When you think of simplicity you may have images of times long past; of gardens and home-grown and build-it-yourself. While this was the way in times long past simplicity has grown to mean so much more in today’s modern age. Sometimes we forget that the root of simplicity is simple. When times change things that were simple become less so. This can mean that things we don’t normally consider simple actually are–at least for some people!
In our grandparent’s day almost all soaps were homemade. When the hogs were slaughtered in the fall the fat would be rendered, the crackins devoured and lye leached from wood ashes combined into a mixture that solidified and was used to clean everything from the body to the home.
This process is far from simple: it is hot, smelly, backbreaking and sometimes dangerous work. You stand over a hot fire stirring the fat, carefully duck to avoid being splashed by the lye. You carefully pour the steaming hot mixture into molds and gently move it to a place where it can solidify undisturbed.
Which is simpler: going to the store and buying a bar of soap or making it from scratch? Consider that most of us no longer slaughter animals so the fat has to be purchased or acquired elsewhere; wood ashes are almost impossible for a city dweller to acquire to leach for the lye so that has to be bought as well. Is it worth the effort?
Back in the day lye soap was used to wash both dishes and laundry. They didn’t add Borax or Washing Soda to it–they just sliced small slivers off and added it to the wash water. Now in order to make laundry detergent we can either purchase some of the soaps designed for the purpose or grate those same soaps up to create either a powdered or a liquid soap that is gentle enough to use in our modern day washing machines.
With modern laundry soaps becoming harder to acquire (rumors that a popular one, Octagon, has now been discontinued run rampant) we have to go online and pay enormous shipping fees for the ingredients needed to make our own from scratch.
Which is simpler: hunting down the necessary ingredients, paying exorbitant shipping fees for bars which we grate, melt and mix together or going to the store and purchasing some laundry detergent off the shelf?
Back in times past there was one choice if the dishes were to be cleaned: we washed them by hand or not at all. Now we have dishwashers available; place the dirty dishes, add some detergent and push a button.
Which is simpler: taking the time to do them by hand or inserting them into a machine that can clean them while we go on with our life?
In my grandparents’ time clothes were made by hand. When a shirt or pants wore out they were repurposed into the quilts that kept the family warm. When the quilts wore out they were used as lining in new ones and the circle began again. Many were lucky to have as many as three outfits: two that they rotated during the week and their nicest one for Sundays. Now you can find new clothes on every street corner. Dumpsters and thrift shops are overflowing with discarded outfits.
Which is simpler: Making an outfit from scratch or picking one up from Goodwill?
On laundry day the big kettle was placed over the fire built outside. One had to stir the laundry constantly to keep it under water–especially when bleaching the whites. All items were scrubbed piece by piece, rinsed and then hung dripping wet on the line to dry. Afterwards an iron was heated on a fire or the woodstove, liquid starch was splashed onto the garment and it was ironed until stiff.
Now you can either drop off your dry cleaning at a store and have everything done for you or you can put your laundry in one machine, wash it, place it in another to dry before hanging it up, no ironing required.
Which is simpler?
What do you think?
Which of these methods do you think represents simplicity in today’s time? Why do you feel this way? In our modern age, should we use the one and discard another? Why? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Thank you for your support!