Saturday, June 12, 2010

Voyages Of Discovery ... The Simple Life

For some reason, which I don't quite understand, two of my least favorite chores are vacuuming and unloading the dishwasher. Loading it is easy -- I just put stuff in as I use it. But unloading it is such a bore. So the other day I decided to haul out my dish drainer and wash my dishes by hand, and I discovered -- much to my amazement -- that I enjoy washing dishes. There is something relaxing and almost meditative about having my hands in the hot soapy water, and putting the sparkling clean dishes into the drainer. With the wash-as-I-go method, there are never any dirty dishes, the particular bowl I might want to use is not languishing -- dirty -- in the dishwasher, and everything dries almost instantly. Et voila! I have clean dishes immediately, instead of having to wait 45 minutes. Why has it taken me so long to think of this? I do not know, but I'm glad I did.  The plus side is that I may see my hydro expenses decrease as well. Am I a genius, or what?

I am one of the few people I know who has never owned a car. Ever.  For many, many years I could never afford to buy one, and then when I could afford it, I found I really had no use for a car.  For years I was forced to take public transit, and now I find it's a perfectly efficient, inexpensive way to get around the Lower Mainland.  We have sea buses, trains, trolley buses, and even little mini-ferry boats that all interconnect with each other efficiently.  For less than it costs to park a car for a month -- or keep it filled up with gas -- I can buy a transit pass and go anywhere I want to go, and let someone else do the driving.  Or I can use that other tried and true method -- I can walk -- which it turns out is actually good for us.  Who knew!

I don't own a cell phone -- *gasp* -- and I have had the same land-line telephone number for 30 years. People who knew me way back when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth can still call my number and reach me, and they often do. With all the upheaval I have had in my life, it's sort of comforting to have a thread of continuity that runs through it, connecting me with various milestones along the way. Everyone who knows me, or who has ever known me, can dial my number and here I am, and what's really amazing is how many people still remember it.  But lately I have been considering getting a cell phone. We were chatting about this at work the other day, and one of my co-workers said, "But, Jo, what would happen if you got mugged, or you're stuck somewhere, and you can't reach anyone?" That's a good point. Today I think I will set out on a quest to buy a cell phone.  I think it is necessary to have one, just don't expect me to be one of those folks walking along the sidewalk with my hand permanently glued to my ear.  Who do these people talk to all day long?

Have our lives become too complicated?  Do we own things, or do they own us?  Do we really need so much stuff?  We seem to spend so much of our time being slaves to our stuff.  Maybe we should put it all in a cupboard for a while, and find out what it feels like to lead a more simple life.  The stuff is always there if we need it.


Canarybird said...

Jo I'm so glad to know of someone else who has never had a cell phone. People look at me strangely when they ask for my number and I say I don't use one of those as long as I have a perfectly good phone on my desk at home with a message answering service.

I'm another who washes dishes by hand, and in a dishpan in the sink at that. I've never had a dishwasher, electric clothes dryer (we use the sun as it's free), never had a DVD or video player, a blackberry or whatever those things are called, or an Ipod. But I do love having my car, even though I walk a lot.

It's so easy to live without many things that seem to be thought of as needed but in fact are not. I think it's a good idea for you to have a cell phone though, when you live in the city. Have a good weekend.


Jo said...

Sharon, you know, you live in such a gorgeous part of the world, I can really see how it would be wonderful to live a more simple life there. That to me would really be part of the charm. Yes!

And yes, we can live without so many things that we are "told" we need. We don't need them.

Have a wonderful weekend, too, in your beautiful country. :-)

XmasDolly said...

Hi, I'm your latest follower! Maybe you can live without cell phones, but what about our computers then? LOL No, No, must have computers. Love your post - good job! Love the pics too! Nice to meet you. Have a great weekend.

Jo said...

Xmas Dolly, welcome...! No, I could not live without my computer. :-) That would be too much to ask. Or my camera either.

ZB said...

I too have never owned a car, and wish never to own one. I hate to drive.It feels so tiresome in heavy traffic.

I wish i could never use a cell phone. My life would be so much more peaceful. Cell phones have intruded our lives(in my case atleast) and are increasingly becoming reason for stress. I woulod love to live in a pre-cell phone world, with just wired fixed phone.Loved reading this post.TC

Jo said...

ZB,I think really folks sit in "research and development" rooms all over the world, inventing new things for us to "need". And then they market them to us and tell us we need them. Does anyone remember a world without cell phones? People got along just fine. Now we have cell phones with multiple "apps" and Ipods, and Kindles, and all kinds of electronic gadgets, all trying to outdo each other, and we "need" them all. In truth, the folks who invent and sell them "need" our money.

Indian Pundit said...

Hey Jo.....Loved this. Absolutely.
Just the other day , i was reading something similar for my under-graduating exams.

You ask:
"Do we really need so much stuff?"

All these "stuffs" give us an illusion of simplicity and comfort....then these "stuffs" add up and make our lives even more complicated!

If u go to the villages of India, u will meet some of the most peaceful,honest and happy people. They have very simple basic needs and simple demands yet they are incredibly happy even though they are very poor.

Take Care.

Kym said...

Jo...I just love reading your posts! I wish I did not have to worry about having a car (the one that I currently own and paid off is at least 12 years old and I cannot afford a new one) but the area that I live in voted to not have public transit because they felt it was not necessary for our area. As for the washing dishes by favorite thing to do! Have a great weekend! P.S. I do have a cell phone...but no landline!

myletterstoemily said...

you are my hero!
washes dishes by hand
takes the public transit
no cell phone

the modern joan of arc. :)

ps. i am so sorry about your
god daughter's husband's
terrible accident. it just is
so tragic. i will be praying.

Stephen said...

A partial list of "tedious" retro activities that I found surprisingly enjoyable: baking bread, drying clothes on a clothesline (like Canarybird), using a push-mower on the lawn, handwashing my old car and changing its oil (a guy thing that's hard to understand), ironing shirts. But to have to live this way because of economic reasons soon becomes drudgery. We are truly blessed to have the freedom and wealth to choose to do them or not to do them.

Sam Liu said...

I quite like using public transport as, for the most part, it's usually rather efficient and suits my needs. What's more, I love people watching. That probably makes me really nosy, but I can't deny it; I find human interaction a truly fascinating aspect of life.

I have a cell phone (we call them mobile phones in England) purely for the purpose of convenience and safety. Yet every day, I find that my ownership of it is growing more and more pointless :) Then again, if I'm ever mugged, I suppose it would come in quite handy.

And you've certainly left us with some food for thought - do we truly need all the possessions we own? As a believer in many Buddhist values, I find myself doubting the necessity of all our modern day gadgets and whether, in attempting to heighten the speed and efficiency of our day-to-day lives, we are actually depleting our enjoyment of it. Mmm, I suppose it's something one has to reach a conclusion about based on experience - and of that, I have not yet had enough :)

Jo said...

IP, oh, goodness yes, and the pursuit of all this "stuff" just stresses us out. I think it would be wonderful to live in a village like that for a while.

Kym, thank you...! :-) And I can't believe public transit would be voted out by anyone. My goodness, cities all over North America are trying to get more public transit in place. Crazy!

Lea, thank you. Joan of Arc? My goodness. :-) And yes, Rob is on the mend now. He was very badly injured, but thank goodness he was not killed. It was awful.

Stephen, I absolutely love, love, love push-mower lawn mowers. Just the sound of them sounds like summer, doesn't it? And they actually do a better job than motorized lawn mowers.

Sam, the best part of riding transit is people-watching. I love it...! And listening to their cell phone conversations, which is hard not to do, because everyone talks in their "telephone" voice. *heh* But, I agree, sometimes the simple life can be inconvenient, and it's good to have the choice.

The Bug said...

I don't have a dishwasher now either - and I have mixed feelings about it. But it IS very nice to have whatever item I might want just one sinkful of soapy water away.

I SO WISH I could do without a car! But I've never lived anywhere within reasonable distance of public transportation. Now I live 40 miles from where I work & wouldn't it be fabulous if I could take a train! But there's no such animal here in Ohio.

I do have a cell phone - but I only use it on trips, or to call Dr. M to tell him I'm on my way home from work (so he can get supper ready - heh). For years he used a trac phone - where he just bought a set number of minutes per month. You might want to try that before signing up for some sort of contract - just to see what you think of the whole business.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I resisted having a cell phone for a long time, but now I can't imagine doing without it. So yes, I am owned, but I still find it amusing to see people walking around with phones glued to their heads, probably because for much of my life, those who talked to themselves on the street were crazy. Now, it's impossible to tell. I think you'll adjust to your new phone and find it useful.

Many NYC dwellers don't own cars, and some do not even know how to drive. I love cars, and would hate to be without one even though SF has a wonderful public transportation system. I also enjoy driving, especially on the open road. There is a freedom in that which buses can't match - for me.

Whitney Lee said...

I love my cell phone. Public transportation is not really an option for me so I have to drive and I have a terrible sense of direction. My phone allows me to feel safe as I know I can call my husband any time I don't know where I'm going.

I will admit that I would be content to wash dishes by hand if I lived alone, but in a house of 4 & 1/2, a dishwasher is much appreciated. I agree with Stephen about it becoming drudgery when you don't have a choice.

I think you are right about our possessions owning us. My concern is more that with technology allowing us to always 'reach out and touch someone,' we are losing the ability to contentedly be alone.


Hi - I smiled as I read your post about washing dishes.

In the last four homes I've had, the dishwasher was already installed. Instead of using it, I use it to store my good china which means before I dig it out for holidays, I just run the dishwasher to clean them from any dust. Like you, I prefer to wash my own and have for over 50 years now.

Re the cell phone, when I decided to spend 4 years on the road in the motor-home (alone), I did buy a cell phone for safety purposes, and since I'm not one who talks on the phone, it sits in the car for when we travel (again, for safety).

Now about the car, I started driving tractor on the farm at 10; the car at 12, and I love to drive - I don't like others doing my driving because I don't want to trust my life to someone else's driving skills.

I also love my computer and camera, but you could toss the TV as far as I'm concerned (I only have one because my husband likes it).

I have friends who are Amish; I love their way of life, and have copied as many of their traditions as I see fit for my life-style.

Doing things for yourself is fun - it makes us feel worthy and capable, so I love baking; cooking, sewing, cleaning, cutting my own hair and all the other things that are part of our daily routine.

DUTA said...

Very good post Jo!

Once the 'status' was to own a car. Today the 'status' is to own a driver as car driving is considered sweaty work.

As for dishwasher, washing machine and every device that washes - It's a known fact that WATER has therapeutic properties: it sooths, calms, brings sleep, reduces inflamation. I have certain clothes that I wash only by hand, and the touch of water does me only good.

A mobile phone is a very helpful device in case of emergency. I've recently lost mine, and I'm sad about it.

Owen said...

I think you are wise beyond your years Jo ... to be admired.

Our lives have become so complicated it cannot be good for us in the long run.

I often have the feeling we have constructed an enormous house of cards around us, which will blow down one of these days, and leave us shivering...

June said...

I like washing dishes every now and then. It is emotionally therapeutic, but I don't think it actually saves much water... I remember my grandmother pouring boiling water from the woodstove-range-heated kettle into two basins, one for washing and one for rinsing. THOSE dishes dried fast, I'll tell you! I think her hands must have been made of asbestos.

I thought I was the last person to get a cell phone! The contract I have includes free roadside service...very handy when a person lives on one-lane dirt roads with lots of snow and ice. That service has been a boon to me a number of times.

I'm growing tired of things.

Marlene said...

I like my stuff but I don't necessarily let it own me. I tried living without a washer-dryer-dishwasher-car for while and am much happier with them now. I found I was always arranging time to do laundry-dishes-travel. Now I do those things any time, at my convenience.

You can always not give out your cell phone number or keep your phone turned off when you don't want to use it. I have found my phone most useful when I am trying to meet someone in a crowd. It also feels safer when you are out alone at night when you have a cell phone.

And, in response to one of your readers: I do not believe that poor people are happier. I think one doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the other.

Rosaria Williams said...

Ah, we have become addicted to new stuff. I want an IPad just because it does this and that. Actually, I understand both sides. If we lost electricity, you could manage; most people, would panic.

Linda Myers said...

Doing dishes by hand feels comfortable and virtuous to me when I have time. And since I'm retiring in less than two weeks, I'll probably do more of it.

I've always had a car, but these days I'd rather walk when I can - to the neighborhood cafe, grocery store, hardware store, or espresso stand! Feels good to keep my muscles active and hear the sounds of the day.

I had someone look at me funny yesterday when he asked me if I text on my cellphone and I said no. I'm falling behind, I guess, and that is NOT a bad thing!

DJan said...

I love reading about how other people live their lives. When we moved up to Bellingham from Boulder, Colorado, we left behind our land line and kept our two cell phones. We mostly use them to call each other, Hubby and I, and keep in touch with various and sundry family.

We also have a dishwasher in our rented apartment, but we use it for a dish drainer: wash the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, then they are available and not on the counter. Once in a while we'll run the thing to sterilize, just for fun.

But we each own a car. Had them in CO and neither of us wants to give ours up, although we don't use them much now in retirement. Eventually it will be one car, but I think the bus system in Bellingham is great, although it's rapidly becoming less as the system gets reduced. :-(

Marguerite said...

Yikes! I simply could not live without my dishwasher, (I cook a lot and do two loads a day, plus I hand washed dishes for 20 years and don't miss it a bit) my car, (I travel to other cities, for my job, plus we don't have a top notch transit system) or my cell phone, again, need it for my job, plus I can keep track of my family and friends better!

pilgrimchick said...

I entirely agree with your premise--you never realize how liberating it can be to be without so many things that you daily feel like you need, but actually, more often interfere with our enjoying our lives. Oh, and I second that on the vacuuming.

Amy said...

Jo, I think it's great you can live a quality life without a car. I know quite a few younger folks in Portland, where our youngest daughter lives, use bicycles exclusively. Personally, I didn't start driving until I was almost 30 - but when you live in San Jose, CA, it's hard to imagine not driving.

I finally caved and got a cell phone simply because I drive alone up to Portland occasionally. I rarely use the darned thing, but it's definitely a good safety measure.

Living simply is simply an art - thank you for sharing!

Alicia said...

I really enjoyed this post. I can't believe that you've never owned a car! But then I thought how lucky you are that you don't have to wash a car, gas up a car, wait to have the oil changed or tires rotated. You don't pay for auto, you are brilliant. Unfortunately I have to commute 23 miles to work one way every single day with no bus or public transit available.

As to cell phones; I think it is a good idea to have one, but I think it's terrible that we've become so used to them. I remember when I had a land line that didn't have caller id and you just answered it not knowing who was calling! I find that now that I can screen my phone calls using caller ID I don't get as much joy out of using the phone!

Thanks for making me think today Jo!

Unknown said...

I am afraid I disagree with you about the dishwashing.

We don't have a dishwasher and washing by hand gets old - quick,

But thankfully we lived in a house that DID have one when the triplets were babies. Washing that many bottles by hand - ewww.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm better at loading than unloading. I enjoy having to organize the thing to get more in.

Russell said...

I love the blue phone! I want one! Really!

Where I live a person has to have a car since there is no decent public transportation or, more to the point, none at all.

I recently started doing the same thing you are doing with the dishes. I don't think I have used my dishwasher in over a month. And for years I used it every day.

Now if I could just learn to cook a bit better....!

kenju said...

Although I do wash some dishes by hand every day, I dote on my dishwasher and would never give it up. Ditto the car - as we don't live near bus lines.

A cell phone is a wondrous convenience and you don't have to give anyone the number if you don't want to. I resisted getting a cell phone for years and when I finally did, I decided I'd been stupid not to get one sooner. In fact, I gave up my land line last year and I don't miss it at all!!

kenju said...

P.S. I did NOT mean to imply that you are stupid - only that I was because I find the phone so convenient and reassuring in emergencies.

Pauline said...

Ah the simple pleasures :) We can all do with less stuff - it's the wanting more that holds us prisoner.

I, too, like washing dishes by hand and have never had a dishwasher. I hang laundry on a line, walk or ride my bike when the distances are reasonable, and use my cell phone only for on-the-road emergencies. Living in a rural area with long distances between home, store, work etc. and without public transportation available, makes a car more a necessity than a perk but if the powers that be ever put the old railroad system back into practice I could go anywhere from here!

Belizegial said...

Jo, my cell phone is my only true 'luxury' item recently acquired. You will find that it can become quite addictive, especially if Phinnaeus and Marigold introduce you to 'texting'. LOL

Happy Sunday~

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Hello, Jo!! I'm sooo with you on this...I like things simple. And while I have a cell phone (originally at my mother's insistence), I rarely use it or even turn it on...Good to have for an emergency, but certainly not an everyday requirement. Good luck with the search...I found it rather overwhelming..Love that you are washing your dishes...I hate unloading the dishwasher as well...and folding laundry? Never mind...don't even need to go there :-) Love, love, love this post! You are one terrific lady! Love, Janine XO

PhilipH said...

Another great post Jo.

I own a mobile (cell) phone and have done so for about 15 years or so. It has no features other than to make a phone call. I bought it as a pay-as-you-go thing and I doubt if I've spent more that £12 on it over the 15 years. I have it in case of emergency whilst on long car trips and to let the person I'm visiting of my progress on the journey.

Never owned a dish-washer!

Needed a car for work over the decades and now need it as we are fairly isolated with NO public transport within about 8 miles of our cottage.

Got computers, DVD player, Digital TV, old-fashioned radio (non digital), books ... probably a few other 'things' - but I DO think we suffer from overload nowadays.

PinkPanthress said...

What? -I love Vacuuming, I always describe it with one word... Zen! :D

I had my first cell phone in 1998 if I'm not mistaken. But have stopped using it since 2004. People always call you for nothing at all, and it is very annoying. Though it can really be a life saver at times. Most often it is not!

The only thing I need in my everyday life is food, water & my laptop with net-connection. Otherwise I'm pretty frugal. :)

P.S.: This post is fitting, since you mention cars.
You asked me in my current blog-post of what it was that had occured on the 2'nd of June 2010.
I passed my drivers-license test! :D Yay!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't live without a cell phone... well, I'm sure I could but, but, but, I NEED it!!

Paula Slade said...

Henry David Thoreau knew what you were talking about Jo - "Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify." :-D