started creating my own livestock feed. Boy, a LOT of time can be spent feeding animals. So I can understand why most people will never break away from commercial feed. But growing and gathering my own livestock feed was one of my projects, so I accept the time factor. But I do resort to using some commercial feed when time is short, especially on shopping days or when we take time out to hike, hit the beach, or visit with friends. Home-feeding livestock is one of those things that I know how to do, and could do it 100% if I had to, but commercial feed is a timesaver that I'm willing to embrace and pay for in certain circumstances. I find though that I have to be careful. It's so easy to dump feed out of a bag that it's tempting to do it daily. I have to remind myself that this homestead lifestyle isn't about being enslaved to the feed mill. 

Commercial human food is another big, big timesaver. Making all one's meals from scratch is very time intensive, especially if one is growing all the basics. Using store bought food is much quicker. Using "instant" food is even faster -- microwave meals, heat-n-eat meals, ready made foods, instant coffee, etc. But they come with some hefty cost. Not just the money, but all the chemicals, preservatives, contaminations. For us, they are no longer worth it. No time saving food resides in our house. And since we seldom eat bread anymore, I've ditched the bread buying habit too. 

I suppose it comes down to what we are willing to pay and whether we prefer the idea of doing it the old-fashioned way. Perhaps I can't accomplish as much in a day as I could, but I no longer see the need to. I truely enjoy the do-it-yourself old fashioned ways. 

I don't shun all timesavers. In fact I've proven to embrace a few with gusto. The riding lawnmower and ATV come to mind. But there's plenty that no longer fit in my life. 

I would prefer to slow down even more in the transportation department, but it is impossible here. I would truly like to use a pony or horse cart, or ride my horse to go visiting friends. Alas there is no way safe to travel here by horse, at least not from my homestead location. 

For some reason abandoning many of the time saving modern conveniences has been good for me. I voluntarily stopped wanting them, which is different from wanting but not being able to afford them, to be sure. But the mindset of downgrading to a more basic life has not only been acceptable in my viewpoint, but actually preferred. 


  1. Very interesting post. I think about timesavers a lot too. I've concluded that much of what we think we need is out of habit. When I put all the kitchen hand tools in a convenient spot, it was easier to reach for them than pull out an electric tool. Plus clean-up is simpler!

    I think some folks don't appreciate the satisfaction of physical work. What amazes me, is that folks will spend money on all those time saving gadgets, then go buy a membership to the gym so they can get some exercise. I'd much rather get my exercise from jobs we do on the homestead.

    I hear you about commercial animal feed. This is something I am working toward getting away from. So true about the amount of work to grow and prepare it! And then there's space needed to store it! But my packaged feed options are very limited and I can't think commercial animal feed is any better than commercial human food.

    So now I'm looking for posts from you on DIY animal feeds!

  2. This post resonates with me. For various health reasons I've had to slow life down considerably. I no longer need to use the 'time-saving' devices I relied upon previously to fit more activities into my work day and subsequently recover from all those activities. The strange and wonderful thing is that I find myself with more time - not less. There is such a peacefulness to it that I don't resent doing without. It's quite lovely.

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one enjoying this experience. Most folks look at one askance!