Last week, Cee posed the question, “What’s something you like to do the old-fashioned way?”
I’m going to assume that by “old-fashioned” we’re talking low-tech.
Or no-tech? I suppose in the strictest sense, there is no such thing as “no-tech”, especially, if by “tech” you mean tools or technique. (Most of you wouldn’t have difficulty with this prompt. But I am saddled with a tendency to take things literally and I want to make sure that we are all on the same page. Or screen.)
For the purposes of this post, let’s assume that the term “old-fashioned” refers to a technique or technology from the last century. In that case, here’s what I do the old-fashioned way: I eschew helpful homemaker appliances wherever possible. This is because:
- I prefer to conduct my household duties in peace and quiet
- I like uncluttered countertops
- Sooner or later something will break down – replacing a tired and worn straw broom is considerably less expensive than replacing a central vac system. In my experience, high-tech bells and whistles usually mean an early demise, complete with an expensive repair bill and/or ultimate replacement.
- I hate my vacuum cleaner.
- I love hanging laundry on the line.
Confession: I am aware that I practice a sort of reverse snobbery. I boast about the fact that I don’t own a dishwasher. In our last place, when the ten-year-old unit gave up the ghost, we did without. When I tell you that I love hanging my laundry on the line, there’s an element of “I’m greener than thou.” I want to get that out there. I’m no saint when I present myself as a saint, you know what I’m saying?
I really do love hanging laundry on the line. I wrote about it a few years ago. It’s the scents, the sounds, the getting outside to “get the stink blowed off”, as my dear old dad used to say.
Upon re-reading the laundry day post, I realize that I left out a critical element that explains why I enjoy low/no tech. It’s the literal hands-on nature of the task. My hands, my energy, using minimal tools to get the job done. There’s more of “me” in the outcome.
I appreciate labour-saving devices, don’t get me wrong. I know that most housekeepers would be lost if they could not count on the machines to do the work for them. This winter, I was enormously grateful for the fact that a washing machine and dryer came with the house. No way am I hanging laundry outside in sub-zero weather! But I do not get the same little hit of satisfaction when I pull clothing from the dryer as I do when I remove it from the wash line.
For ‘old-OLD-fashioned” technology, let’s consider 500 years ago, when metal tools, and goods made from these tools, were crafted sometimes with gilding and ornamentation. These items were made in the home by the tradespersons who specialized in the art. With modern mass production and the loss of handmade goods and ornamentation comes a cultural loss, I believe. The “tool user” is not the toolmaker, and therefore is not as engaged with his possessions or his work.
Today off-shore mass production is the norm. Tools and goods are rarely embellished, unless, for example, you count the Nike “swoosh” as adornment. In many cases, the only other maker’s mark is “Made in China.” Since I am so far removed from the production of the goods that I use, I take them, and their manufacture, for granted.
For years, my mother sewed and knitted my clothing. She taught me those skills. There was even a very short period of time when I darned my socks. Can you imagine? How quaint is that?
Do I wear handmade socks these days? Hardly – they are lumpy and floppy and more expensive than store-bought. Do I sew my clothing? No chance. First of all, I also hate my sewing machine. Second, IF you can find a textile store these days, and IF they carry decent fabric, and IF you finish that project before styles or body-shape changes, you will STILL pay exponentially more than off-the-rack.
As for “new-fashioned” technology, I will continue to shop online, to buy goods manufactured by an unknown overseas worker – or robot! – and I will benefit from the fact that these workers are paid peanuts. (Now I feel that awkward first-world angst for bemoaning the loss of “simpler” times when I wore patched socks, for feeling like a cheat for using the electric clothes dryer, for hating my appliances.)
Sure, thanks to those labour-saving high or low tech tools that I use, I have loads of free time. What do I do to fill that time meaningfully? Well, writing, for one. At least I can put my maker’s mark on that.
Categories: Blog Blog Blog