I have these Schoolhouse Rock song lyrics repeating over and over in my head, “Mother necessity, where would we be?” It resurfaced from my childhood as I fed my big dog Maynard while waiting for my morning coffee to percolate. I have been thinking about the meaning of necessity lately as I have systematically held to my New Year’s Resolution of purging. I look at certain things and question more and more whether they are really needed. The lesson I am learning through all of this is that less really is more, is that what we think is making our lives simpler might just be making it more of a hassle.
Take my computer, for instance. This week, it died. Kid Two got a virus on it. It was an old computer that should have been replaced a year ago and would have, were it not for my husband being a technical guru. My computer, it turns out is a necessity, a necessary evil is more like it. I need it to do things like write on this blog, or compose the six freelance articles I’m working on or organize materials for the three college classes that I teach. Still, it is a time sucker. The fact that my husband can make a six-year-old laptop still run means he spends countless hour debugging and reformatting and cussing up a storm in the process because he had better things to do.
Moving on. I drink coffee. I love coffee. I can’t be without coffee for very long. I’ve tried and I always go back. Still, coffee makers, the ones made to make life easier, have only given me headaches. I once received one of those coffee makers with a built in grinder, which was indeed a really nice gift. Still, the grinder only held so many beans and would get wet from the steam and clog and stick so that I would have to take a knife to it. Eventually, I killed it trying to get the parts to work right. I also killed at least one expensive coffee maker at my old job, and the hand me down I had been using at home overflowed every once in a while, making a huge mess all over the counter. None of the coffee makers ever made coffee the way I like it, so I went into the garage and fished out the percolator I used once or twice while camping. Best coffee I’ve ever had. No mess, no fuss and surprisingly it doesn’t really take that much longer to make.
This week we also lost our dryer. We didn’t physically lose it. It’s a big appliance. It’s kind of hard to miss. We lost the use of it. That’s when it dawned on me that the thing took too much energy anyway. It ran too often. I thought of when I visited my sister in the Netherlands and how she, a full-time working mom, managed to hang dry her clothes even with an infant who messed up a whole lot of clothes. I decided to do the same. Hang clothes, that is. I am in no way shape or form going through the infant thing again. What strikes me as odd and refreshing all the same is that hanging clothes to dry has somehow made doing laundry less of a chore, which seems counterintuitive. Sure, I have a rack of drying clothes standing in my front room, but I don’t have three baskets of dry clothes that need folding staring at me on a daily basis. I no longer do a bunch of laundry at once. I do a load a day and pull the pieces off the rack throughout the day.
With each step, I feel like I am becoming strangely more efficient and at the same time reducing my impact on the environment where I can. So, I guess the question to ask is, does “easier” necessarily make things “simpler”? I am finding the reverse. Simpler is easier.