I remember reading a story about a young woman living on a family cattle ranch out west. Her grandmother had been living and working on the ranch all her life. The woman was curious about her grandmother’s household chores and asked her how often she washed the wooden floors of the house. The grandmother looked at her in confusion and asked what the point of washing the floors of the house would be. After all, raising cattle is hard, dirty work. There wasn’t time for unnecessary chores and the floor would be dirty again in minutes. She swept out the dirt and leaves, but scrubbing would be pointless.
Can you imagine if someone today admitted they NEVER wash their floors? At least here in the suburbs, I think they’d get some sideways glances. Even if you don’t have time to do it yourself, you can hire a cleaning service to do it for you, right?
I’m going to admit something… Are you ready? I don’t wash my laminate floors. I don’t mean never, but it generally only gets done when some kind of bodily fluid (human or canine) ends up on the floor, once per year or so. I do vacuum every week or two to pick up the dog hair, dust, and crumbs.
I used to feel bad about this fact, but my house always looks reasonably clean and I don’t think my floors are causing any kind of health hazard, so why should I clean them more often?
One of the things that inspired me to worry less about this sort of thing was Mr. Money Mustache’s rant about over-cleanliness. He argues that we’ve all taken cleanliness way too far, cleaning things that aren’t even dirty in the name of “sanitation” when we are probably actually hurting our health, overspending on cleaning products, using up excessive amounts of the Earth’s resources, and wasting our precious time.
Modern convenience = Higher standards
I think oftentimes when modern conveniences make a chore easier, instead of enjoying the extra time created by automation, we raise our standards instead. When people had to do laundry with a washboard, how often do you think clothes or linens got washed? I can guarantee it wasn’t daily! People survived just fine wearing their clothes until they were truly dirty. Now that we have access to modern washing machines that remove the manual labor from the task of doing laundry, suddenly we feel that every item of clothing needs to be washed after a single day’s use.
Less physical work, but the same amount of time
Imagine a mother in the olden days who washes her family’s clothing on a washboard. If her family has 4 people and they each wear an average of 5 articles of clothing at a time (worn constantly for the week), she has 20 items of clothing to wash at the end of the week. With a washboard and a clothesline, I’d imagine this would take her around 2 hours of manual labor to complete.
Now let’s imagine a modern mother of a similarly-sized family. If each person averages 5 articles of clothing, tossed into the hamper daily, that’s 20 items per day or 140 items of clothing per week for the family. If all 4 people showered daily and took a new towel each time, that’s 28 towels to wash each week. Of course, their bed sheets must be changed weekly too, right? Add 3 sets of sheets to this mountain of laundry. Depending on how large all of these items are, I’d estimate that would equal around 15-20 loads of laundry per week or 2-3 loads per day. Even if each load only took her 15 minutes to sort, load, and fold, she’s going to take 4-5 hours to do all that laundry. It is going to take LONGER to complete her laundry than the mom with the washboard! It’s less physical labor, but more time, because she raised her standards too high. It’s also much more expensive and harder on the environment because of the cost of all that soap, electricity, and water.
How to fight the standards creep
I am certainly not suggesting that we should wear our underwear for a week without washing, but could we reuse the towels for a week? Or re-wear our jeans for a few days?
Why do our standards of cleanliness have to rise just because we have modern machines and cleaning products that make the chores physically easier? Can’t we stick to some of the old (lower) standards while enjoying the extra time that the modern convenience allows us?
I think if we all relax our standards just a bit, we can save money, resources, time, and energy. We’ve been marketed to heavily by the companies that sell all of these cleaning products and we’re believing the myth that cleaner is always better. Just say no! If it looks clean and smells clean, it’s probably clean enough!
Lower Your Standards to Save Time and Money
Here are some ideas of ways to lower your standards a bit to save you some time, money, and sanity.
In the home:
- Wash clothes, towels, and sheets less often
- Don’t wash your floors
- Clean the bathrooms less often
- Stop sanitizing kids’ toys (pediatricians agree that dirt is healthy!)
- Try showering less often (maybe every other day) or washing your hair less
- Use less make-up or put it on less often
- Find a hairstyle that works with your hair’s natural tendencies (embrace what nature gave you!)
- Stop coloring your hair
- Encourage the kids to play in the dirt!
- Sign them up for fewer activities
- Spend more time hanging out at home and loving on your kids instead of driving around
- Don’t buy all the latest and greatest toys
Not all of these ideas will work for everyone, but I hope I got you thinking about how you could relax some of your overly high standards to save yourself some money and stress.
I like to think about a family living 100 years ago and what they would have enjoyed from modern living. Better healthcare, nutrition, and education would probably have been greatly desired. Cleaner floors, fancier make-up, or fresher towels were probably not something they worried about, so why should we?
Have you ever tried lowering your standards to save some time, stress, and money? Please comment below or join the discussion in the Smart Family Money Facebook Group.