Noilly Prattle: Making Do . . .

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Making Do . . .

. . . Living on the Sidelines

     We seem to forget what creatures of comfort we've become in that blip of history known as the latter half of the 20th Century--an eyeblink in the vast panorama of time on this planet when we thought we could have it all, consumer goods on credit without end--and the bill would never come due. Amen! My parents Great Depression generation would have scoffed at such a free lunch notion. And now, here we are, in the 21st Century of apparent regression to an older, perhaps more common, mode of existence—doing with less.

       Here's one story I heard about recently.

our first house in Kurashiki, Japan, circa 1984
       This is another story that awes me and I have a great deal of admiration for the young woman in question. She is around 30-years old, has a 2-year-old boy and lives in an old Japanese style house in an area of Tokyo—much like the old house we used to live in in Kurashiki back in the 1980s when we were first married.

       But there all similarities end.

       This woman's electricity bill comes to only 500 yen/month (about $5). For comparison's sake, our electric bill minimum is around 2000 yen/month ($20), and that's when we are away. In the summer, with air conditioning, it comes to around 8000 yen/month ($80) and it usually averages around 5000 yen/month ($50) when we are living here.

       So, how does she do it?

       I can remember when my family lived in a cold-water tenement without central heating back in the 1950s United States. I can also remember, at that time, when we had no TV, only a radio with The Shadow and The Creaking Door to listen to, an old- fashioned washing machine with a roller-type wringer that my mother once got her long hair caught in, briefly, before having the presence of mind to release the safety lever, and the iceman cameth regularly to resupply the ice box. The electricity bill was pretty much kept to a minimum in those days.

       Fast forward to the present. Our previously mentioned young woman has no refrigerator or washing machine (and, I assume, no ice box either since they don't make them anymore). Besides, even if there were an iceman, she probably couldn't afford the ice. But, not having a fridge is no problem, she states, since she goes shopping nearby regularly for the simple vegetables and other ingredients she needs and doesn't require refrigeration.

       Owning no washing machine or dryer and not having enough money to go to a laundromat, she washes clothes like grandmother did, by hand in a wash tub and scrubbing board (the corrugated kind used in jug bands). Using all the resources at her disposal, her 2-year-old son happily agitates the clothes by stomping around on them and splashing in the tub and having a wonderful time doing it.

       She does have electricity, of course, hence the 500 yen/month electricity bill. How does she keep it so low? Obviously, having no electric appliances, no TV, no computer, etc., saves a lot on the bill. But, to further pinch the yen, she has only three light bulbs that she moves around from room to room as needed. Is this woman wretched and depressed and wailing about the cruel fate that has reduced her to this penury? Nope! She comes across as a very positive person on the TV program that featured her story, saying that her grandmother lived pretty much the same way after the war and taught her how to live.

       She's no fool either. She states, firmly, that she is living an eco-friendly life style.

       My hat's off to her.


       If you got this far, here are a few statistics:

       Here in Japan now, one in four men [25%] live on less than 100,000 yen/month (less than $1000/month), and one in three women [33%] do so, as well. That's as much as the rent for a decent small apartment. We, who are conditioned to the consumer ethos of the last century, simply scratch our heads and wonder how these people manage to survive!

        The story is similar in the US and the United Kingdom.

[Click to see]

One in Four Americans [25%] Say They Are Poor

More than Half of UK adults 'living on the financial edge'


Anonymous said...

Kudos to her for "making do" with what she has and providing for her young child. It just goes to show that people can be happy with less. She is unlike so many Americans (and one in particular that comes to mind) who choose to live off the welfare system for years on end and then have the nerve to complain when their check doesn't arrive at the exact hour it is expected. Can't get their beer and cigarette fix soon enough. I'm all for helping those who are in need but many others should take a lesson here.

Anonymous said...

Last comment from Michelle.

Noilly Prattle said...

I don't think "making do" includes blowing your bread on beer and cigarettes in the sense of the phrase that I'm talking about.

I'm not opposed to safety nets, but, unfortunately, not all recipients are scrupulous people and too many tend to abuse the privilege--or is it "entitlement"?

Noilly P