Simple Living In The Old Days?

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Simpler times weren't always easy

Simple Living In The Old Days?

Not long ago, we included a post about how the older generations lived. We often talk about going back to simpler times. Each person has his or her own reasons for thinking we should – to save the environment, save money, have a more peaceful life or a better family life and so on. I want to add a new twist on this subject and give you something new to think about.

I hear so many people say, “I wish things were like they were in my grandparents day” because they equate the old days with simple living. There was a time when I longed to live in another time, too, but as years passed I have learned to enjoy living in the time I am in.

There are many things that I would enjoy about living in the old days but I have found that I am so blessed to live in the time I live in. If I want, I can choose to live simply and do many of the things people did back then but in addition to that I have the advantages of the modern age. I have the best of both worlds.

I think we are foolish if we don’t use the wonderful things our predecessors worked so hard to discover and invent for us. They wanted a better world for future generations and worked hard to give it to us, but many of us seem to want to take the wonderful things they left us to make our lives better and easier and cast them aside. I wonder if they wouldn’t be a little disappointed with us.

Here are some reasons I am so glad I live now, along with a look at some differences between living now and then:

  • Not having modern inventions would mean many of my children and grandchildren would have died from lack of good medical care. Hospitals, ambulances and other transportation to get them to a doctor and all the medications and vaccinations available now are a blessing. My two sweet granddaughters wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these things. (one was born 11 weeks early and the other had a hole in her lung at birth and both had to be in NICU)
  • I am grateful for canned goods and preserved food that I can buy now instead of having to depend exclusively on fresh fruits and vegetables, which were only available for a few months of the year.
  • I am grateful for a grocery store where I can go and replace my food easily if it is all destroyed.
  • I’m glad to know that when I am too ill or when I’m unexpectedly not home to cook something for my family, there are places like fast food places where they can go and easily get food once in awhile when they need to.
  • I am so glad for pesticides so I don’t have to stand and watch in horror as our entire year’s food supply and income are slowly destroyed by pests and insects. I’m also glad that I don’t have to sit by and not be able to do anything as I watch my child die from a disease, which I was unable to protect her from, that was spread by insects. I’m thankful that the living nightmare of living with things like bed bugs, roaches, mice and flies is virtually nonexistent compared to what it was before pesticides.
  • I am grateful for an electric stove, a microwave and a washing machine so I don’t have to worry about myself or my children being badly burned from fire or hot boiling water used to wash my clothes or an arm being mangled and crushed in a wringer washer.
  • I am glad I have a washing machine, a dishwasher, a vacuum and so many other wonderful things to make my life easier so I don’t look and feel like an old woman before my time with a worn out body.
  • I am thankful for phones, webcams, cars and planes, all of which help me keep in close touch with the family I love, so I don’t have to go years or possibly the rest of my life without seeing them.

My list could go on and on. The point I want to make is that our grandmothers and great grandmothers were wise women who embraced the new “technology” that came their way, appreciating new and different things that might improve their lives.

They knew how back breaking it could be to be 8 months pregnant with toddlers under foot and still having to get the whole garden harvested and preserved or their families would have no food at all for the winter. They looked at canned goods, even with preservatives, as heaven sent and most of them have lived much longer, healthier lives because of them than they did with their own canned foods.

Even with lives that seem simpler to us, there was a lot more stress and pressure for them, which most of us really don’t understand. Even for those of us who are trying to “live off of the land” or just live simply, there is always that knowledge in the back of our minds that if something goes catastrophically wrong with our “crop”, we can still go to the store and buy what we need.

We have a choice. They didn’t. It puts a whole different spin on the situation when there is less pressure. They had no choice but to do the things they did because it meant life or death. When we choose to can our own vegetables or grow our own gardens, we don’t usually do it because we have no other option but just because we want to live simply.

It is much like the difference between when you work a job because you have to do it to feed your family or when you have plenty of money but you work just because you want to and get pleasure out of it. There is a whole different level of stress.

We laud our grandmothers’ ways of doing things like hanging clothes on the line, but my grandmother in law who in days past had to haul water 10 miles from the creek and then wash her clothes by hand and hang them on the line loved to use her dryer years later. She embraced it.

Now that being said. That doesn’t mean I believe you shouldn’t hang clothes on the line, hand wash your dishes, garden, can or other things. I still do all of that. I love living more simply. I also hate many of the things like the electronic toys our children are obsessing about and other crazy things about the world.

We are so quick to march against and fight things like pesticides, hospital births, preservatives and so many other things, pointing out the awful things they are doing in our lives but we tend to forget (or maybe we haven’t been taught) that these things have saved and helped thousands, even millions of lives. Without pesticides, disease would be rampant. (Go to any third world country and you can see this today.) Many mothers and children died in childbirth but now a child can be born many weeks too early and be saved and many moms who would have died then are saved with Caesarean section all the time. We have plenty of food because our crops are not being destroyed and are preserved properly.

My point is, there is nothing wrong with using all of the wonderful things God has given us as long as we use them wisely, carefully and gratefully. Simple living is great but it’s best not to always look at the past with rose colored glasses. They had many good things but they also had many stresses we couldn’t imagine dealing with now. The grass isn’t always green on the other side. They had to fight weeds, too.


Photo By: Patrick Emerson


  1. Becki says

    I do agree with you in part. However, many of the modern conveniences have made us into a lazy and ungrateful society. And many of the modern “wonders” such as pesticides, medicines etc have also contributed to many diseases and health problems.
    So in reality we have traded one set of difficulties for an different set.

  2. says

    Jill, thank you so much for an amazing post. It is absolutely refreshing to read about gratitude for technology instead of the use of our knowledge being somehow ‘against God’s will.’ As someone who has been struggling with infertility for over six years, it hurts to be told that I’m wrong for using any methods available to try to build my family. I appreciate you pointing out the sheer number of lives that have been saved and will be saved with knowledge and learning.

  3. Donna B. says

    Hi Jill: so funny you would mention a wringer washer! my gram used one and my poor cousin (I love her to death), was a very little girl and she broke her arm by putting it in the wringer! She wanted to “follow the clothes”, she thought her arm would come out flat like the clothes.

    Nope, just broke it. Luckily, we both made it into our 50’s and we’re still fine!

  4. Donna says

    Hey Jill! First off, you’re awesome! I’m a home schooling home birthing momma of nine. I used to dream of farm life. I was actually kind of obsessed with it. I equated that with a simple life. Over the years, it has become more and more obvious that God is not going to give us that life. I really don’t think its sour grapes when I say I don’t even want it anymore. It finally hit me that that the debt that would come with the land would not give a life that’s simple at all—haha. Now when we drive through “country” areas I don’t feel as jealous as I used to feel. I am now happy with my simple little city house that sits in my small little yard. I feel blessed that I can walk to the farmers market that is in my town once a week, and we can walk to numerous parks and a pool. Thank you soooooo much for your thoughts on this. On another subject, I sometimes wonder if people who are so natural and organic and anti-pesticide might be more concerned about their own perfect health than the possibility of more people actually having something to eat. I think sometimes we get so consumed with having the very best for ourselves, we forget about others.

  5. Hannah says

    I agree completely and so would my grandmother who had to bury three beautiful little girls to meningitis and her husband who died of a broken heart soon after. Thank you for this well thought out article. Hannah

  6. Barbara says

    As always, there are two sides to this. I love trying to live as simply as I can. I do agree with you that I, for one, have enough stress living in the world as it is today without having to think about all that they had to deal with back then. In a sense, we have traded new and different problems for what they had back then that we don’t have now and they did not have then.

  7. elizabeth says

    Amen, great article. I do a lot of “simpler” things too, but I am so glad to have the back up of modern technology. We have to be careful to not romanticize the past. The fact is our foremothers and forefathers often worked harder than we can even imagine.

  8. Pat Duigon says

    How right you are!!
    Just in my own lifetime–summers upstairs were unbearable because nobody had air conditioning.
    My mother used a device called a “curtain stretcher” which was a frame full of sharp (ouch) pins that you streteched the damp curtains on so that they wouldn’t wrinkle as there were no “no iron” fabrics back then.
    Plus the painful dentist visits (what a difference today)
    Yes the good old days were good, but I would not want to be without our modern improvements.
    Love your publication

  9. Cindy says

    Lets see-what am I grateful for-birth control. At one time it was illegal. Unemployment compensation. Back then if you lost your job you were out of luck. Employment opportunities for women. I remember when the classifieds were listing men’s and women’s jobs. Womens were secretaries or teachers or nurses. And were paid a lot less. I am thankful that my daughter can pursue any career she wants. And choose how many children she can have

  10. conni fransen says

    Jill, have you ever thought of collecting your essays in an e book or ???? I love your writing as you are truly gifted. You have such a gentle and refreshing way of saying things that I (mother of six and gramma of seven) agree need to be shared with our Titus 2 sisters! Thank you for blessing us. conni

    • says

      Thank you Conni. I’m not sure what is going on but you are about the 4th person to ask that in the past week and a half and as if that wasn’t enough our pastor was preaching and in the middle of if he said “You all need to write a journal or a book so the future generations can know about you and what God has done for you”. My biggest problem usually with our books is trying to put them in some order that makes sense and editing the books. We have to do all of that ourselves and it is a job. Anyway thank you.

  11. says

    Donna, do you have a blog? I can really relate to what you share and would love to compare notes more! We are a larger family in town too. I don’t dream of a farm so much (grew up on them, aware of the hard work! 😉 )as a 1/2 acre in the country, and kids being able to yell outside without me always having to shush them. And dig and build treehouses, and have lots more options at home besides electronics, you know?

    I’m also thankful to be able to drive up the road to the farm and buy the amazing vegetables they grow with all their old world expertise while my little raised bed garden is ALWAYS a flop.

    (Also if you have a bigger family and are a bit nostalgic like I think from what you share, you might like seeing the pictures on my site of old photos of large families. Linked on my name on this comment)

  12. Rhonda says

    I think you summed it up well when you said we have the choice and they didn’t. I think earlier generations where much better about using what they had, taking care of what God blesses them with, and expected less material things. I think we can learn from them and try to emulate their appreciation and frugality. I am happy to have the choices we do today.

  13. Therese says

    Great article, Jill! I am fascinated by the way our foremothers lived and I really like some of the things they did but I am now more aware that I might not be here if not for modern medicine.
    Thanks so much!

  14. Belinda says

    So very true , when I was younger I romanticized the ways of old , but now I am older I see what they went through and am so very thankful for what we have now .

  15. says

    Thanks, and well said. Living in Cincinnati, I long for the days of DDT when bedbugs were non existent. We are now the epicenter. It changes how you live, where you hang out, even what you buy second hand.
    As for your next book ;), try Scrivener. It is currently for Macs (40.00) with Beta in Windows (free). I’m not affiliated, but it has great organizational features.

    • says

      Thanks for the tip Maripat. Thank goodness bedbugs haven’t hit us quite as hard as other areas. I think after going through the grasshoppers coming through and destroying everything decades ago our farmers still like using healthy (and I mean that in a good way) doses of pesticides for our crops but I’m sure they are headed here and will soon have to deal with them.
      I too long for the days of DDT. I saw a show just recently on bed bugs where they said they had no clue why there is an epidemic of bed bugs and I thought auhhhh maybe because we can’t use DDT. Just as I thought that they said – although some scientist are admitting it could be connected with the banning of DDT in the 1990’s and this is about the time the problem started. They didn’t elaborate on this point and kind of slide right over it because of course it is such a hot topic and politically incorrect. Alright I had better stop before I get myself into really deep trouble. HA!HA!

      • mindy says

        Unfortunately DDT is not going to work even if it could be used again. Bedbugs have developed a resistance to it.

  16. Lisa says

    I absolutely loved this. I am 41 and grew up in MS on an acre of land. My grandparents had gardens and the family would help pick the vegatables, and the women would do the canning. My mom and I would hang out clothes, and God bless her she still is able to. She says there is nothing like fresh towels off the line.

    Thanks for your wonderful thoughts…

  17. Sheryl says

    I love this post. I love the idea of living in the past, simpler time and all, but then I try gardening…and everything dies. If we had to depend on our garden, well let’s just say I wouldn’t need to lose weight. Recently our children were complaining about washing dishes using the dishwasher…our dishwasher broke…we’ve been washing dishes by hand for about 2 months. Needless to say our children would love to have the dishwasher back. So, I’ve started telling them how we can do things the old fashion way and wouldn’t you know there chores don’t seem so hard now. Gotta love those quick thinking children.

  18. Lela says

    Reminds me of an exceprt from my g-grandma’s diary of 1926, “canned 120 quarts of peaches today,then thought it must be nice to lay down and die”.

  19. Darlene says

    Excellent article Jill. Thank you, sometimes we forget about the struggles they had. God has blessed us with so many things that we use everyday that we just take for granted. Thank you for all your hard work for putting together these newsletters. You and Tawra do a great job.

    I just finished making the easy hamburger rolls in the Living on a Dime cookbook they are excellent.

  20. Bea says

    This is a beautiful article. There are times I wished I could have lived in the past. When I look at pictures of women from the 1940’2 and 1950’s and even earlier I marvel at how ladylike they all look. So feminine and modest and just plain pretty. It is so hard to be a decent woman living today. I am a modest dressing woman because I’m a Christian, but have a hard time because it’s so hard to find decent clothing etc. Also, it’s hard to find good books unless you search hard or buy books by Christian authors. T.V. programs and movies are mostly bad. Everything has to be researched for bad content before viewed. There are many reasons I sometimes wish I lived in the past, but God made me “for such a time as this” for a reason. Like Esther, God has a plan for all our lives, and we have to be here to fulfill it. It can be a cross to bear though, but all time periods had their crosses in one form or another. This is a fallen world. Not paradise.

    • says

      I loved the way they use to dress too Bea. Even though I know it would be a pain to have to wear them all the time I would love to wear gloves and hats and dress really “classy” as they use to say in the 30’s and 40’s. I would love to were long dresses too because they hid a multitude of imperfections although I know I would have died in the heat this last summer. Oh well right now I just have a collection of pretty gloves that I take out and admire every once in awhile showing them to my granddaughters and having fun with them.

      • Marybeth says

        I have found that my long skirts and dresses are actually cooler than wearing pants.At my age(52)I consider shorts a no no.

  21. candy says

    Gosh, I totally agree with you…however the pesticide issue, more children are being diagnosed with cancer and diseases and I wholeheartedly believe it is from the pesticides in our produce and the antibiotics and god knows what else they are feeding to our beef. Sometimes I feel we are one big experiment for Montsano ect…Thanks for listening.

    • says

      The thing I look at is pesticides, antibiotics etc. have helped and saved hundred of thousands of lives over the years more then the harm they have caused. In the same way so many other things in our lives have. Cars, planes, ambulances kill, maim and hurt people on a daily basis but I don’t see many marching to bann them. Why? Because the media or environmentalist choose things to bring to the fore ground, playing on peoples fear and stirring up issues they want done their way.

      So the argument that we need to get rid of things because they are hurting some doesn’t hold weight unless you carry it through and do that with everything like cars, planes, ambulances. Even for that matter things like electrical wiring should be bann because they cause so many fires and deaths each year. Should we to just look at all the deaths caused by electricity and not the even more good it has done.

      No what needs to be done is to figure out ways to make things better, teach how to use them correctly and things like. For example with cars we can drive a reasonable speed limit and wear seat belts. We can’t come up with good solutions and ideas though when we are living under a cloud of extreme fear all the time. That fear can cause more damage then the original thing we were afraid of.

      Perfect example of that is look what happens in a stadium full of people and something causes a panic. More times then not the people panicking, running and stampeding and getting away from the thing that is scaring them hurts more people then the original harmful thing. People can’t make rational, logical and practical good decisions when they are in a state of fear and like I said can cause way more harm.

      I’m not trying to stir up anything but just to get everyone to really think through things and really look at all the facts and everything not just the same old thing they hear everyone else saying or they hear or read. To shake off the fear I see so often happening over these things because fear over any thing can destroy lives.

  22. Kathy says

    As in everything the pendulum has swung the other direction. Our conveniences have made us out of shape, sick, ungrateful and out of touch with reality. But there’s no way to get everyone doing everything the same way and how much fun would that be anyway? I just wish that there were not those that whatever the norm was for that particular time would try to make it mandatory for everyone. If a person wants to live on junkfood then let them or if they want to drink raw milk let them! Vaccinate if you want to or don’t but don’t impose opinions on someone else. I’m not talking morality, that’s another can of worms. Do I wish my neighbor lived like I do so it would make it easier for me? Sure but utopia has never been achieved and socialism has never worked.

  23. Deb says

    What a wonderful newsletter! You have put a fresh, common sense perspective on a topic that has been considered either pro-technology or pro-simple-living. You made my day, as well as provided me with plenty of food for thought!

  24. Pat says

    Jill you as always are right on the money! I remember my Aunt Mary and Uncle Stan. They lived in Northern British Columbia and in the 1950’s and 1960’s we would go to their place in the country for our Holiday. They Had dirt roads and the dust was terrible, they had to haul the water from the lake ( they did have a pully that would bring it up the steep part in the bucket then you carried the bucket to the house, wash day was many, many buckets of water ! and that wasn’t even winter conditions). They always had 5 or 6 foster children living with them, and had goats for milk and Chickens for eggs, and an old horse for the kids to ride. Everyone had chores. They had a large garden, and everyone helped with it. I remember when the kids had gone to school, Uncle Stan ( they were both in their 60’s at this time) would start to make bread every Monday and Friday. He made 8 huge loaves of Bread and it took him all day. He usually made large batches of cookies and cakes ( not iced cakes but the kind you slice and put butter on). There was always a big breakfast ready for the kids before school, and lunches ready to go. Then they sat down for their breakfast and Tea.
    They made lots of Jams and pickles from the garden, and were so glad to have a freezer so they just had to blanch the veggies and put them up rather than having to can them all. Usually someone that was out hunting would bring them a side of wild meat and that would be cut up and frozen too. They were miles from the nearest town and neither of them drove! They didn’t think anything of it. They had a neighbour who took them grocery shopping once a month, and would make an extra trip in if they needed the Doctor or some real ememgency. Also the School bus would take one of them to town and bring them home after school was out, so if they went to the small town it was a long day for them. I never heard them complain, but they make good use of any convienience they could get. In my Aunt’s opinion the best thing they got over the years we visited them was……….Indoor plumbing! I remember the long dark walk out at night to the outhouse. and they did use the pages of the catalouge. Oh, that was another thing all the clothes were from the catalogue, only one general store in town had some clothes, so if you wanted clothes you ordered them in and hoped they were there and the right size the next time you went to town.
    Thank you, I have a car to go to town, I have a bread machine to do the heavy work, I have stores , and thrift shops to find clothes that fit. I don’t haul water, and I no longer have a wringer washer ( did when I had the two youngest) I still have a clothes line, but also a washer and dryer. There were no TV’s or reception there at that time and phone was a party line! With 8 families on the line! Messages of importance were broadcast on the CBC out of Prince George daily for the whole middle section of BC. If you were in hospital and getting out, you’d post the notice on the radio, and arrangements would be made at the bus to pick you up, whenever the bus would get to where you lived. Privacy? What was that???? For many people it was the only outside contact they got that day. and durring the second world war it was how they got bad new to friends and family.
    Thanks again Jill for reminding me of what I don’t miss.

  25. carol b. says

    Thank you for a wonderful article, It really hit a cord with myself, having choices. Sometimes we have to stop and be thankful of what we have and not what we don’t. I am beginning to understand that we don’t have to have it all as it seems like we only want more. Life is all about choices and what one chooses to have for ones self. Sometimes we have to slow down a little and enjoy what we have.

    Keep up the great inspiraton articles.

  26. Rebecca Haughn says

    I know of the time you speak of. Women did alot and even men died sooner, working so hard. It was a good honest life and you kept moving. We sit too much now, drive everywhere even to get the mail a few steps from the front door. The doc and others that did visit would often come to help when there was need and I am sure ladies networked over the quilting bee and some such things. Thanks for helping me to remember these times. I do long for those days since I still do alot of what we did then, just have other things (those improvements) that intrudes and takes my time.

  27. Angie says

    Great article Jill. I am ‘in love’ with a few different time periods: 1860’s through 1880’s, 1920’s through 1940’s. I have thought in the past that I was born in the wrong time. Then again, humidity in the summer gives me a headache. Air conditioning is such a blessing! Lol! Also, I most likely would have died in childbirth with me youngest if he had been born in the 1800’s. He was a breech baby and they were unable to turn him so I had to have a c-section. The fact that I could have died and left my 5 year old without a mother in another time is a sobering one.

  28. Robin says

    Thank you for this posting…..I have struggled with this issue, mostly just feeling GUILTY for loving a lot of the new tech and invention and what-nots that we have available now…..I love new innovation, and trying new things! I’m also very grateful for my dishwasher, power tools, electric gadgets, etc. Always always grateful for these. My use of these does NOT indicate that I am not working – or not working hard at that…..I still mow my rather large lawn {walking, not riding}…..I still work 6-8-10 hours a day on my feet, doing heavy lifting, etc…….

    I think it’s wonderful that you reminded us of the VALUE of these innovations… keep in perspective the negatives that come with them……Negatives and Positives are a part of EVERYTHING…..even so-called ‘simplicity’. There’s always a balance to be struck, and being out of balance is what causes us our grief in the end. So thank you again for this post, and offering balance to the equation!

  29. Kristi says

    I love your opinion on this topic. My husband keeps going on about how he wishes he could live back in the 1800’s and I’m like, WHY??!! He’s a hunter and last season he only got three deer, compared to the eight he got the season before. I can’t even count the number of times he’s gone fishing only to return with nothing more than his rod & reel. If we were forced to live off of what he hunted we wouldn’t have had enough food after last season, not to mention how would we have kept all that meat fresh from the year before?!

  30. Cindy says

    Thanks for the excellent article. It reminds me of when we were first married and moved to a rural area. We found a beautiful old Round Oak wood stove and started heating our house with wood (in addition to a furnace). When I visited an elderly neighbor, she told me they had installed a gas furnace years ago. I was astonished that anyone would give up burning wood. Well, after learning just how much work cutting, hauling, splitting, stacking, hauling wood into the house, finding kindling, starting a fire, trying again to start a fire, cleaning out the ashes … (I could go on) I realized how enjoyable it must have been for those who had relied solely on wood heat to just turn the dial on the thermostat and have instant heat!

    • says

      I enjoyed your post Cindy. For almost 25 years I had to use an old pot belly stove for a majority of the heat in my house. I loved the warm heat a wood burning stove puts out but what a mess. Mine wasn’t a new “modern” air tight thing either like many have now. So that if the wind blew in the wrong direction it would billow out smoke and soot everywhere.
      It was awful trying to find a place to store 3 days worth of wood to keep it dry when a storm was coming so we would have enough, then the mess just carrying the wood into the house made and ashes, ashes and more ashes. It is different when you burn for an evening or two but all day and night you have a ton of ashes in those old stoves. But besides all you mentioned the part that drove me over the edge was the black soot that was every where. On the walls, curtains, furniture.

      Once we had spent months living in the middle of tearing walls down and putting up new sheet rock. We had finally finished the couple of rooms we were working on and I had spent all morning cleaning up the last of the fine sheet rock dust that had covered every thing – walls, furniture, knick knacks. I now had new clean walls and clean house including starching and ironing my curtains. My husband came in for lunch and it was hot so I decided to turn the air conditioner on to have it cool while we ate.

      We were eating and I was admiring all my hard work and how good everything looked. The meal was almost over and still admiring my handiwork (it had been a long couple of dirty months) I was lifting a corner of my curtains to show my husband how nice they looked and there on the back side was black soot. I started looking and there was soot everywhere. I didn’t know it but there was an old wood burning stove vent we had left open and the air conditioner had caused the black soot from it to be drawn through the whole house. What a mess and all that work.

  31. Bea says

    Jill, I like the look of ladylike gloves that women use to wear years ago. When I look at pictures of women from the 1940’s-1950’s they wore dresses that weren’t all the way to their ankles, but they were a decent below-the-knee length, and nothing was cut low or high, and their hair was done nicely etc. They even wore pretty hats to Church etc. It seems somewhere in the 1960’s is when women’s clothing started to go crazy, and it’s gone downhill ever since. It’s upsetting to go into a mall and see posters on the store windows of nearly nude women in underwear stores and even clothing stores. Women have become objectified. I don’t see posters of nearly nude men all over the malls, just women. It is such a shame that women allow this to happen. It’s almost porn. But the decades of long ago aren’t all wonderful either. My grandfather came from Poland and had to work like a slave in coal mines. There weren’t labor laws like now. Even children as young as 5 years old worked 10-12 hours a day in the mines. It never fails to astonish me that adults during that time didn’t see that as child abuse. So every era in human history had bad and good.

  32. MaryBEth says

    I liked your last comment about being a wise steward within the era we currently live. And what you said was true. If it wasn’t for modern medicine I would have been twice dead. Once in 1994 with a severe pneumonia and just this year from large blood clots in my lungs. My son would have been a widower losing wife and child during labor if it wasn’t for modern medicine! I’m just thankful that I still live in a free country where there are so many amenities for everyday living. We do take a lot for granted. On the flip side– it’s up to the individual person t o do the best with each day given them no matter what the era. Those are the memories that get passed from one generation to the next!

  33. Rebecca Parker says

    This is so true! I live in Brazil, which is not a 3rd world country, but an emerging country. Although we have most of the modern conveniences, there is very little canned food and everything must be prepared fresh. It’s healthy, but the work involved is significantly more than in the U.S. We are blessed to be living in this day and age!

    • Julie Radke says

      Interesting, it is good to read what you said. Hard to immagine not a lot of canned food, makes me sad if we have so much of it. Thank you for making me think. I bet your life in Brazil is just fine and beautiful also.

  34. Liz says

    I fondly remember (now) when I broke my arm as a 5-year-old in our wringer washing machine. I thought I was helping Mom do the laundry. Not only did I not help her with my little red ruffley panties, I created more work and expense for her when she had to take me to the doctor to get my arm set in a cast. I never helped her with the wringer washer again! Another memory that comes to mind is when my niece, who was about 7-8 at the time, came to spend the night. She was amazed at our “homemade” ice cubes. She just couldn’t imagine that anyone would make ice cubes. (We didn’t have an ice maker at the time.) Of course, the last refridgerator we bought has an ice maker!
    Yes, the modern convienences have certainly helped us. I certainly wouldn’t want to change the medical advances we’ve made! They’ve saved millions.

  35. Jan C says

    What a wonderful article. I do sometimes wish I lived long ago, but then I think of the things I would have missed. If you really want to try living back then, just go on an old fashioned camping trip with a tent. Some camping places still only have outhouses. You have to cook your food over a campfire. You have to make sure you have enough ice to preserve the food you bring with you, and when that runs out, you have to try to find a nearby store (which is often 10 or more miles away) so you can purchase more. If its a small town, you may have to have cash for your purchases. I do still hang my clothes out in the summer, but I am so grateful that I have a dryer for the winter months. Bringing in frozen diapers and jeans and finding places in the house to put them, wasn’t my idea of fun.

  36. Susan Appleby says

    I liked your column except for the repeated praise of pesticides and preservatives. If you had said natural pesticides and preservatives I could agree completely. But chemical pesticides and preservatives do long term hard which is not visible until many years later. Just because you can’t see it immediately doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. There are many natural alternatives for both pesticides and preservatives. Comparing a third world country with poor santitation, overpopulation, and little education is comparing apples and oranges. I dont buy canned foods and won’t until BPA is removed from the cans. I buy pastured meat so there are no hormones or antibiotics in it. I buy organic flour and cereals so they are not made with genetically maniuplated grains. The fruit and vegetables I buy are also organic whenever possible. This doesn’t have to be costly. But it does require information and education. Also dedication to getting the best food possible at the least cost. The harm from not doing this is invisible for a long time, but it is there.

  37. Julie says

    Yes some things are better now, more convenient but some things are worse. One little thing I wanted to mention was about Hospital vs home births, In my case PERSONALLY, I had 2 home births (with a midwife & doula)because I believed them to be safer than hospital births after much research and was proven right during my first birth, my baby was born w/the cord around her and wasn’t breathing, my midwife quickly took her and gave her CPR and she was fine, BUT if she had been in the hospital they would have immediately cut the cord (the only thing supplying oxygen and saving her fr brain damage) putting her at risk. ON that note: anyone pregnant PLEASE research the benefits of not cutting the cord right away, that is blood & oxygen the baby needs! Sorry to be so far off subject but I just wanted to mention my experience! Anyway while I didn’t wholeheartedly agree w/all you said, I do still love your newsletter! :)

  38. Sara says

    Thank you for such clear headed points. I am a lover of history (clothing, houses, decor, appreciation for and care for belongings and people) but I personally would have died having my first child at the age of 25. If that had happened, then my next three children wouldn’t have ever been conceived. Let’s say for the sake of argument, that I had lived, then my 4th child would have died as she was born 8 weeks premature. We have a friend that is a manager of a hospital in Tanzania – now – in 2011. Upon visiting us in the NICU and seeing our little one, he looked at us sadly and said, “We could not do this in Tanzania. We could not help her.” That does not even address the number of children that die from malaria there yearly.
    As for antibiotics and vaccines (that could open a can of worms I know, but…), most modern people don’t have a relationship with someone affected by “childhood” illness and disease that is prevented by the herd affect of vaccines and the cautious and well thought out use of antibiotics. I grew up with a gentleman in my church that walked with canes every day of his life. He had polio as a child. A dear friend of ours is deaf in one ear from complications from the measles. My grandmother lost her younger sister to an infection that was not treated with antibiotics. The cause? A blister from her shoe.
    We can close our eyes and say that all things old are better, but that would simply be denying that sometimes things change for the better. Thank God!

    • says

      Thank you for the good post Sara. I have been dealing with a bunch of nay sayers today saying I was crazy for what I wrote and I needed to look at how horrible the long term or future effects and that antibiotics and everything else mentioned will be. Like you I don’t think they remember or ever knew what it was really like before and as far as looking to the future well what, if any, future will we have for ourselves and our children if we didn’t have the things you and I mentioned.

      I know people keep saying that organic ways of growing things worked great but if they had worked so great why did they develop things like pesticides. Those natural things weren’t working that is why they had to do something different. It just makes logical and common sense. Plus the more we move towards using organic ways of doing things the more we are having problems with things like bed bugs.

      Just ask anyone who lives in those infested areas now how much fun those are and guess what the biggest problem they are running into in dealing with bed bugs – you got it, the “organic” things aren’t killing them and they are having a hard time finding ways of getting rid of them because the can’t use the stronger pesticides. That is why they are spreading so bad and so rapidly. They said it won’t be long and other things like roaches, mosquitoes, fleas etc. will start doing the same thing.

  39. Cindy says

    I enjoy walking through some of the country cemeteries in our area since they are in beautiful settings and so peaceful. It is sad to see the number of children who died young. I’m sure many deaths were from diseases that are easily preventable today, as well as from infections and injuries that we have treatments for now. Another point I thought of was the discovery of the Rh factor which surely has saved many Rh negative babies born to Rh positive mothers.

  40. says

    I lived in the country and we had no cell phones, 2 stations on our TV, no Xbox 360 or any other technology. We did alot of farming but not our primary way of life. My dad had a telecom job. I am not lazy but I did not like all the hard work and I did not notice what I was missing with satellite TV and Atari because no one I knew had them. The point I am making is there are good and bad things in both time periods.

  41. Julie Radke says


    That was a refreshing letter and so true. I am glad for our past and grateful for what we have now as well. Time always changes and we just have to adapt and see the Goodness because it is consistanly always there.

    Love your information you provide, blessing to you all,

  42. Bea says

    Jill, I was listening to a radio program last night on a Catholic radio station and they were talking about this very topic. They were talking about how food has become a political hot button issue with the subjects of organic, pesticides, movies like Food Inc etc, being talked about all the time, and how distorted and emotionally charged these subjects are. There was a website that they mentioned that I thought you might like to look at. It is interesting.

  43. Steffanie says

    Thanks for your fresh perspective. I have often thought that if I had been pregnant even 50 years ago both myself and my daughter would have died due to complications and a premature birth. Technology is neutral and can be used to improve our lives or make them worse. It’s up to our God-given discernment to figure out how to use today’s tech goodies.

  44. Mary Kelderman says

    You are so right. We have so much to be thankful for. I was raised in the country and have always missed it. I was a child then. I knew Mom worked hard, from dawn till way after dusk, but probably didn’t realize the toll it took on her health. She died at 57 years. Whatever situation and wherever the Lord has put us, we have much to be thankful for. God is so good!
    Thanks for the article.

  45. Mary says

    I think you make some really good points in your blog. I think that it all comes down to the choices that we make. Embracing the new that will make our lives better and at the same time will not do harm to future generations. I think that is the missing link to so many of our decisions.

    I choose to hang my laundry to dry on an outdoor umbrella clothesline because I believe it is a better solution for future generations to have access to energy and reduce the impact on climate change.

    If each of us thanks god for what he has provided and choose to live in ways that are good for the future I think our children will have a bright future.

    • says

      Thanks for the vote Sandra but that is one job I’m not sure I would want. HA!HA! I have thought that a good old homemaker and mom would make a really good president though. : )

  46. Veronica Tidd says

    I agree Jill for President. It’s time we had someone with good common sense in that big old White House.
    I did grow up when none of the modern conveniences existed at least not in my home. I had all the childhood illnesses including TB glands in the neck from tainted cows milk. There was no vaccine for Polio and respirators were the old iron lungs where the patient lay in a metal box and the air inside changed from negative to positive pressure then relaxing it to draw air in and out. If there was a power cut someone had to pump it manually. One of my cousins died from Diptheria. Smallpox was still around even though there was a vaccine. My Mum had four smooth circles as big as quarters on her upper arm from the vaccine. Ah the good old days where the milkman delivered six days as did the mailman. The baker and the butcher three days and the bread was still warm. The fishman came on Fridays my favorite was smoked haddock and herring roes. The gypsies came and sold ribbons and trinkets and the tinker mended holes in the saucepans. The gypsy would tell your fortune if you crossed her hand with silver.. School buses were a thing of the future. I rode on the back of Mums when I was little and later got my own. We had slates and chalk in school and only had enough reading books for one between two. The toilets were in an outhouse with a door in the back so the man could pull out the buckets and empty them. We were so afraid he’d come while we were on the throne. Bath night was Saturday so we were clean for church on Sunday. Oh the good old days. I don’t miss them one little bit.

  47. Jeanne T. says

    Thanks for this post. Life was not really “simple” in the “old days”, and depending on how far you want to go back, life was very difficult and the hours in each day were spent trying to survive, like hunting for food. The early settlers in this country, for example, had very hard lives. In addition to the ravages of disease, imagine having to dig wells for water (and you didn’t take a bath very often), making sure you had enough chopped wood for cooking, and and for heat in the winter. Imagine having to hunt every day for food. Imagine having to weave your own cloth before you sewed your clothes.

    This summer I tried to grow tomatoes, but all of them got blossom rot, and I was not successful. Now imagine if you had to garden for your food, and your crops failed, or animals ate them. You might well face starvation. These are the hardships our ancestors faced.

    I am so very grateful to the people who settled here in the wilderness; those tough, feisty immigrants from Europe. I think of those who only had a copy of the Bible and the Declaration of Independence to read (and frankly, I say that’s a balanced reading list!!). So many of them depend on God for every daily need that we just take for granted.

    I’m sure we could all think of other examples of reasons to be grateful for our comfortable living.

    Now, regarding DDT, its ban is a moral travesty, IMO. Millions of Africans have died from malaria because of a result. There was never any proof of Rachel Carson’s claims; sorry, but I believe she is responsible for the deaths of these people. It’s another example of misguided environmental concerns and putting nature of human beings.

    Remember that these are the same people who are issuing regulation after regulation about EVERYTHING, driving up prices and putting companies out of business. There isn’t one thing in your house that isn’t regulated. Not all regulations are good, but they are being imposed on us by unelected, nameless bureaucrats. Just because “they” tell us it’s for our own good, doesn’t mean it is so. And I would wager that its usually just the opposite.

    It makes you wonder: If we aren’t smart enough to choose our light bulbs, toilets, and the cars we drive, are we really smart enough to vote for our rulers?

    • says

      Preach on Jeanne. : ) Seriously I believe everything you said too and continue to fight against it all. I thought yesterday how they are charging for grocery sacks to make people start bringing their own instead. Now I know they have always added the cost of bags into the prices on the food for years but I haven’t seen the prices on food go down at all so we are now paying for sacks in the amount that was on the food item and at the cash register too all because the environmentalist decided we shouldn’t use plastic any more. What is so maddening about that is we were doing fine many years ago using paper bags and the environmentalist said we should use plastic in order to save the trees and here once again they are changing their minds and we are again paying for it. There is a verse I think in Proverbs that talks about the wavering mind going back and forth and how foolish it is and this is the perfect example.

      I once read an independent study that said the use of pesticides has saved millions and millions of lives over the years compare to a very small amount who have suffered from using them. Now before anyone jumps in and says “Well that very few are important too.” I don’t disagree on that but I could use this argument then that we should get rid of all ambulances because there have a been a few people who have died in an accident on the way to the hospital. That would be a very foolish thing to do because how many more lives have been saved because ambulances have safely gotten them to a hospital.

      Yes Jeanne you are right and I’m afraid it is going to be the environmentalist who are the down fall of this country as much so or even more then all the drugs and low morals that everyone is watching. The reason I say that is Satan is devious and he is going to sneak in the back door with our destruction while we are busy watching the front door and hollering about the obvious things. .

  48. Mary Jane says

    I also recognize the truth of good and bad in each generation. I recently watched a docu-drama series on public television where historians live as people did during a certain era, for several months. Everything is carefully researched to authenticate every aspect of the era, and live accordingly. The era I watched was during the 2nd World War in England, with life of the British farmers. Because England was under siege by Nazi Germany, they were essentially cut off from the rest of the world. The results? A nation that had previously imported much of it’s food was now blockaded and faced CHANGING their agricultural practices or suffer the spectre of starvation. Needless to say, the struggles, trials and methods employed were eye-opening. If a farmer and his family did not produce sufficiently for the government quotas expected, the land was seized from the owner and given to another to accomplish the task. The farmers (who were largely tenants), would find themselves homeless. At the end of the series what was stated was that the farmers adjusted from centuries of traditional farming, which produced precious few crops, to new agricultural practices on a large scale (including the use of pesticides) that not only changed agriculture for ever, but literally saved a nation from starving to death. Imagine the outcome of that great war, had The British not adapted. I am no fan of over-use of pesticides, but everything in moderation, under good stewardship, with an eye to the whole truth, not just select bits of it.

  49. says

    Just one observation on “climate change”. The Bible tells us that as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

    While I believe that we should be good stewards of the earth and what God has given us, I believe the environmentalists are having a heyday trying to scare us into every thing they can to sell us “something” that will make them rich or to scare us as they did with the abolition of DDT. I don’t know of anyone who profited from that decision. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

  50. Marybeth says

    If I had lived in the “good old days” I would not be here now because I would not have come back from child birth.I had what they called placenta abrupta with both my children and lost over half of the blood in my body which caused my heart to stop.Only by Gods grace and the doctors knowledge am I here now.I have had several severe allergic reactions and without the medications we now have,I could have died from those.The downside of new medications and vaccinations is that both my darling boys now suffer from autism. Born healthy and changed abruptly with the last set of vaccinations which caused prolonged high fevers.I can see both sides of the issue but still believe we are much better off than we were many years ago.I remember our first house that had indoor plumbing,us kids thought Moma and Daddy had become rich because only the rich folks had indoor plumbing and running water where we lived before.Thanks for the reminder to be grateful for what God has given us in this day and age.

  51. Gigi says

    Hello I just had to add my thoughts and Im sorry if I offend anyone. I do agree that tbings were hard back then and we have it better. But saying tbat I also have to say along with that comes the meds with the side affects tbat cause oh so many more problems than one started out with such az cancer. If you even listen to the tv ads. How many children used to be busy doing chores and such huc helping the family that are now sitting lazy infront of a tv. ar said to have ADHD? Tben pumped full of drugs. I trully think and this is what I think that we need to keep our children busy teach them to help teach them to care for the elders in the family we will start to be better familys. The old ways were not all that bad. Play in the basement in hot hot days or outside. And when it was far to cold to go outside play in the highest floor where it was the warmest. Get them outside and get the tv off. I lost a niece to meth aww another thing that that these lazy kids find to bide their time other than helping family or getting a job. Oh these are just my thoughts take them for good or bad they are not ment to burt anyones feelings. They are just how I feel. Thank You

    • says

      These are all true Gigi. The point was though that we have a choice. We can choose to use or not use them if we want.That has nothing to do with the time we are living in but with the choices we make right or wrong. As far as the kids go that is a matter of parents not doing proper parenting or being there for their kids and even those who do try to do it right their kids can sometimes fall by the way side. Our pastor said one time even the most perfect parent in the world had His kids fall into sin and that was God with Adam and Eve. We often don’t know too how bad drugs were years ago. There were no laws regulating them or anything and in some areas it was as bad as it is now with no rehabilitation centers or anything. Opium was every where.

      Mostly there were “good” families and kids back then with kids who did chores and worked to help their family but then you had many many people that felt children were their property and really abused them. I had a great uncle who lost his parents at the age of 7. He had no where to go standing at the graveside and a couple came and said he could live with them. He got up before daylight and worked in the fields until dark every day including Sun. At the age of 85 he had never had a birthday cake, TV or many things most people have.

      I guess what I was trying to say is each generation has different issues some good some bad. No worse or better just different and we need to be careful about comparing them or bemoaning our fate for having to live in the time we live in. God put us in this time for a reason. We then need to do what is right and live the best for this time not looking back at something we think might have been better.

  52. Sherri Ginter says

    Omg how awesome of an article. You sure put me at ease. I have been needing to hear this for about two years. It sure is awesome to be able to have the choice of both worlds. Thanks so much and God bless!

  53. laura jean says

    amen and thank you for reminding me of all these modern “conveniences” that we should be thankful for ….how I enjoy reading your blogs…blessings upon blessings

  54. Mary Jane says

    Just read this post again and was reminded of my wonderful foster mom who took me in when I was in my teens, and she was in her mid-sixties. A true pioneer woman who was frugal deep down in her bones, she never passed up the opportunity to clear up the romantic notions of the past with a solid dose of the truth. It was hard work keeping a farm, and those horse drawn carriages took a lot of extra time and care to keep the horses and riding gear in good shape. Lye soap may have been okay for laundry, but it was a nightmare for skin and hair (used as shampoo, because there wasn’t anything else). It also took some effort and time to make this stuff. She thanked God on a regular basis for indoor plumbing and running water. One of her stories was an account of how during the Depression, food was scarce and nothing was wasted. She had shot and killed two skunks, as a young mother home alone, while her husband was away looking for work. She was excited because she cooked the carcasses for meat on the table, and saved the hides to be tanned. She even rendered down whatever fat she salvaged to use to grease and maintain the harnesses for the horses. How would you like to add chores like that to your daily routine?

    • says

      Yes that is why I get so frustrated with all the special diets everyone has to be on now. Most have never been in the situation where you didn’t care whether your food was “perfect”or not because you were thankful just to have something to eat. I remember how I was fixing some lettuce for salad and there was a little rust on the leaves. Most would have torn it off and thrown it out but I had to use it because it was all we had. Apples that were mostly spoiled I used even if it was only 1-2 bites I could save.

  55. says

    I was watching for someone to mention Ecclesiastes 7:10, and since I don’t see anyone mentioning it, I’ve got to say it! “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? For thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.” That tells me things were not all peachy keen back in the “good ol’ days”.
    I am so glad Julia mentioned that promise from Genesis on climate change. What a comfort when so many seem to make me want to panic.
    What a great way to start the day-just counting our modern blessings. Our family has lived in South Africa for almost 13 years, and I am just so thankful for Skype and email so we can stay close to our American families. I read about a letter taking 2 months to reach China when Hudson Taylor was there, and feel thankful to be a 21st century missionary.

    • says

      Yes we lived in Japan 50 years ago long before Skype and it would take a month or more to get a package from my grandma and often things were stale or no good by the time we got them. We never could talk to her or see any of our family. Then when I was expecting with my first baby my husband was overseas the whole time I was expecting and we couldn’t talk or see each other. About 2 times we did talk on the phone but for less then 10 minutes because it cost a weeks salary to do that and we were having to make our 1 very tiny salary stretch between 2 house holds. When I see service man getting to talk to their wives and kids I think how lucky they are.

  56. Magdalen says

    RE hats and gloves.
    In the 1960s, my school uniform included compulsory hats,and gloves. They were green felt hats in the winter and straw boaters (worn flat on the head or else) in summer. The gloves had to be green, black or brown leather or wool in winter and white cotton in the summer. We also had to wear 60denier stockings in winter and white cotton ankle socks in the summer with our uniform dresses. The 6th form, i.e. Grades 11 and 12, were permitted stockings instead. The nuns were pretty hot on “ladylike behaviour” too, Even today I’m a bit uncomfortable eating anything in the street. : )

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