What am I doing instead? Making the most of precious gifts of time

Do you iron your sheets? Your tablecloths? Your underwear?

Yeah, I don’t either. But our ancestors did.

They did so because the natural fabrics used in the past wrinkled enthusiastically, and because the water used to wash them was not so clean. Ironing was more than cosmetic—it helped to sterilize.

My fleece sheets don’t wrinkle, and my washing machine cleans them thoroughly, so I’m spared spending time ironing them.

What am I doing instead?

wringer-washerIn my early childhood we (and by that I mean my mother) still used a wringer washer at our farmhouse. Mom spent hours over the machine, feeding each piece of clothing through the wringer individually.

Today, I put a load of laundry in my washing machine and walk away, so I’m spared spending time rinsing each piece.

What am I doing instead?

singerIn the past, most mothers pinched pennies by peddling their Singer sewing machines to make homemade clothing.

These days most fabrics cost more than finished pieces of clothing sold in stores, and sewing isn’t my passion, so I’m spared spending time sewing my clothes.

What am I doing instead?

So many labour-saving devices have freed up my time to do other things. I could volunteer with a local charity to help others, or I could surf the internet. I could spend time with my kids, or I could catch up on the missed episodes of Sherlock. I could get some exercise, or I could wade through more Game of Thrones? (Heaven help me, why did I start reading that series?)

The brother of my great-grandfather hoeing his garden

One of my ancestors hoeing his garden

When I think of my ancestors ploughing fields behind horses, digging stumps with shovels, canning their own food, making all their bread from scratch, cutting and chopping the wood they’d need to keep themselves warm all winter, milking the cows, churning their butter, collecting their eggs, slaughtering their meat, digging their own water well, building their furniture, and on, and on, and on, I feel an awesome responsibility to cherish each second of time I am spared from doing all of those things. But too often I wake in a warm house I didn’t have to build a fire to heat, I toast bread I didn’t bake, I pour milk I didn’t have to touch a cow to get, and I take it all for granted. Too often I crack an egg I didn’t have to snatch out from underneath the warm bottom of hen, I open a tin of tomatoes I didn’t grow in a garden or can for myself, and I fry up bacon from an animal I didn’t feed or muck out, and I don’t appreciate those things as gifts.

They are more than gifts of nourishment and comfort. They are gifts of time—time I didn’t have to spend procuring them.

And what am I doing instead? Am I doing the most I can with those precious moments?

Right now, I’m going to stand up in my warm house, I’m going to walk to my kitchen, open my tap and appreciate water I don’t have to walk far to retrieve or pump to bring up to me. I’m going to fill a kettle and heat it without having to build a fire in a wood stove. I’m going to pour that water over tea leaves from a plant that isn’t even native to this country, and that I didn’t have to grow or harvest. Then I’m going to pour in milk that has been pasteurized and skimmed for me. I’m going to hold that hot mug in my hands on this cold day, and I’m going to close my eyes and savour the aroma, and I’m going to cherish those precious gifts of nourishment, comfort and time. And then I’m going to do something valuable with my day.

4 thoughts on “What am I doing instead? Making the most of precious gifts of time

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Yes. I find it is easy to forget to practise mindful gratitude, but when I turn my mind to it, I find I keep digging and digging beneath the surface of things and finding more jewels of gratitude.

  1. Julie

    I do remember how wringer washer and put rubber diapers through that wringer diapers and explodes and I ruined a couple of shirts
    Did you ever get anything caught in a wringer?or ruined a couple of shirts?
    I remember the wringer washer diapers wrapped around the wringer,If it does, an article of the wash may
    wrap several times around a roller before it is noticed; unwinding such a
    piece is often difficult, sometimes impossible without removing a roller .
    Its you’re already happened?
    Being grateful is so important.


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