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8 Things Our Spoiled Society Thinks It ‘Needs’ (That Our Great-Grandparents Never Had)

8 Things Our Spoiled Society Thinks It 'Needs' (That Our Great-Grandparents Never Had)

I’ve written previously about how my grandparents and parents survived during the Great Depression. Although growing up with parents from the Depression had its drawbacks (those $5 tennis shoes are just as good as the $30 Vans shoes, I was told), I realize now that I actually learned quite a few survival skills from them.

Perhaps one of the biggest things I learned was to identify a “need” from a “want” Yes, I needed shoes, but I wanted Vans. My mother would often ask me: “What do you need it for?” If I couldn’t prove I needed it, I rarely got it.

In this article, I want to take a look at the things my parents, and others, simply did without during those difficult times – things our great-grandparents never had.

1. Cable television

Television can be cheap entertainment and a good place for news, weather and other important updates. However, one thing we could live without are cable channels. Putting an antenna on your roof will work just fine.

2. Disposable goods

Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that disposables were meant to be used in emergency or only for travel. Plastic bags weren’t really even commonly used until the 1960s and no one “needs” disposable coffee cups, paper plates, plastic forks and one-time-use razors.

3. Video games

While our kids might think these are absolute necessities, they aren’t. You can spend family time and still have fun with old-fashioned games such as checkers, chess, Parcheesi, Monopoly, and other board games. Or have kids play the old-fashioned way — outside.

4. Health clubs or gym memberships

Walking and jogging cost nothing. If you’re near a town, imagine the workout from simply walking to the store and carrying home groceries? But if you think your health would benefit from exercise equipment and weight sets, check out Goodwill or Craigslist.

5. Microwaves, espresso makers and other kitchen gadgets

Ladies, I understand completely. There is nothing like the latest kitchen gadget to make cooking easier. However, if you take a hard look at things (as my mother would have asked), do you really need it?

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8 Things Our Spoiled Society Thinks It 'Needs' (That Our Great-Grandparents Never Had)Rice and popcorn can be made in pots on the stove. Toast can also be made using a small device that goes over the burner. Knives work just as well as a food processor. Take a good look around your kitchen and you will find a dozen little “must-have” items in your kitchen that you truly don’t “need.”

6. Clothes dryers

My mother didn’t buy a clothes dryer until 1970. Even then, she only did it because she got a job outside the home! We hung clothes outside, or in the laundry room during bad weather. My mother talks about how embarrassed she was as a young teen when she had to hang her underwear near the fireplace and her brothers saw it.

7. Tanning beds and nail salons

Sunlight in large quantities, whether natural or man-made, is not good for the body. Some sun exposure is good for the body, so take advantage of it when you can. However, as hard as it might seem, you do not need a tanning bed. Or even a nail salon. In my mother’s 84 years, she never went and had a manicure or a pedicure, let alone acrylic nails. She did her nails herself and they were always beautiful.

8. Cell phones

It wasn’t all that long ago that no one had cell phones. I, myself, did not get a cell phone until 1996. Even then, they were unusual and they could only make calls — nothing more. Some people still live without them today, but if you feel you must have one for emergencies, you can buy a basic pay-as-you-go phone. I’m not saying today’s phone can’t be time-savers and very convenient, but we could actually live without one just fine.

Just a side note here to make you laugh. I once bought my then 78-year-old mother a cell phone so she could take advantage of the “free nights and weekends” plan and talk to her friends and relatives out of state. It was a simple flip phone with big numbers and I showed her how to use it. Two weeks later, she called me on her house phone and told me I should get my money back because the phone didn’t work. I asked her what happened, thinking she would tell me about dropped calls. Instead, she told me that she opened the phone and waited all day for a dial tone, but she never got one. She never did get the hang of cell phones — and lived her entire life without one.

What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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6 comments

  1. I have few appliances in my kitchen…no toaster or rice cooker or egg cooker. But I have a blender and a food processor. I would call the blender the most essential.

  2. I honestly only have a blender(only used in summer for SMOOTHIE) and a waffle maker(only used on winter weekends) we dont do cable ,still use antenna and the occasional VHS tape, we have a clothes line,we make our baby food,cloth diaper,cook from scratch and until a year ago I didn’t own a microwave and we make stove top rice,popcorn and toast. I’m only 30 but I grew up like this so It’s what I do and it teaches my children values and how not to get spoiled by technology.

  3. I can’t believe I’m saying this, living in the extreme southern part of the USA…… But air conditioning. We COULD live without a/c. My grandmother didn’t get a/c in her home until she was in her 80’s. She gave in because WE complained about the heat when we visited for holidays etc….#spoiledbrats

  4. We really need to reevaluate what we consider a necessity. Let’s take for instance a dishwasher. I never have used one before. Don’t get me wrong. I Think it is a good invention but only useful for restaurants and other types of food-serving businesses. In which the quantity of tableware overwhelm any posible handmade cleaning intention. But for a house kitchen it really isn’t necessary. It is easy to clean one or two dishes after you eat, and it is good to instill in the younger ones a sense of responsibility and discipline to the home duties.

  5. Till 1996, hell I’m 28 years old and I still don’t use a cell phone. Too much of a distraction.

  6. I scored pretty good; fair, but not great!!
    I haven’t had cable for years–Roku; antenna didn’t work here and for a one-time price of $35 at walmart and $10 month for Netflix, it’s a bargain.
    I reuse plastic bags for trash cans.
    Video games, health clubs, gyms?? I don’t think so. I have a CL used tv, and used treadmill.
    I do have a microwave, but no other gadgets.
    I do line dry, or inside dry. I made a clothes rack in the laundry room with dowel rods!!!
    No cell phone.
    So, I was talking to travel office today about travel reimbursement and he mentioned a printer!! I told him I didn’t have one. Bummer.
    I have the lowest electric bill of any of my husband’s friends.

    If it can be homemade, I do it–laundry det., dish det., antibacterial soap, even sweet and sour sauce and tartar sauce for seafood.
    Paper towels?? I halve them.

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