Over the years I have written many articles for this website. It started off as a place for genealogy then I changed my website to address challenges of living in modern America during hard economic times. The articles that I write come from within my memories of life as I knew it growing up and then the things I have learned along the way.
I went about things sort of backwards. I was born in a fairly large city and live there until I was almost thirteen years old. We had electricity in the city but then my parents parted their ways and my mother and I moved to the deep south where people still lived without electricity. Some had it and some did not. I felt I had gone back in time by many years. My schooling was all over the place with us moving around but I learned many things that I could not have learned in school by traveling this winding path that I have and continue to travel.
Let it be a lesson for those that are on a bumpy road to pay attention and just learn from what you are experiencing right now because life is full of changes and this too will change.
First Life "after" electricity
I realize that I have stayed away from writing a gloomy side of life before electricity because I never really saw it as gloomy. I remember the good things about my family that lived without electricity other than the outhouses, I never liked to sit in an outhouse.
I do not know if anyone will ever know how long humans have been around but we do know for thousands of years they lived without electricity. It has not been around for very long when you consider time as we know it. I am not talking about when electricity was invented because it took quite awhile to get electricity into homes and for most when they did get it there was nothing to use other than a light bulb. Most people did not have money to purchase the appliances that did require electricity and the houses were not wired. Over time people started running outlets to the walls and new houses were built wired for electricity. They started purchasing refrigerators, washing machines and toasters.
Life without electricity was very hard when you compare it to life with electricity but when you have never had something in the first place you don’t know that it is very hard. You only know it was hard because you look back and remember how you had to do it back then without the electricity. The fact is that things did get done, just in a different way as we do it now.
When I was growing up with electricity, life was still very different than we know it today. We did not use near as much electricity as we do today because we did not have the electronics, appliances and gadgets in our homes that we have today. I never imagined life as we have it now and I really don't like it because we have become wasteful and utility bills are almost unaffordable. Actually they are unaffordable for many. We can live with less than we do but somehow our homes have become pack and our electrical outlets are full of plugs and wires. To simply watch television we need power extenders to plug all the accessories that it takes to watch the television. These items can actually become a burden when we are trying to clean our homes.
I feel very fortunate to have lived in a time when we left our doors unlocked and we knew our neighbors. Our telephones were party lines and we dried our hair in curlers. There was no such thing as panty hose, no such thing as disposable diapers and we packed a lunch when we traveled because there were no fast food places and convenience stores. Clothes were hung out on a clothesline and bed sheets smelled wonderful. Life really was more simple. Over time our family was living the modern life and my parents bought the latest appliances
When you have experienced life with electricity and then go to life without electricity it is quite different and much more difficult than those that lived life without electricity and then acquired it.
All of these people in my family lived without electricity and they were close and helped each other and then lived during the years with electricity.
Now life without electricity
I can tell you that life without electricity is very dirty and very sweaty and a lot of hard work. Today people go to a gym to work out or get proper exercise. There was no need for a gym before electricity unless you were a boxer.
Usually when someone did not have electricity they did not have running water or plumbing so there is water to carry in a house without plumbing.
When I say that life without electricity is very dirty I am not talking about the house being dirty because the house can be as clean as the modern house today. What I am saying is your hard labor will cause you to get your hands and clothes dirty. You will not have carpeting because there would be no vacuum and that little push thing will not ever get the dirt out of the carpet. You do not want large rugs unless you have a lot of help around when it is time to wash. Plain floors and a broom and mop is the best.
Darkness is probably the most noticeable about life without electricity. If you want to read after dark you will need to put several oil lamps together to get enough light to see the print. There will be no computers, electronic gadgets or televisions unless you rely on solar or battery and we are not discussing these options because I am writing about life without electricity.
You will not have a refrigerator or electric stove or microwave or air conditioner or fan or electric clock or washing machine or radio or coffee maker or well, most anything that needs an electric plug.
So what would we have in our non electric house that also does not have running water?
If we are going to care for that baby we will need a way to sterilize, sanitize, wash and a way to keep that baby warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Our house will need oil lamps for lighting, possibly a cold box to put ice that we purchase from the ice store and that would be dependent on where we live but most of us would not have a cold box. We would need proper equipment to preserve our food and make it shelf stable so we would need to learn canning, dehydrating, fermentation and smoking food. We would need a wood burning stove for cooking and heating, most likely need a fireplace or pot belly stove. We have a two burner pot belly stove that we can use to heat the house and cook on two burners. A kettle to heat water, a large crock or container to hold extra water.
People had different methods of retrieving water. Some had to travel to a local town and fill large containers and haul the water back home. Some had wells with buckets on a rope and some had the hand pump wells. I liked the hand pump because the water would flow out really good but we had to prime the pump to get the water to start pumping. There were a couple of jars by the pump that contained water to use for priming and when we finished pumping the water the jars had to be re-filled with water and left by the pump. If you did not refill the jar you would get in big trouble.
My Grandparents lived close to an artesian well and it had the best tasting water. It ran constantly with pure spring cold water and I wish I could drink some of that water today.
Other things we would have in our house are a flat iron if we are to iron our clothes. Several wash tubs for washing and rinsing our clothes and for bathing. A hand crank wringer would be very helpful to get the water out of our clean washed clothes. A clothesline and clothes pins to hang our wash.. A pitcher for pouring water over our head to wash and rinse our hair. A bucket to carry water into the house and it cannot be too big because water is very heavy. A wind up clock if we want to tell the time, hand fans to fan ourselves when we are hot, cotton clothes for the summer and woolen or warm clothes for the winter because when you get cold it is very difficult to get warm.
A composting toilet or an outhouse, cleaning rags, soap, fly flap, mop, broom and dustpan, porch or chairs to sit out in the yard to cool off, a stove top percolator for coffee (or a French press), a hand crank coffee bean grinder, a dish pan so you can save the dish water and a bucket under the sink to catch the drain water. A old fashioned wash basin and a French lavabo would be helpful for brushing teeth and washing up in the morning and before bed. A hand crank music box of some kind for entertainment or a hand crank radio.
For outside work we will need plenty of hand tools as well as axes and wood pile frame to stack the wood.
For people that have grown up with electricity and running water the most difficult things for them would be the darkness, the lack of sounds and the discomfort of not having cooling and heating. Some other things such as not having a refrigerator or a washing machine. At first not having the electronics would probably cause withdrawal problems but then after a bit of time it could actually be a sense of relief from these gadgets. You can expect to start noticing different sounds such as birds and bugs making noises, the sound of the wind or a thunderstorm. Our generations knew so much more than we know now because they watched and listened to the clues of nature. They read the clouds and watched for the signs of the seasons changing and even today the birds are out there still giving us warnings and we are not even aware. The birds and the squirrels will make a big fuss in the trees and group together warning us of a snake or a predator. All you have to do is listen and then go out and watch and you will see the snake or hawk or what it is they are telling you. The blackbirds will line up on the telephone lines when cold weather is coming. The animals coats will help clue you in by the thickness or thinness of their fur. Living with electricity has caused us to fill our ears with noise from televisions and appliances running so we cannot hear the sounds of nature and electronic gadgets have us looking down so that we do not notice what is going on around us even things that are a danger.
If you are here on this page and you are just curious and not planning on living a life without electricity it would still be wise to practice living without electricity and running water to prepare for weather related power outages. We never know when something might happen to cause a long term power outage and it seems that we see it happening quite often to folks all over our country.
I Hope this article has helped to give you some insight on what you are looking for. Grandma Donna