Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Mother of Invention

Sadie* has four children, a home business, and the sundry appointments and obligations of modern life. She also has no vehicle. This is not a temporary inconvenience for Sadie, but a voluntary lifestyle.

“I’m used to doing without one,” she says with a dismissive shrug. How does Sadie live a modern life without something that most modern people regard as essential? She plans ahead, combines errands, and relies on a mixture of public transportation and walking.

Sadie’s way of life is even more remarkable when one considers the inefficient and poorly planned public transportation system of the small town we share. Getting from Point A to Point B on a Yakima bus can take hours, even when Points A and B are mere blocks apart. Yet her choice is not without merit. Surprisingly, she spends less time in transit that most modern mothers, and that time is usually spent reading or interacting with her children. Sadie has chopped entire toes off her carbon footprint and has no trouble getting a healthy amount of exercise every day. She is also saving money; transportation, a sizeable chunk of the average household budget, costs her mere pocket change.

Globally, more people share Sadie’s transportation arrangement than the one-car-per-driver situation favored by most American families. Women had busy lives long before Ford perfected the internal combustion engine. Yet most American families would never consider giving up driving—or even cutting back—except as a desperate measure. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but that’s not her only offspring. Ecology, frugality, and simplicity are often discovered in dire situations.

Consider: entire populations make do without the necessities of American life. Two years ago, I found myself suddenly and quite unhappily without a working clothes dryer. In a seven member household, saving laundry for a weekly trip to the Laundromat was out of the question. My husband strung up a line outside so I could air-dry clothes until we bought a new dryer. In that short week I discovered that hanging out laundry takes little time; the next month I found that it also saves a wad of electricity dollars. Years later, our new dryer is used only when the weather demands it.

How many facets of American life could be simplified this easily if circumstances demanded it? Then why wait? Join me in taking a look at your home and your life, evaluating what is really necessary, and trimming the excess. Ask yourself what you would do if forced to be without some of the items we take for granted. Some things may be absolutely necessary (“What would I do without an asthma inhaler?”) but others seem almost ridiculous in their superfluousness (“What would I do if I couldn’t afford soft drinks?”).

As always, give thanks. If you are making these changes voluntarily, you are one of the lucky ones.

*name changed


GreenStyleMom said...

Thanks! I love the thought that I am very lucky to be making some changes VOLUNTARILY.

Emily the Great and Terrible said...

I think we forget sometimes that our "sacrifices" are necessities in other areas of the world. We are very lucky!

Thanks for commenting. :-)