Without donning a bonnet, ankle boots and a long skirt (a-la the Amish), what does it take to reject modern society. It touches us from the second we wake up, until we drift off to sleep at night. And if it’s too much a part of our lives, it can invade our sweet dreams as well.
As I contemplate the homestead, making the switch to off-grid and further embracing the voluntary simplicity that haunts my every move, I find myself wondering: What, of all the modern conveniences, are really necessities?
I would venture to be rash and say none of them since our ancestors got by without any of it. But to be realistic, and not become a recluse from society, I will admit there are some things that should probably remain a part of everyday life. But not many.
First, a quick list of all the things I use that require electricity (in no particular order): (Red-No; Green-Yes; Blue-Toss up)
• Telephone (cell)
• Computer (laptop)
• Radio/Stereo (iPod)
• DVD Player
• Alarm Clock
• Blow Dryer
• Coffee Grinder
• Water pump and water heater
• Washer & Dryer
Cell phone and computer. I’ll actually keep on the necessity list simply because that’s how I communicate with many people these days. I don’t live near many of my friends or my family, so these are necessities. Although, I’ll admit that I’d like to start writing formal letters more. Hopefully the USPS won’t go belly up so I can continue to mail things to people. I would need to come up with a way to charge up my laptop. Could easily look into solar, or “steal” electricity at work to charge the bugger up. It definitely doesn’t need to be on as much as it is currently. I just let ‘er run… Same with my cell phone – I could charge that up at work.
Radio/Stereo/iPod. Well – let’s think about this for a second. I can play all my CDs on my laptop. I listen to more radio on my laptop, but also have a hand-crank radio that I got for my birthday this year. My iPod runs off my laptop – so in all reality, I could ditch my stereo system and pare down to the laptop, my iPod and the hand crank radio and be just fine. Sound wouldn’t be as good – but it’s not like I’m jammin’ out hardcore these days anyway!
DVD player. Okay – in all reality? I watch about 4 movies per year. I have a portable DVD player, and again, this could also be handled through my laptop (as it had been prior to last winter). So this is not a necessity by any means.
Alarm clock. I currently have one of the handy-dandy digital clocks that wakes me up to NPR each morning. This can be remedied. A clock is probably a necessity, but the need to plug it into a wall is not. I’ve always been enamored by the wind-up alarm clock with the terrible bell that’s rung by a little hammer. I can do this no problem, then if I feel the need to listen to the radio or some music, I can throw on the hand-crank radio, or hit the play button on my iPod. My iPod has speakers that don’t require batteries or electricity, so that’s a no-brainer. I can get away without the new-fangled digital alarm clock, no problem.
Ahhhh, Lights. Yes, light is a necessity. But electric light? Maybe not. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where the sun stays up well past 10 p.m. in the summer. Although, that’s not the case in the winter. So in the summer my need for light is drastically diminished. Usually daylight outlasts me! But in winter, wouldn’t the glow of a kerosene lamp be delightful? But I think I might need more light than that now and again. So this may need to be remedied with solar and either LED or CF bulbs. So this is a necessity.
Blow Dryer. Okay. I’m going to chalk this up as a necessity. I know, I know… I’ll have to see if there’s something I can’t do to change that. My hair is insane. If I don’t blow it dry, it has a mind of its own that irritates the living hell out of me. I should have never cut my hair… it’ll grow back, and hopefully that will be the end to the dryer. When it’s long, I can put it in a bun to dry, then it behaves. But for some stupid reason I cut most of my hair off, and now it’s a huge pain in the arse.
Kitchen: Refrigerator/freezer, Coffee Grinder, Blender, Stove, Toaster. The first being the refrigerator/freezer. How much do I actually put in to a fridge that’s needed? The answer to that is “not much.” Milk (can be purchased in tetra-paks); eggs (I’d like to have chickens some day – otherwise, I use very few eggs); cheese (okay – I’ll give myself this one) and some random left overs and condiments. My LLM (lovely logger man) has gone without a fridge for some time – he uses a cooler. I can do that! I would miss my freezer though. That’s kind of a necessity, more so than the fridge. Coffee grinder is soon to be a thing of the past. I ordered a hand crank coffee grinder which should be here in the next couple of days, so I’ll be getting rid of the electric one. The blender. I would like to order a hand-crank one of these too. The only things I use a blender for are an occasional smoothie and to make green chutney. Both can easily be done with a hand crank. Stove – well, I do like to cook. Eventually I would love to have a wood cook stove, but right now it’s an electric one (which I hate). Even a gas range would be an improvement. But for now I’ll have to chalk that one up as a necessity too. As for the toaster… I love toast. I think I like toast more than I like un-toasted bread. But I can get away without having one – I could just use the stove to make toast. So it’s not a necessity, just a modern convenience that I like.
So wow – I can get rid of a lot of stuff out of my kitchen that relies on electricity. That’s a good thing to know.
Water pump and water heater is obviously a necessity. I like my bath tub, and I appreciate hot and cold running water. I’m sure there are ways to minimize this – something I’ll have to work on. But for now, I’m going to call these two a necessity.
Washer and dryer. Hmmm. Well, I own one of each – and it’s nice to have them in my laundry room. But I don’t know that I’d call them a necessity. I can go to the Laundromat (as I’ve done for years prior to owning these), and someday I think it would be neat to own an old-timey washer with the wringer and hang my clothes out to dry (in the summer time anyway). But for now – this one’s a toss up. I don’t need to own them, but I do need to use them. So they’re a necessity, but not one that I need to have in my house and use my own electricity for.
So there you have it. There’s a lot I can do away with and still live quite comfortably. For the few things that I deem necessities, I could easily power them with a very small solar unit, or find an alternative way to charge them up or use them elsewhere to minimize my own power needs. So the verdict is that most of our modern conveniences are far from necessities – just ways to make us (myself included) more comfortable with an easier life.