Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tooled up

I've been thinking a lot about what defines simple living recently, about what is at the centre of it and what links the very different simple lives that are chronicled in various places. Some live in cities and some on farms, some are young and single or in couples like me, others have young families or are nearer retirement age, and we're scattered around the globe. Are there a few key principles that we share?

I think there are a few basic 'tenets' that apply to simple living wherever you choose to live it. With the proviso that 'we figure they're more guidelines than actual rules', because tenet number one is that we all have to forge our own paths.

The common theme I want to address today is tools. Whatever life we lead, whatever activities we undertake in whatever environment, we all use tools of some kind. Living more deliberately leads us to think about our tools a little differently, I think - they are assistants who make a task a little easier, and we begin to reward this contribution by looking after them. I never thought before about whether I cleaned the mop and bucket after cleaning the floor, and I didn't even realise you could clean a washing machine.

Now this seems obvious, basic - if the washing machine smells of mildew, then the clothes I wash in it will do so too. If I don't regularly replace or clean the sponge and cloths I use for washing dishes and wiping surfaces, they will just become breeding grounds for bacteria and will leave my home dirtier rather than cleaner.

Cleaning tools, cooking tools, crafting tools. The shower head, the mattress, the sewing machine, the kettle, the laptop. All will benefit from some kind of maintenance and will perform better. If you were running a company, you would ensure that the essential machinery was cleaned, inspected and repaired in good order, so why should it be any different for the home?

One further addition to the list of tools. Project 333 has got me thinking about my clothes as I haven't before, and I think they should also be added. They also need to be cleaned and mended with an understanding of their construction, and they can also make our activities (from work to weeding) easier or more complicated.

Of course, it can just seem like another task, another chore in the endless round of work that is keeping a home, but as I was oiling the wooden spoons I found myself meditating on this theme. It's more than just another thing to do - it's about understanding how the tool works, what it needs, and what to use to deliver that. Knowing which oils you can use for wooden spoons, knowing how to clean a washing machine with baking soda and vinegar (digression: is there anything in this world which cannot be cleaned with baking soda and vinegar?), knowing that vinegar dissolves the limescale in a kettle or a shower head.

We're chemists, after a fashion. With a basic understanding of microbiology, woodwork, engineering and computer science thrown in for good measure. And I find that level of understanding feels rather empowering. (When I have it, at least, which I don't always. Which is very frustrating!)


  1. Nickie, I SO AGREE! I remember years ago, when Martha Stewart was just beginning to build her homemaking empire, how happy it made me to read about the care she took in setting a table or making a cake, or learning some new gardening technique. She seemed to be of the opinion that learning the domestic arts was an effort worthy of respect. No longer was I "just a housewife," but an artist and a chemist and a magician and so many other wonderful things! I still appreciate her for this. Great post!

    1. I'm not a housewife but I think in general there is insufficient appreciation of the value of the work done in its home - and not just its importance for health and quality of life, but the degree of knowledge and skill involved.



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