Topsy-Turvy: My personal transition story

Written by  Mary Contrary

Electrical home appliances, do we really, really need them all??? Our guest writer who goes by the name Mary Contrary has been putting things to the test. Here are her findings so far in her quest for a personal transition: A series of unfortunate events and a lot of enlightenment...


Whether we really need electrical home appliances depends on your point of view, and from where I am standing there are more benefits than loss if you approach things differently. But, I did need a lot of unfortunate events before I came to that realisation. To explain things, let's go back in time to some day a few years ago, when I moved into my new home.

During that time, I naturally bought a new washing machine. I should make sure to purchase a new one, everyone kept assuring me, to avoid any trouble. So, I did. One with a "Top Brand." I have a garden, so whilst I was at it, and thinking I also needed an electric lawnmower, I bought myself a grass trimmer, one of those with a wire. 

Fortunately the house was already fitted out with a central heating system, but I also had to get a new vacuum cleaner. It’s what you do. So, all systems go, right? Ready to get on with the rest of my life? Not so much!

First the washing machine broke. My brand new, Big-Brand washing machine. After only a few years. It had only been used by one person; little old me rather than a huge football-playing family. It had not even been used that many times, since I had actually been away a lot that year.  So, yeah, it broke anyway. Rotten luck, that’s for sure. Anyhow, lots of time spent finding someone to come and fix it affordably, I had it sorted. Perfect. On I went. Right? Nope, just a few months later it broke again. Seriously. The same Technical Washing Machine Person was called and after the problem was fixed once more, I was ready to get on with my life.

However, a year later it happened again. Except this time, the thing did not come on at all. It had died. It had already left the building, lights were off. Calling around, I discovered this time the problem came under Serious Issues and I was told by various companies it would be cheaper to get a new one. I won’t name the brand as it is not really important and you will probably file this story under a range of unlucky events. The fact is, when you buy a washing machine, most of us rely on someone else to fix it when things go wrong. And they will, obviously normally not as fast as in my case, but they will, as there are a lot of parts and machinery and technical things inside of it, and when one thing goes....

What a moron

So, I did a lot of research for my next washing machine purchase, but lost my trust in buying another new one, or second hand for that matter. But, as they say, things happen for a reason. At this point I decided to go in a different direction altogether and bought (with a feeling of dread) a whole new kind of mobile camping-type washing machine! 

Tell you what, after my initial misgivings about doing something that felt so crazy and drastic and downright silly, fast forward a few months, I could not be happier! First of all, the washing is nice and clean. Yes, it takes a bit more work (you need to put the water in yourself, for example), but it just needs a little planning, and knowing that I only spent a fraction of the initial cost, didn’t need to hire anyone to install it all (which is key when you are starting from scratch), will probably never need anyone to come and fix anything (there are needless to say not a lot of parts to it) and that it is incredibly cheap to run, the things is making me very happy and self satisfied! Smug, actually.

Ok, the centrifuge part is rubbish, so I might treat myself to one of those ''modern things'' one day, maybe a mini one, but in the meantime, I plan things around the weather forecast and don’t need to iron anything. The whole thing is light to carry and lives in a cupboard: It takes no space in the home, and when I am done with it, it is nicely stacked away. Feels very calm. When I first started, the only and main issue was my mindset. Washing needs to be done with an electric washing machine, a normal one, I  kept saying to myself. Does it though?

Actually, it set me on a new path of thinking.

Have you gone mad??

In the meantime, my new vacuum cleaner had also broken. First the rod, then a few other bits and bobs. So, I just started brushing things in the meantime. BRUSHING things??? Are you mad? Lost your mind? Tired of life? Sounds medieval, or like I have gone back in time to pre-war times? Well actually, together with one of those easy-peasy Bob’s your uncle sweeper cleaning mops (E5), I end up keeping things much cleaner (I admit I am lucky to have even floors, no carpet, but then that was something I had already chosen), more often, MUCH easier and in a nicer way than hoovering. And, you guessed it, I don’t need to call anyone to come and fix anything, ever.

Next up, since I was on a roll, was to find another solution for my previously-mentioned new and by now also very annoying grass trimmer thing. Not only did it make a lot of noise, the kind that you had to feel sorry for your neighbours and everyone else nearby (and far!), it also ate energy like there was no tomorrow. Besides all that it was also quite stressful, and with images in my head of blown toes and bits of feet and of that long electrical cord itself, I always had to be very vigilant whilst doing it.

So, in any case, the blasted string had broken once again (the string comes off easily on these things, which is what you find out on those wonderful forums) and I was watching endless YouTube films to try and fix the bloody thing. But not even any of my very Severe Gardner neighbours knew how to fix it; turned out mine was a bit different to most similar grass trimmers as well. Rotten luck, a!

Fast-forward, I now am the proud owner of an E5 manual grass cutter!! Granted, it has taken a different mindset. I do bits here and there, when I feel like it, snapping off as I go some other non-grass bits. My body gets a workout (no need to go to the gym, if you like to see it that way, saves time and money too!), I spend more of my time outside (more sunlight and vitamin D etc) and, even though at first I thought it would be really hard work, and I was already nerve wrecked just having to add this seemingly never-ending task to my to-do list; the more I worked with it, the more relaxing, soothing, and satisfying I found the process!  I don’t know, but to me it sounds like a win-win-win. Funny thing is, I still feel a little embarrassed when people see me at work in this way! It seems totally illogical, but there you go, we have grown so incredibly accustomed to all our mod cons that we feel a little embarrassed when we don’t use them!

It’s all in the mind

All in all you could say that I was unlucky with all these brand new items, breaking in such a short time after having purchased them. I did too. But, you could also say, as I do now, I was very lucky as it brought me onto a new path of thinking!

I am not saying doing your own washing will substitute going to the gym, and don’t get me wrong, I have loved my times in the gym over the years. But once you start this kind of transition and become less dependent on electoral appliances and mod cons, and realise that everything has pros and cons, there are a lot of benefits to be discovered. For example, being active a lot and often, instead of hitting the gym once a week.

Also, as humans we are suckers for keeping things the way they are, we loathe change, it is how we are wired. And in the beginning, when I started doing my own laundry, I just felt stressed, and wondered why on earth I was doing this and told myself I really didn't have time for it. But as I kept going with it, I got used to the whole process (you gradually find out how best to do it in a way that works for you), and even started looking forward to it. A bit of me-time, meditative. I now accept that everything needs time to change and for us to get used to.

Next up: The Biggie

So, next up is a Biggie: the Central Heating system, including shower and warm water in the kitchen. I don’t need to really mention the gas prices and risk of there being less of the stuff in the near future. The central heating thing actually broke on me (what’s new), last winter. It was Christmas of course. No one around to fix it, ice cold showers and wet windows, and on top of that a lot of scary electrical short cuts as the fool thing was leaking water inside (could be kind of life threatening?...I was wondering at night), and a problem that often happens, I found out on said forums, but best not to get me started on that.

Four CV Specialists later (again, don’t ask), and four totally different stories later about what was causing the problems and how to fix it (not even any overlap between those four stories, I kid you not), fed up feeling sorry for myself, and started looking into a whole alternative way of heating my home and tap water. A new boiler system was not something I could afford, and I really wanted something without having to rely on expensive experts to fix it when it breaks, as these things do.

After a lot of research (and reading stories about how boilers are all prone to suffer from failures and error messages after a certain time), at the moment I have this romantic image of a cosy pellet burner. An air ventilator thing on top of it to transfer the heat to the other two rooms (my home is small, which had already been a conscious decision), and a stack of pellet bags patiently waiting under a small roof in the garden.

Going all in

I did consider going all in and getting a wood burner (even cheaper in installation and usage), but a pellet burner, they tell me (you have to believe SOMETHING in order to get on with it, right?) is better for the planet. Plus, it comes with some form of modernisation since there is a kind of electrical process involved. I only have to put in the pellets, and off it goes for hours and hours, without me having to play Jon Wayne and keep the fire going. Call it a compromise.

Yeah yeah, what about hot water. Well, the current plan is for a very special shower system. No, not any old shower system. One which for E20 will take water out of a bucket and provide a lovely shower. Don’t laugh, humour me; there really does not seem to be that much difference with traditional showers. The water I will put in the bucket from the kitchen, where I can warm it up with the kettle. Or, if I am feeling less brave, there are also mobile water heater boiler things I may be looking into.

Sounds crazy right? I mean, that’s the kind of stuff for eco communes, those that hop around being all spiritual and happy. Or is it? Watch this space as I will update on the new shower and heating system!

Do you also have a story about a transition to less electrical things in your house? Tell us about it!

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Brand new, international Life Mindstyle magazine, reflecting a variety of perspectives in different aspects of our daily lives. Are our perspectives our own? Are they good for us, for others, for the world? They might be, they might not be. Either way, wouldn't it be good to know? Be curious and see where it may take you. 

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