Think Like Great-Grandma

Yesterday morning, when I went to “fluff up” a few line-dried clothes, the dryer made a weird whining sound and refused to turn on.

We bought our dryer used almost six years ago and we’ve had it on our covered back porch for nearly four. It wasn’t terribly shocking that it decided to give us troubles. Immediately I began to wonder if we could make it until our move to purchase a replacement.

I like hanging out clothes and generally hang out the big stuff anyway. I’m sure we could manage, I thought, besides, there’s a laundromat right down the road if we really need a dryer. 

Then I laughed. Here I was mentally trying to calculate if we could survive a few months without a dryer, when my great-grandma didn’t even own one.

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Modern conveniences, from indoor ovens to boxed pasta, are wonderful. They free up thousands of hours each year and make our task as homemakers way simpler.

Some modern inventions (like refrigerators) are practically a necessity. Sometimes though, we come to view a convenience as a necessity. 

Though I have no desire or intention of giving up my oven or washing machine, part of learning to live frugally is learning to “think like great-grandma would” when the need arises.

Maybe we’ll find that we can live without a microwave or dryer after all. Or we might discover that we like homemade nursing pads much better than disposable.

Have you lived without a normal modern convenience? How did you do it? Do you prefer “grandma’s way” over the modern? 


Feminine Adventures

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  1. says

    I love line-dried towels, sheets and clothes. 🙂 Though as a young child I didn’t like the task of hanging them out when it was chilly. 😉

  2. Brenda S Yost says

    think I need to spend some time among the amish near where I live to find out how they hang clothes up in the winter and other energy saving ideas

  3. says

    Hi, Anna
    Thanks for hosting Thrifty Thursdays once again!

    I bought 2 wooden drying racks 30 years ago, and we still use them. Although I do have a dryer for emergencies. When I was 10 years old we lived in a basement suite in Vancouver, B.C. The landlady had two wringer washers in her basement and clothes lines strung up throughout the basement. I loved helping her with the wash. I wouldn’t want to do the wash with a scrub board though, instead of a washing machine.

    Your topic for Thrifty Thursdays is perfect for a post I wrote last week about the cookbooks our Grand mothers and Great Grandmothers used. They are available on Kindle now and we can gain a lot of interesting information about how these wise women coped before the modern conveniences that we take for granted. Knowing these things can help us find creative and frugal solutions to the dilemmas that we find ourselves in.

    For instance in your insistence that refrigerators and freezers are necessities, those wise women thrived and kept their families healthy without them. They used iceboxes and dairy houses (with piped in water to chill things). Although I’ve never lived without a refrigerator, one house I lived in had two iceboxes — tin lined wooden boxes — we used them to store toys in.

    Now living without the internet? That’s something that I do believe we “need”. How else could we meet so many like-minded “friends”, while still enjoying all the pleasures of rural living!

    Have a blessed day.

    • anna says

      I love how perfectly our topic fit together!

      That does sound fun. I was a huge “Little House on the Prairie” fan and have always loved hanging clothes out to dry (though I generally use the dryer for the last few minutes to soften them) and at age 12 was kneading bread from hand–for the fun of it.

      That’s fascinating about the iceboxes. I’m not sure how it would work in a modern city like where we live, but I think someday (if we move to the country) it would be cool to at least have a cellar.

      Thanks so much for the cookbook links on your blog. I can’t way to peruse them when I have a nice free chunk of time.

  4. Drisana says

    I saw this suggetion from Chris @ Joybilee Farm.
    This little family of mine are living as our ancestors did. We are my Hubby, myself and 2 daughters(10&4)
    We don’t have electricity(1small solar panel for the radio and charging our cell phones). We use Kerosene lamps for light. I cook and heat with an old Enterprise Savoy wood cook stove & a small Jotul heater. We have a small propane RV fridge. I dug a root cellar last summer for storing garden produce& canning. I can/preserve(dry)as much as I can. We haul water for bathing, dishes and laundry(no indoor running water…maybe this year). We haul drinking water from my mom’s until we can afford to get the spring tested:) All water is heated on the cookstove in canners. I do all our laundry by hand(rubbermaid container and a hand agitator) and line-dried(have indoor line too). An outhouse is our bathroom(composting- one day an incinerating toilet!).
    We both grew up for a majority of our lives this way:) I am a hippy’s child and my hubby was brought up in an old-colony Mennonite community.
    I think we can learn so much from our ancestors. We have to tweek a little here and a little there 🙂
    Thanks for the blog.

    • anna says

      Wow! That’s pretty impressive. I can’t say I envy you, but it does help me to remember how much of modern life is really not necessary! Do you somehow get internet or go to a library/family member? If we ever had to do without electricity I’m afraid I would “need” the internet to guide me through it, lol!

      We lived in Greenland when I was little and although we had running water, there was no indoor plumbing. I remember so well when we returned to the States just standing in the bathroom and flushing the toilet–it was amazing! Haha!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. says

    The almost exact same thing happened to me over Thanksgiving with our dryer – and having lived overseas where they didn’t even have them, I knew we could cope without it for awhile if necessary. We ended up googling our mysterious sound and model and found a Youtube video that showed how to fix it. We figured that even if we did something wrong to it, we could still call in a repairman if necessary.

    That said, I think I like having a dryer for the amount of laundry we do. It doesn’t save us that much per load compared to the time it would take to put everything out, bring it in, etc.

    As for living without modern conveniences, when I lived in Uzbekistan the first year, I lived in the village and took bucket baths from water brought in from the neighborhood well, and the toilet was a hold in the ground. It wasn’t really that bad – no toilet to clean, for one thing. The other thing local women would ask me about was the “complete meals you could buy from a freezer” that they had heard about in America. It sounded like a dream to them, and they often spent 2 hrs+ per day preparing food. I think that living without the convenience of instant foods and processed foods not only helped me to lose weight there, but trained me in methods that have really helped me to keep my food budget down now.

    • anna says

      Thanks for the idea Jenni! My husband is pretty good at fixing things and I’m sure it won’t take too many crunchy shirts before he’s taken the dryer apart. Hanging out clothes is one of those things I like doing (minor savings aside) but I don’t like them to be all stiff!

      What an amazing experience! And what a good perspective. Haha!

      Even though we make most of our food from scratch, it is amazing how much help we get from having modern conveniences… and the fact that we don’t have to start with the cow to get yogurt. 🙂

  6. says

    This is kind of silly, but after moving into our new home, our built in microwave died (built in October 1979- no surprise there). We were without a microwave for about 2 weeks. I had to drink cold coffee and learned to pour my coffee into smaller cups so I wouldn’t wait so long to finish it, and I prepared my instant oatmeal on the stove! Not so bad 🙂

    • anna says

      That’s great! Isn’t it kinda fun seeing what you can live without?

      We didn’t have room for a microwave in our little place so it was one of the things we gave up. It’s so humid down here thought that butter (which was the main thing I used my microwave for before) thaws very quickly on the counter!


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