When I was in graduate school I unwittingly rented an apartment that lacked a dishwasher and microwave. I say unwittingly because I was without wits or general sense even in my mid-twenties.
Washing dishes by hand was a little annoying but doable since I lived alone and had very few dishes to wash anyway.
It’s like a dream to me now, this lifetime ago. These were the blissful days of only looking after myself. I can’t really imagine what it’s like anymore, worrying only about my own needs. Later I will ask my husband to describe his current life.
But not having a microwave – now THAT was a brain teaser.
How to heat up a piece of chicken that I brought home from my dinner out with friends the night before? What about this little bit of macaroni and cheese that I didn’t finish? Spaghetti is good cold, but I am not an animal. What if I want to warm up a piece of bacon sometime?
I had to call my mom for directions. See also: no wits or sense
“Stick it in the oven or heat it up on the stove!” my mother yelled exasperatedly through the phone. Her atomic matter is comprised of nothing but common sense. Using the range to heat up previously cooked food was something that I had never thought about doing, a completely novel idea. A couple of reheated meals later (that dirtied more dishes than they were worth), and I learned to enjoy the taste of cold food.
I may not be an animal, but I also realize that the value of time sometimes trumps the value of eating hot food.
As the family house manager, I’m always in the midst of shuffling things around in our house; things pile up and are removed to make room for new stuff, for different phases and uses, or simply to free up space. I frequently make hard choices about what I can live without.
I say “I” because like the Little Red Hen, nobody bothers to help me make decisions or assist with these projects, so they learn to live with my choices forever. And quietly.
Over the years we have learned that people can live without1:
Art and family pictures displayed on the walls. Any walls. Because sometimes you just want to live with bare walls for a while. Nobody cares.
Bedroom television. (On the day I finished painting our bedroom) My husband: “Maybe we don’t need a TV in he-” Me: ::unplugs TV, heaves it out into the hall, just like on everyone's favorite family feel-good movie 1982's Poltergeist::
Cable or subscription TV. We went without cable to save money when I first quit my job. The kids watched Sesame Street and I watched prime time with commercials. We missed nothing.
Clothes that spend more time in drawers and on hangers than on the body. You don’t need that gross, pit-stained t-shirt you’ve had since the mid-90s. YOU DON’T. IT IS ACTUALLY GARBAGE.
Curtains. We have pretty nice wood trim around our windows. Why cover it up? Not having curtains sort of squashes all the nude prancing that people do in general, but depending on who your neighbors are, that might be a good thing.
Decorative bedding. We went without pillow shams and a fancy cover on our bed for years. Still alive.
Desk drawers. It’s amazing how much junk gets thrown in there. All I need are a bazillion pencils to keep my kids happy. Seriously with the pencils. My kids eat pencils. Send pencils.
Flat sheets. I like a flat sheet, but our son informed me that he doesn’t, and I think he’s onto something.
Front-door wreaths. We got a new front door years ago and I quit hanging stuff there so it wouldn’t get scratched up. Like the windows, it doesn’t need any help looking good.
Juicer. Just a fancy word for “blender”.
Large storage units. Like everyone else in America, we had an enormous wall unit to store all of our television-watching electronics and accessories. A medium-sized wolf pack could have lived in there and no one would know. I know this because we hardly ever opened it up.
Living room seating. The floor is clean(ish). Sit on it.
Meat. I’m no vegetarian, but I don’t mind playing one once in a while.
New school clothes. Our kids wear summer clothes until well into October, so it’s rare for them unless they’ve grown out of everything to get a whole new wardrobe at the beginning of the school year. Usually they’ll get new shoes because like pencils, they eat shoes.
Old books, magazines, and reference materials. I used to keep CPR certification materials on hand in case I ever had to perform CPR and needed to quick brush up on my skills. And then I realized that a situation requiring CPR would never allow time to peruse and refresh procedures, so I chucked it all. Much luck to anyone needing this type of lifesaving skill when I’m around.
Rugs. Beach towels work great.
Snow pants. Even if you live where it’s cold. Me? Snow Pants-Free in Pennsylvania since 1991.
Standing mixer. We used to have one, and then one of the beaters broke. In a rage I threw the whole thing away. I was remorseful for a second, and then discovered that a little hand mixer does a great job, as well as – wait for it – a spoon.
Stockpiles of canned or frozen food. I mean, you can only eat so much at a time. There’s a grocery store down the road in every direction; I don’t need one at my house, too.
Toaster oven. Once our toaster oven caught on fire. NOTHING WAS COOKING IN IT. Toaster ovens are not to be trusted.
1Heavy sigh disclaimer: We don’t really *go without*. There are millions of people who lack basic human needs every single day to the detriment of their health and lives. I am not ignoring the plight of these people. Nor am I glossing over some very real circumstances. I am a middle-class American mother blathering about so-called necessities that I have found my family can live without, okay? Settle down.