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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Getting back to basics

Rhonda Jean
Down to Earth



Have you ever thought about the cost of convenience? I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and wondering why we fell for it. When you think about it, most of us believed the hype that we could be super people, super mums and dads, wives and husbands and still have time left over for ourselves. And we could, when we bought convenience. I'm talking about the convenience of have pre-washed salads, precooked cakes, pre-marinated meat, pre-cooked chicken and any other type of food you can think of; unlike in days gone by, we buy most of the food we eat. We've fallen for shampoo and detergent when they're almost always made with some kind of petro-chemical. We’ve stopped making our own clothes and, instead, buy cheap dresses and jeans from Asia.

We now buy really expensive large homes and pack them with furniture that was made miles away and shipped in. When I was young, it was commonplace to move into a small flat or apartment, often with nothing more than a bed and a sofa, and work your way to what you wanted. Credit cards were unknown then. What did we do with the time that convenience bought us? We worked to pay for the convenience. Every time you pay for service – such as cooking, cleaning, dressmaking, or whatever else it might be, you pay, because it takes someone’s time to do that task – that price is added to the total cost of your goods. So what you’re doing is moving the work to someone else so you have the time to make the money to pay them to do it. I know it’s not as simple as that, and I know that life is never so black and white, but I’m trying to make a point. I am trying to show that every thing we buy has a price and that by paying that price we give away our independence.

And we forget.

We forget how to do those things that helped us live well – we forget recipes, skills, methods of production, short cuts and tradition. Essentially, we are forgetting our heritage.

I am receiving a lot of emails lately from people who are scared of the current international financial crisis. There is a lot to be scared about because there will be job and home losses, hardship and a lot of hard times ahead but there is also opportunity if you look for it. I see this crisis as a huge correction in the way we have come to live our lives. We all have this opportunity now to look at our lives and modify them in significant ways. That might involve being greener, living more simply or getting rid of as much debt as you can. Anything is possible now, take advantage of this time of change to make it work for you. There is so much free information and inspiration available in blogs for each and every one of us to cherry pick from and apply to our lives. My hope is that you will find some of that information at the co-op. All our writers here are living the life they write about, there are good examples of what is possible and what already has been done.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing about ways to modify the way you spend and shop, how to conserve your resources and how to change in ways that will make a real difference to your life. Stay tuned, and let me know if there is anything in particular you need to know about.

29 comments:

Karen said...

great post, rhonda, about all the thoughts that lately have been floating thru my own head. look forward to hearing what you have to say ... especially as i've just started down this path and it sometimes feels a little shaky.

hope the knee continues to improve!

Dawna said...

In reading your post I kept hearing myself, everything I have been saying in recent months you have captured here. Very well said.

Laurie from Amish Country said...

It's funny when I think back to my first apartment - everything was mostly hand me downs or second hand - it was what I could afford. Now young people seem to have to have instant gratification - new house, new furniture, new cars....as soon as they take up housekeeping. I see in my neighborhood, young couples buying their first home and the big expensive furniture trucks pull up with deliveries and brand new cars in the driveways and within a year, the house is up for sale because they can no longer afford to live there. They got in over their heads.

Green Bean said...

I find this "convenient" life to feel almost surreal, don't you? Like everything is fake. Done for us. Handed to us. It feels so much more real to get my hands in the garden, bake a loaf of bread, mix up some yogurt.

I agree that there is a big correction and, ultimately, it will lead us to a more real life.

CAM said...

I loved this post because it also touched a chord with me. I've been trying, bit by bit, to adapt our lifestyle to being more environmentally aware/less impact and frugal. We made some pretty big choices like me being a stay at home mum instead of going out to provide the second income and this has meant that we cannot buy a house or posh cars, holidays etc. We live in an area where this is considered to be the marker of life and I have often felt lonely and isloated, not to mention bullied. About a year and a half ago I joined our Country Women's Association branch and discovered that this yuppie town had a green, fuzzy underbelly. I met with older ladies who lived here before it even had power! They voiced many of the concerns you have, about kids nowadays being so demanding and spoilt...wanting to start out with the best straight away and all of it. As I got to know them it made me take a good look at my own values...most of which were steeped in my rural upbringing, thankfully but some of which had been effecting the way I think. Now, whenever I feel sad or cross at the people who pick on us for living in a rental, driving fuel efficient cars, recycling, buying second hand etc....I remember my lovely matriarchs down at CWA and give the attacker a big grin. I can only feel pity for someone who doesn't know how to turn orange bags into dish scourers!!
I did want to say I would like to see information here for people who aren't home owners and therefore cannot make changes to the property itself...I've only found one blog that relates to this and it would be so good to hear others speak about what they managed to do.

The Scavenger said...

Nothing could be more true. We have traded our skills and time for cheap junk for far to long. Great post.

Chris

Judie said...

Rhonda, We're glad to hear from you. Hope you are feeling better.
Again you have given us "food for thought". Just the reminder of what we are actually paying for will make us pause and reconsider what we are buying. And as for buying with credit, I know we appreciate something we have saved for much more than when we take the "easy way" and say just charge it.
Thanks again, JudieJ

Janet said...

What a great post Rhonda and it gives us all so much to think about. Sad thing is some of those pre-cooked convenience foods can be cheaper than making from scratch. The pre-cooked chickens sold here in Alberta are usually cheaper than buying a raw roasting chicken! The quality is so much less than home made but when on a budget I do see why some people buy them. I am on a very tight budget but have given it some thought and decided I will try and eat less meat and buy better quality.

Thank you for always making me think about and re-evaluate what I have considered to be the only way to do things.

It is sad when I look back and realise how far I have slipped into our conumer society.

J said...

Rhonda,

Wonderful post, as always. It is sad that we have lost so many of the abilities that were once known by all. Thank you and I'm looking forward to more posts! This is a great site.

mamawhatthe said...

yes! Yes! YES! Fantastic post. An elegant argument. I understand (and remember) not being able to see beyond one's immediate needs, and thus being unable to perceive the trap one had walked into. But, one day I stood in the grocery store, surrounded by "food" and there wasn't a single thing there I wanted to eat. It all just seemed so gross. So un-real. It reminded me of Soilent Green. Who really knows what that stuff is? And thus started my own transformation and the chain reaction that has enriched, and continues to enrich, every aspect of my life.

Dawn said...

This really is a fantastic post. I was amazed a few days ago when making tortilla chips for my son, a friend on the phone questioned how one would 'make' tortilla chips. It's amazing how much simple knowledge we have lost in just a couple of generations.

earth heart said...

Great truths you've spoken here. I was just talking about this the other day and remembering when we lived without credit cards and instant gratification. It used to be that you had to work and save for the things you needed or wanted rather than getting them first and working to pay for them later. Great post!

claudia said...

Fantastic post Rhonda Jean! I am going to make sure that my daughters read this. It is what I have tried to talk to them about, but I don't have the words.

jacqui jones said...

since we started to change things in our life we have seen our fortnightly food bill reduce by up to $100 per fortnight. it does vary, but we can see a difference eachtime i go to the store, not only in the bill at the end but in what goes into the basket too.
we r in the process of changing from shampoo and we have started by using the vingear wash. ITS GREAT, first time i wondered if i could...second time it improved...4th time its like i used some expensive conditioner on my hair. we have another month before we will make the final bicarb for shampoo change. even my dh is impressed which is saying ALOT.
i have watched many friends make fatal money mistakes with mortages for years with always the same outcome, having to sell the house. my husband and i have worked our way through the property market living in small houses in cheaper areas until in a good position and then moving forward. we recently bought our current dream with a small loan we can actually see paying out sooner rather than later! its refreshing to feel u could own a house before retirement!

Amy said...

Great post. My husband and I have been married 6 years and have 3 kids. I stay at home to raise our kids so we live on a tight budget. We very recently paid off all our debt (expt mortgage) and saved up and paid cash for a minivan. It felt great!!! We live in a small home and most all of our furniture is hand me downs. We are very happy and content with our choice of lifestyle. I would love to see more information on living a simple life with children. I find it hard with all the cheap toys and prizes the seem to pick up eveywhere they go. Thanks.

HeatherMM said...

Thanks for your writting today, it really hits home. I get so frustraded with the way "normal American people" think. They live lives that are grossly fabricted out of money they don't have. Me and my kids already lead quite a simple life, but because of health issues we are purdging "stuff" again, and downsizing big time. My journey to simplifying, dealing with life, fibromyalgia, eating raw, etc, can be followed on my blog www.fibro-life.blogspot.com

Thanks for this great blog, I always look forward to new postings.

Simbelmyne said...

This post really struck a cord with me. Tho I did go into debt to buy my home, I look around and see the shiny new cars everywhere, the brand new furniture in many of my neighbors homes, and wonder where it all comes from. And why I've lived places where it's not "normal" to be a stay at home parent.
I want to see a change in this direction.
thank you for your thoughts!

jenniepowell said...

I really enjoyed your post. I've recently found both this blog and your own personal blog and I'm really enjoying and agreeing with what you're writing.

I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to turn my life around to living a more sustainable, frugal and less wasteful life, as I'm one of that younger generation with the attitude of 'put it on the credit card and worry about it later'. I really am trying hard to change my way of thinking, and am exploring new ways to do things. I'm lucky in that I learned to cook, knit, crochet and sew as I was growing up, so I have a huge advantage over most of the rest of my generation, but even so I know I still have a long way to go.

I look forward to reading more of your posts and getting inspiration for a better way of life.

Jennie, Wales, UK.

Winterwood said...

Looking forward to these kind of posts very much. Even though,I've been there and doing it... there is so much more to learn as always.

amanda said...

great post! thanks!

EJ said...

A very like-minded blogger here:
http://matronofhusbandry.wordpress.com/
I think you'd really appreciate her writing. Today she writes about people feeling a disconnect when it comes to food and OCD (obsessive canning disorder).

Sophia Sunshine said...

I was just discussing all the reasons I like the Waldorf approach to schooling. I see it as a way to teach children the independence to live as you describe. A way that isn't so far from how I was raised and how I'm trying to live once again. As a society we've made some huge mistakes but I too am hopeful that this market correction will create the change we so need to get back on track.

Catz said...

Thank you for this Rhonda! It sums up how I have been feeling too. We have come full circle I feel. When I was first married we furnished 2nd hand throughout and I made curtainsm cushion covers and a lot of my working clothes.
Then as we got into the 80's and we bought our house and had growing children we took on some debt, credit cards, car loans etc., I feel quite guilty about this, as the example set to our children was not a good one. Now the children have grown our only debt left is the mortgage and if furniture needs replacing we look at 2nd hand again, the quality is so much better! My knitting needles and sewing machine are out again as well. Home processed food is also much healthier (less salt and additives) and I have always loved to cook, thankfully the children did learn to cook with me.

Gretchen said...

I love this post. I couldn't agree more. Thank you for sharing, and you are right we are an inspiration to each other.

jinger said...

I find it a great challenge to see how well I can live on very little. Just yesterday, I stopped at a market to buy some fresh produce and a local nut mix. I also bought myself a drink. When we went out the door, there was a little jazz quartet playing outside the store. We sat at the tables, ate our little snack, and enjoyed a free concert on a beautiful sunny autumn day. What a way to spend the afternoon.

Anonymous said...

This is post is awesome! I am trying to get back to a simplier way and most of the time I feel it is in vain. It is nice to know there are others who feel the same. I just wished they lived somewhere near me. Oh well, I will keep plugging along. Rhonda I follow you on both blogs and love your upbeat way of putting things matter of factly but in a sweet way. You are the best and inspire so many. I look forward to following many of the people posted here in the future and learning more on my journey. Thank you
Kim in WV

Notes From The Frugal Trenches said...

What a wonderful wonderful post! We simply have to get our priorities together in order to make changes for the better across nations!

chellesblog said...

sometimes you read something that expresses the way you have felt for so long but never been able to make concrete. thanks for giving me some direction and motivation to look more closely at my choices.

Bovey Belle said...

How I agree with this post - we are paying for convenience . . . When we were grocery-shopping yesterday I had intended to get a double pack of frozen puff pastry for a couple of pies in the coming month, but the price hike had reached £2.50 the pack and I said to myself, NOPE, we will have ordinary home made non-puff pastry in future (my home-made puff-pastry in the past was less than perfect!) It was one of the few things I didn't do "home-made" . . .