My Frugal Life: Downsizing To the Past

I grew up in Europe during World War II, and after the war we coped with rationing until 1952. There were no washing machines or anything electric to ease the annoyance of housework. One of my jobs as a 8 year old was to brush the entire ground floor of my tiny house with a handbrush and shovel, as we called it.


I learned many ways to cook vegetarian foods, as we had no meat anyway. I learned to put butter on bread and scrape it off again.

Medical treatments cost money, so we used tried and true tricks, like oil warmed on a spoon heated in hot water to pour into ears and stop earache. Caused terrible scar tissue as I know now, but sure did shut up those screaming kids. We all had staph infections, all the time.

My latest remembrance of the past was this morning as I looked at my filthy tea towels which were sending out nasty odors, I remembered how my grandmother did her laundry. We had a copper boiler and everything white went into that, the fire below boiled the water for hours, but that was not enough to clean the underwear of manual workers so we had two precious items, a posser and an agit. Both had long wooden poles, the end of one looked like an upside down collander and the other like a three-legged wooden stool.


All the kids and any men at home had to take a turn agitating the clothes. Then we would pull each piece out with huge wooden tongs, straight onto the roller, two wooden wheels held in place by beautiful curlicues of wrought iron. Each kid had to turn the handle at least 6 times, not matter what age.

So, to save on water and electric I decided to create a smaller version of this in my kitchen sink. I possed my tea towel with a potato masher, then I agitated them with a spaghetti spoon, then I tweezed them out with some wooden tongs. Most difficult was to find a roller, but finally I turned the wooden spoon around, placed the tea towels on the handle and twisted. Wow, did that get rid of the water.

I swear, my friends, these tea towels are cleaner than ever. I also used just a dash of dishwasher liquid, as I did not want to use harsh products near my hands and actually my hands barely touch the water - a plus for my arthritis.


By joanfry from Europe

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June 8, 20110 found this helpful

That is such a great story. I enjoyed reading it and I feel so guilty because my life has been so easy. So sorry you had to go through all of that. Perhaps we all could stand to work a little harder to appreciate everything we have instead of taking it for granted. I worry about today's children.

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June 8, 20110 found this helpful

This is an amazing story! I also do a lot of hand washing.


This was a very enjoyable story. Thank you so much for posting it!

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Better Living Frugal Living My Frugal LifeJune 7, 2011
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