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WWGGD: The Slower the better

April 23, 2009

I’ll admit it: I am often guilty of impatience, especially when driving and in a rush to get somewhere (though I am usually quite tranquil on the road, especially on the way home). But I’m realizing more and more that while time is very important, rushing through life is a waste of time.

My mother mentioned to me today an article she read that talked about how you can save money by making your own (insert item here). Examples? Yogurt/ricotta, window cleaner, bagels, etc. The key ingredient in all of these things is time. You can live extremely frugally if you have the time to “make your own” whatever. You do have to be a good manager, though.

This is why my family household (that I grew up in) was run so well. My parents own their own business, but they couldn’t draw a salary for the first four years. So my dad worked a full-time bank job (nights, by the way) and my mom managed both the business and our household. Then, when my little sister was born, she decided to stay home full-time and hand the day-to-day management of the business over to my dad. So my mom became the chief executive of our household. And she made things work. My sister and I never wanted for anything when we were growing up, but my mother recently told me that there was no way they could have afforded the things many youngsters do today (private dance & music lessons, team sports, etc.). We were always clean and neatly dressed, but our clothes came from Kmart (on clearance) and garage sales, mostly. We always had a hot meal on the dinner table every night, but we ate a lot of Hamburger Helper. And my mom drove the same little hatchback car she had in college for another ten years, then got a used Camry that she drove for the next ten.

Business is not booming these days, but we can afford a lot of things we didn’t used to be able to afford (HD satellite TV, for one). But one of the reasons why we can afford things now, in my opinion, is because my mother was such an efficient household manager when I was growing up. Also, she had the time to bargain shop and to spend time cooking meals (or sewing dresses, when my sister and I were really little) because she didn’t have a “real” job.

Sometimes I really just like to do things the old-fashioned way. Now, part of this is because I’m a trained and professional historian. But part of it is because it is very satisfying. We live in an age where gratification is near-instant, our industry is service-oriented (i.e. the majority of us sit at desks and talk on phones all day), and there is a serious social and intellectual disconnect between producers/production and the end product. Case in point? Inner-city and suburban kids who think eggs and milk and vegetables come from the grocery store, not chickens and cows and the ground.

Sometimes, baking a cake from scratch without using the mixer, or making your own ricotta or bread, or hand sewing those buttons back on your shirts and pants instead of throwing them out, or mowing the lawn with a non-motorized push mower, can be gratifying. You’ve worked hard and, unlike at your office job, you actually have something worthwhile to show for it. And the best part? The end product is usually better than if you’d purchased it from the store. Particularly when it comes to food.

The Slow Movement (both in food and elsewhere) is slowly : D  taking hold around the world. It’s a little slower here in the states than in, say, Europe, where doing things slowly never really left their cultures, or in developing countries, where slow is the only way you can do some things. And while I’m reluctant to join a movement I see as a little pretentious (Slow Food, I’m looking at you!), I can deeply appreciate the sentiment.

So the question you’ve got to ask yourself is, “What Would Great-Grandma/pa Do?”

(Of course, the answer for some of you may be: “Have the help do it,” but then you’ll just have to modify your question to “What Would Great-Grandma/pa’s Hired Help Do?” *grin*)

P.S. Wanna check out the offical slow movement? Go to SlowPlanet.com and SlowFoodUSA.org. Also, check out this British MakingYourOwn.co.uk site!

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