During a long talk with Rick at the beginning of November, during which I was feeling quite overwhelmed with projects and homeschooling and life in general, I decided to go ahead and normalize our kitchen again. We plugged the fridge back in.
We unplugged the fridge in May of 2011. It was supposed to be a month-long experiment. We left it unplugged for a year and a half. So, I guess in that way, it was a total success. We had a great system down, and we pretty much forgot what life with a refrigerator was like.
I liked it, being weird and different and extreme. But also, Rick and I were getting to the point where we craved a little normalcy and simplicity in our lives in general. The fridge was a sort of symbol for me of this crazy, hippie extreme life that I wanted to have. And, Rick, being super supportive, has come along for the ride, and for the most part, we have that life.
We grow our food or buy from local farms, we have chickens and bees. I never buy cereal or use paper plates or paper towels. I’ve made our own laundry soap and dishwasher detergent. We’ve cloth diapered (3 kids), etc. You get the point.
But sometimes being weird can wear on you. It was wearing on us both (not the fridge, but you know… everything).
One of my good friends talks about how tough it can be to live in two worlds. You know the two… one in which all your friends only buy gluten-free, sustainably harvested, BPA-free, GMO-free, soy-free, local, handmade, hand loomed, home-grown, vegetarian fed, and free range. And the other world: the on sale, easy clean-up, big box, double coupon, plastic, convenient, drive-thru, battery operated, disposable one.
I mean, take a kid’s birthday party. Imagine hosting 25 people but using nothing disposable. No paper plates or plastic forks or crêpe paper streamers. Or if you do use plastic cups you feel guilty, even for the biodegradable ones. The guilt.
So I decided to let go. Not of everything. Sometimes I use a paper towel or 100% recycled paper plate. The fridge was something simple that could go back to normal, not be so weird.
You wouldn’t believe how novel it felt. Having a freezer inside the house, having room for anything in the fridge. We hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year. I let the turkey thaw in the fridge, and there was room for other things. It was amazing! (By the way, we also hosted T-day without a fridge, it’s totally doable).
This doesn’t mean I’m going all conventional, back to disposable everything. But it does mean I’m giving myself more grace. I don’t need to be perfect or extreme. I just need to keep trying.
I am impressed with how long you did without the fridge! Good job!
Must be slightly strange to be back to using your fride, but as I learned when we only had one of those little “college” sized ones and then moved up to a normal one it was so weird. We still don’t put a lot in our fridge, but it is nice to have a place to put extra eggs and the bits of dairy we have to buy.
Several of my friends lived for years fridge-free in their households sharing one centrally located very energy efficient refridgerator and freezer. They used highly insulated boxes on their porches and switched out ice from the common freezer every day. Recently, they all switched over to chest freezers retrofitted with thermostats that keep the temp. above freezing. (I think these thermostats are available on Amazon.) They found that it was more energy efficient to run 3 converted freezers than the one super efficient fridge. These chest fridges are kept on their porch so use little or no electricity in the winter although they do need to put a pot of hot water in it when the temperature dips in the 20’s or below so that the food doesn’t freeze. None have garages but it seems that might be the ideal place.
I have a 1910 icebox and a dorm size fridge that have served us OK for 7 years. If I can find the space, I’d like to switch over to the chest because, though it’s not a hugh deal to change out ice every day, it’s yet another “not hugh deal” thing to do. I think you know what I mean…simple living is not simple.
My family lived 4 years somewhat like you are describing. We raised our veggies, beef, chickens, rabbits, and pigs all on 3 acres – and of course sourdough bread, wood burning cooking stove; coal burning heating stove and, most important, a two seater outhouse! This period of my life made for some of the best (and worst) memories
I had the same guilt this past New Years Day . We hosted brunch and by then the holidays had worn me down and I was exhausted. I couldn’t fathom having to wash another dish! So I used paper plates and cups and felt guilty the entire time. After everyone left and I was able to cuddle up with the kids, instead of spending two hours at the sink, I didn’t feel so guilty. 😉 We are now back to regular dishes and cloth napkins. Congrats on seeing when you need a break and giving it to yourself!
Good call on recognizing when you are on the way to a burn out and averting it :). Just out of curiosity, how much did you save by not having the fridge plugged in?
I sometimes think that all of this convenience stuff is just a replacement for human connection. I have noticed this during get togethers with extended family. When you walk into a kitchen full of dirty dishes, crumbs, and spilled juice all by yourself, it feels overwhelming. But when you have two or three people at the sink washing and someone else wiping the counters and sweeping, it’s no big deal and you’re done before you know it. When you have several adults in the house, taking care of a baby is fun instead of exhausting. And yet we have this stigma against living with extended family, as if we can’t be real adults unless we’re isolated and stressed out.
Grace, not guilt. =) I appreciate you.
Appreciating the time and effort you put into your blog and in depth information you provide.
It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old
rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.
Just stumbled upon your blog and I’m loving it! My family of 5 and I are just starting on our urban homesteading journey….your blog is going to be a great resource! Thanks for sharing.
Wow. I thought we were hard core. We used a small (camper size) fridge for 3 years until we had enough solar panels to run an 18 cubic footer. Part of the reason for the 3 years was our cheap inverter ruined a brand new Sears fridge before we sprung for a high quality sine wave inverter. Move ahead 10 years and we have 3 children, a real vacuum and of course a real fridge. A lot folks assume we live like pioneers just because we are off the grid but with today’s technology we live comfortably. Thanks for your blog. We will keep reading!!!