What Did You Do Before All This? (Considering Modern Conveniences)

What did you do before….

dishwashers? I bet you washed your dishes by hand. I still do, even with a dishwasher available.

washers and dryers? You probably washed your clothes by hand and hung them up on the line to dry. Did you wear your clothes a few times before putting them in the wash?

refridgerators? Did you have an icebox? Did you eat your food quickly before it spoiled?

microwaves? Did you plan and prepare each meal carefully? Did you spend more time cooking and preparing real meals instead of those packaged microwave dinners? Did you re-heat food in the oven? Maybe you ate a lot of cold leftovers and thawed food hours before cooking.

cars? Did you ride a bike? Walk? Use the train? Go on horseback? Travel less?

mp3 players? Did you use a Sony Walkman or portable cassette player? Maybe you just listened to the world around you while out for a run, or took the time to just sit and listen to music on your stereo or record player. When was the last time you relaxed on your bed and just let the music from your favorite band fill the room?

vacuum cleaners? Did you hang up your rugs and beat them with a stick? Or maybe you just didn’t have any.

computers? You probably typed up your papers on a typewriter or wrote them by hand. You hand-wrote letters and reports. You played solitaire with real cards and not on the screen. You went to the library to look up information.

cell phones? Did you make plans ahead of time? Did you use your landline? Pay phones? Did you wait until you saw your friend to tell them your news instead of texting and calling them every few minutes? Did you write letters? Did you talk to your neighbors more? Was your time spent with people more meaningful?

television? Did you read books? Listen to the radio and spent more time outdoors?

DVDs? Did you own video tapes? Did you go to the cinema more often? Drive-in movies?

shampoo? Did you go to the salon every week? Use baking soda? Not wash your hair?

credit cards? Did you always have change or cash on you? Did you use personal checks and the layaway system? Did you travel less and purchase more locally? Did you only spend money when you had it instead of racking up debt? Now there‘s an idea!

bottled water? You probably carried around a reusable bottle, used a cup with water from the kitchen tap, had a well on your property, or opened your mouth when it rained. Chances are, your thirst was usually quenched.

GPS devices? Did you memorize the streets in the your neighborhood? Did you pay attention more to your surroundings? Did you carry maps in your car? Did you depend on the directions that people gave you over the phone or through the mail? Did you stay local and travel distances less?

e-mail? You didn’t have spam, you had junk mail. You received letters every week from family. You probably didn’t check your mailbox every five minutes, too.

video games? Did you play Cowboys and Indians outside with your friends? Did you let your imagination run wild as you created your own fantasy worlds in your bedroom?

digital cameras? Did you use film cameras and take photos with care? Did you spend more time enjoying life than capturing it? Did you appreciate the little moments more?

indoor plumbing? Outhouses and chamberpots? Was your waste used as fertilizer in your garden or collected as night soil? Did you use reusable clothes, leaves, or your hands? Did you bring in water from outdoors? Were you more mindful of your water consumption?

electricity? Did you rely on natural light from the sun and burn candles at night? Did you go to bed earlier? Did you wake up when the sun rose? Did you do things by hand or use gas-powered mechanisms? Did you suffer?

Chances are, you’ve grown up with most, if not all, of these conveniences and don’t know what you would do without them. I know I do not remember a time before washing machines and electricity. There are also plenty of modern alternatives to these conveniences, so we have more options at our hands than those of our frontier ancestors.

I do admittedly get carried away and romanticize the older days, but they did it. It may have been difficult, but they lived. They ate, they washed, they had fun, they got around, and they had lasting relationships. People living right now in our own country and others parts of the world are living without them too! I am asking myself these questions today as I prepare for a tiny house – what really matters? What can I do without?

What about you?

When was the last time you did a jigsaw puzzle for fun?

When was the last time you sat down and wrote a personal letter?

If today’s modern conveniences were stripped away, could you survive?

Which ones could you live without? Which ones will you never let go?

What did you do before all of this?


14 thoughts on “What Did You Do Before All This? (Considering Modern Conveniences)”

  1. I love this Laura. I try and do without as little as possible. I don’t have a dishwasher, cable and I rarely use the microwave. For a year I went without one. I just recently acquired one when I moved in with my boyfriend but becasue I got so good at not having one, I find myself not needing it. I don’t even have an oven. I use a mini toaster oven! I fantasize about living in the 20’s maybe the 40’s. I would love to learn what it would be like without these things. Its a really neat concept. 🙂

    1. Isn’t it freeing to realize we don’t need many of the things society tells us we need? I’ve also discovered an oven isn’t even that necessary (unless you’re baking) because everything can be cooked on the stove! I have been baking quite a bit in the past few days, though…

      I, too, fantasize about living in earlier decades. Someone needs to create some kind of hotel or retreat somewhere we we can ‘vacation’ by going back in time for a week. I wonder if such a thing already exists.

  2. • Don’t do jigsaw puzzles but I did “allow” my wife to whoop me in Checkers last night and enjoyed a rousing game of Scrabble the night before with my folks (in for a long, weekend visit), my in-laws, and my wife.
    • I have been writing my soon-to-be-born daughter a letter each night for nearly 5 months now. Sometimes they are long and sentimental and other times they are just silly little poems.
    • Without a doubt, I could survive….and even take others along for the ride!
    • I could live without my cell phone, my oven, my mixer, my massaging shower nozzle, my digital garden timer, and my anti-lock breaks. I would never let go of my wife’s bedside fan though. It makes sleepy time each night a whole lot more tolerable. HAHAHAHAHA
    • Before all of this I ate dirt, hit Matchbox cars with a hammer, gave voices to GI Joe guys, caught lightening bugs, wore wrinkled clothes, and generally enjoyed all my momma used to tell me I would miss one day!

    1. – Scrabble is an excellent game to play with a group of friends! And jigsaw puzzles can be addicting (I will stay up past midnight working on one) but you can only do so many until the boxes pile up in your closet…
      – That’s a wonderful idea! She will appreciate that when she is older. 🙂
      – I have no doubt you could survive!
      – Massaging shower nozzle!? Such a thing exists?
      – Thank you for sharing!! 🙂

  3. Lots of good thoughts here. I wish letters were written more. I used to write a lot but it has been a few years since I’ve done real snail mail in a decent manner.

    1. The cost of stamps doesn’t really help. $.44 a stamp doesn’t sound bad when it’s just one or two letters, but it really adds up when you buy dozens or hundreds of stamps.

  4. I am old enough to clearly remember living without most of these! Never had (and wouldn’t want) a dishwasher, had no tv till I was 15(black & white, only 2 channels) did my washing by hand until the first of my children arrived. What ‘gadgets’ I do have I’m deeply grateful for, including the machine that allows me to read and respond to this post! I know that as a person of limited mobility my life would have been much more circumscribed in the world I grew up in, and that, I think, is the key – appreciate what we have, don’t take anything for granted.

    1. I’m glad to hear you are grateful for the gadgets you have but you’re still mindful about what you use and do. You’re right, it’s very important to appreciate what we have and don’t take anything for granted. Thank you for visiting and sharing your experiences! I hope to see you around again. 🙂

  5. I’m thinking about thorougly going through my stuff/ life and focusing on simplicity. I am even thinking about washing my clothes by hand. No more laundry mats. I’m thinking maybe shower time?

    Could be interesting….

    1. That’s kind of what I have been doing. I hope you keep us updated on your progress with that! As for laundry, you can wash your clothes in the bathtub by filling it up a little bit with water, pouring in a little soap, and stomping on your clothes. The shower would definitely be interesting….!

      Check out the Wonder Wash. I actually haven’t used one yet but one of my close friends has one and loves it. I’m planning to have it in tiny house.

  6. I feel like most modern ‘conveniences’ are hazardous to our happiness. If we let it (and we easily can), technology can take over our lives. It can become a battle for me to live consciously every day because of everything thrown at us.

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