Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is Convenient, Better?

Is the simple life, the more rewarding life?
The other day, I did three loads of laundry. Three loads.
No big deal, right?  I mean - how long does it take to do three loads of laundry?  Two hours?

Wrong.  It took me from 8am until 1pm.  That is approximately five hours of laundering (I *did* wash towels, sheets and comforters, mind you).

Oh - and I did it by hand.

No, this is not another post about how to do laundry on a boat - I already wrote about that.  Nope, this is a post about efficiency and how it has changed the world, for better or worse.

While I was elbow deep in soap and ammonia getting one heck of an arm workout, I thought to myself how living on boat takes you back in time.  A time where everything moves a little bit slower, where everything takes a little bit longer.  Simple tasks can take two, three, four, sometimes even five times longer than they do on land.  We can spend a whole day doing chores that take most of you an hour or two.  Like laundry.

I've touched on this subject before, but on this particular day, I got to thinking more about land-life convenience, the effects it has on us and the time we save because of it.  We have cars that take us from a to b.  Mechanics to fix those cars when they break.  Gas stations on every block to fill up the tanks of those cars.  When the power goes out, we can trust that ComEd will turn it back on.  When the toilet backs up a plumber can be over within 24 hours.  We can do a dinner party's worth of dishes with the push of a button.  Customer service hotlines are now 24/7.  Children carry cell phones and are glued to electronic devices.  We can fast-forward commercials.  We can warm up frozen food in two minutes.  There is a store (big box or otherwise) for just about any and everything you need within driving distance.  Water is always available when we open our taps.  Garbage gets collected once a week.  Streets get plowed and mail gets delivered, rain or shine. Food can be delivered for us, right to our door within thirty minutes or less.   Nowadays with the internet, if we don't want to leave our homes, we really don't have to.  For anything.

And, of course, we can do three loads of laundry without ever getting our hands wet.

The list, obviously, goes on.

With all this extra time on our hands, it's no wonder we have evolved into a society where the average person watches television for four hours and thirty-five minutes a day.  Where, by 2030, about half of the adult population of the United States will be obese, not including 1 out of every 3 children.  Should we be surprised that cases of children being diagnosed with ADD & ADHD have increased by nine million over the last ten years and the average child spends 5.5 hours every day on media-driven sedentary activities?  Is it shocking that, despite being one of the richest countries on the planet, we rank #16 out of 80 in terms of  happiness?  Doesn't this seem odd in a world where things are so...easy?

It seems to me that despite having all this free time thanks to "modern convenience" and "efficiency" - we're not using it very wisely and it doesn't, in fact, make our lives better.  Despite having more time on our hands than ever (historically speaking) - we enjoy the world much less, and we're worse off because of it.

Now I don't want to get called out for being the pot that called the kettle black - because I am just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to reveling in modern-day conveniences when I can.  When we lived on land I drove all over the place, I ordered take-out, I microwaved dinners, I shopped online (and still do) and I most certainly did not do laundry by hand (though none of my apartments had a dishwasher).  Not to mention I am on the computer, utilizing the magical world wide web on a daily basis.  Sometimes more than I should.  It's how I get my daily bread.  I work online.  In addition, we obviously enjoy many conveniences aboard Rasmus; chart plotter, AIS, autopilot, EPIRB, watermaker, fans, oven, SSB and more - and it is true these technologies enrich our experience and make life more comfortable.  But there must be a balance, because too much of a good thing is not good, right?

I'm not pointing fingers - and I don't have any answers.  I mean, I have the luxury to have five hours of time in which to do laundry by hand.  I have the luxury to live on a boat where I walk at least a few miles a day just doing normal chores, where I get to breathe fresh air and bask in sunshine on a daily basis, where I eat locally grown fresh produce and where my lifestyle keeps me fit and healthy, naturally.  I am a lucky girl, and I know it.

And you want to know what else?  I have never felt more of a sense of accomplishment doing laundry than I did when I completed all those loads and saw them lined up, clean and pretty, drying in the sun and flapping in the breeze.  It felt so good to hang that last towel.  I guess working a little harder makes the end result that much sweeter.

My friend, Tim Shambrook, who commented on a question I posed on our Facebook page said it best:

"The bigger the effort, the bigger the reward."

It's that simple.

5 comments:

JD said...

Well said (again) Brittany. I am as guilty as the next guy. That said, I wonder if the problem that we face is the difference between people knowing that these are luxuries/conveniences versus just expecting them (or feeling that they are a right or that we "deserve" them). I dunno...

Jill said...

I think it might be a combination or a chicken or the the egg of modern conveniences + the tendency of modern American society to focus far more energy, time & purposefulness into their jobs than their lives. Many people spend 40-50 hours a week at an office or job and then have everything else that goes along with life that still needs to be done, hence the machines to wash our clothes and dishes, the cars to bring us to places faster, the big box stores for one-stop shopping add in there raising children, caring for aging parents, furthering educations, etc. - it's all geared so that the hours we aren't at work or asleep we can get what needs to get done faster. Problem is when all that needs get done is said & done and we aren't at work we are simply exhausted and tired and just want to tune out so we tune in.

If we began to think about making a living in a different way, if we really ask ourselves if we can be happy with less money - perhaps cutting work hours back so that we could have more time to hang our laundry out to dry, tend a garden, cook real food, enjoy simplistic time with our kids, sit in the open air and give the time needed to dream setting & self reflection we would see healthier people and MUCH healthier planet.

One of my favorite magazines "YES!" just did a whole piece on "Redefining Making a Living" and posed 5 questions to ask yourself:
http://www.yesmagazine.org/pdf/59/59poster.pdf

bob said...

A very profound philosophical treatise.

Well done!

bob
s/v Eolian
Seattle

Jessica on S/V San San said...

Great article!
My favorite part of this whole post is that part about children. Kids on boats are a different breed. I'm so thankful we are raising our daughter in a totally different world. Our "media driven sedentary activities" are kept to an all time low of 30 minutes a day. Reading, drawing, cooking, learning, crafting, swimming and walking take up most of our day.

I agree that it's nice to have the conveniences but what is done with the time saved? I agree with Jill, we need to tune out, not just tune in. Make our own memories. That is how to live!

Living on a boat affords us the opportunity to live in the present day. TO-day To live, To learn and To be:)

Thanks for a great piece!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Love Tim's comment ... so true! I think we're all a little guilty of enjoying today's pleasures, but totally agree that your way of life is better! We can't wait to do the same! I think that even though there are more conveniences today, they take up more time. If we rid ourselves of most of these things we'd have more time ... like you! Great post!

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