A New Broom Sweeps Quietly

I am still toting around my iPhone 8, and I’ve dodged several op system updates since I bought it. It handles phone calls and texts, I can surf with it in an emergency. It tells time. That’s all I need it to do (and I’m thinking of getting a mechanical watch). I consider most apps spyware and religiously avoid them.

I consider myself a closet Luddite. I’ve reached the age where most change has gone from bothersome to burdensome. Then I came across this post from Ozan Varol, who is a smarty-pants kinda guy (think astrophysicist goes to law school). He and his family still order DVDs through Netflix–the kind of DVDs that come in the mail. They found they enjoyed the movies more if they had to search and surf for which one to order (none of this also-bought baloney stealing all the rabbit-hole fun from the process), wait for it to arrive, and unwrap it from its packaging.

The “convenience” of having their choices limited by algorithms, and the “efficiency” of instant gratification stole a lot of the joy from the process. Reading that, I was reminded of something one of my daughter’s friends observed: Innovation is often next to useless, but it’s marketed so effectively, that we come to believe it’s necessary. The broom, for instance, worked nearly as well as the vacuum cleaner, was much quieter, lighter, cheaper, and had a smaller carbon footprint.

The vacuum cleaner offered a slight improvement in cleaning result, and maybe it saved time, but it cost us quiet and did some environmental damage. Computer technology advancements now seem to mostly consist of shaving another few ounces off the machine’s weight, and making it “faster.” As if finding 250,000 hits in a quarter second is a big deal compared to finding them in half a second, and as if I lack the strength to tote around four extra ounces of hardware.

Is popping something into the microwave really a better way to prepare a meal than “by hand,” with friends or family pitching, while good smells fill the kitchen and everybody’s mouth waters? Where does the saved time go when we nuke a pre-made veggie bowl? To reading the kiddos a bedtime story, or to spending another half hour at the office?

The point of this semi-rant: I know a lot of people who must have an e-reader’s expandable type if they are to continue to enjoy books. Innovation can be great. But few innovations are all good, and sometimes the

Compact edition of Oxford English Dictionary–sold with magnifying glass.

losses associated with updated technology–privacy, quiet, breadth of choice, the joy of anticipation, good kitchen smells–are ignored as the benefits are foghorned at high decibels.

Is there a part of life where you refuse to innovate, where you still do it the old-fashioned way at least some of the time? What benefit do you get from that decision? I feel as if I ought to send a broom to one commenter, but with a $50 e-gift card, somebody can buy a broom and order some DVD’s through the mail.


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44 comments on “A New Broom Sweeps Quietly

  1. For years my sisters have nagged me about not having a dishwasher. I just don’t see the sense in it. How hard is it to wash a few dishes? It seems to me that they wash the dishes before they put them in the dishwasher anyway.

    When we were growing up, we shared the kitchen chores. We took turns preparing the meal, setting the table and cleaning up afterwards. A lot of the time these were just chores. But there was a lot of socializing that went on also – joking, kidding and girl talk.

    I tell my sisters I’ll get a dishwasher when someone invents one that will wipe off the table, clean the stove and sweep the floor too. Sounds like a maid or a robot – something I’ll never be able to afford (smile).

    • I don’t have a dishwasher either. Can’t justify it for one person who mostly eats hand-held food. My mom never had one and we were nine at the table or more most nights. Of course, three of those nine were tasked with set up and clean up, much like in your house.

  2. I see many of your points–and I OWN one of those old OEDs,sold with a magnifying glass (now where is it?). 🙂

    We still own a DVD player and own many DVDs and BlueRays as well–we’re perfectly happy choosing one from our LARGE collection, not needing to use NetFlix through the mail. My oldest son with autism has a VCR (and the tapes are getting tougher to find)and refuses to learn how to use his new DVD player. He is honest in that choice not to use the DVD. Sometimes, we are HAPPY with the old ways and don’t see the need to change what works for us and shouldn’t be forced. If that’s considered being a Luddite, then so be it.

    I have a few apps on my phone but, like you, I can’t stand the thought of my privacy being invaded. Anything I have on it has to serve a purpose of making my life a little easier and I have to feel comfortable using it.

    Housekeeping innovations were meant to save the House Wife time. I believe many began during the Second World War when women needed to be in the workforce since most of the men were overseas fighting. Then of course when they came back, no one wanted to go back to beating the rugs hanging on the wash line!

    I’ve been an early adapter for other things, such as a microwave. I zap stuff but don’t often *cook* anything with the exception of the occasional baked sweet potato for my son with autism (patience is not one of his virtues). I might occasionally cook some veggies (broccoli, corn, asparagus)but that’s about it. It’s main use in our household is to warm up dinner for those not able to be here for the regular meal (my husband is a physician and this has been a blessing for him to get a hot meal when he has an emergency around dinner time–we just wrap his meal up, put it in the frig and he zaps it when he gets home). And it has saved me more than once by defrosting something I forgot to put in the frig to defrost for the next day. One of my kids won’t use the microwave for anything–he thinks it’s cheating, even to defrost stuff.

    There was a trend a few years ago called *Slow Food*–it was supposed to be the opposite of *Fast Food*–and the idea was just as you suggest; cooking together, looking with anticipation to the meal, savoring the food and being nourished by the actual meal and by the act of doing something together. I loved the idea but it is not often practical for most people’s lifestyles during a workweek–getting to bed at a decent time and cleaning up after making a huge, slow meal. I cook from scratch almost every weekday (or one of my kids might) but when I have an evening rehearsal, it’s often frozen pizza and no one complains because it’s about once a week, more if I have a concert. I decided long ago, with my parents and grandparents as example, to cook Grande Meals on the weekends–both Saturday and Sunday if possible but at least one of those days–and gather the family together. I love to cook, though I use all sorts of kitchen gadgets to help…..but the food is from scratch! It’s worked mostly and I don’t feel so bad when weekday meals are not elaborate.

    • This is something I noticed in France–how MUCH slower the pace of meals was. I did see a few people eating alone, but mostly, meals were social. The wait staff NEVER chivvied you out the door or brought the check before you finished eating. Of course, the wait staff is making a living wage and tipping is minimal, so they aren’t motivated to turn the table as fast as possible. Still, I think it’s a cultural emphasis, and one of the results is the French are legendarily NOT overweight. Who’d a thought?

  3. I still get down on my knees and wash the kitchen and bathroom floor,I can get into the corners and clean the skirting boards at the same time.It is quick and easy using floor wipes that are wet and anti_bacterial.I bin them they are ‘re_recyclable.The only problem I can see in the future is I may not be able to get up off the floor due to a speeding old age thing.I will have plan two ready by then.!!!.I will be past caring by then because the home help will do it the way she/he prefers.Or I will be in a care home.Until then back to basics for this old gal !!!.I’m happy leave me alone in my little past bubble.

    • And doesn’t a freshly scrubbed floor just look so lovely? It bounces the light all around and says, “Welcome to a good place!” I have wood laminate floors in my kitchen, and I don’t shine them up enough.

    • Print readers, represent! Though I’m reading Churchill’s biography, “Walking with Destiny,” and that sucker is 1000 pages plus bibliography. We’re walking with destiny at a very moderate pace.

  4. One area of my life where I refuse to make concessions (or “upgrade” to newer solutions) is food. I admit that I LOVE to cook. As an Italian mom, few experiences make me feel happier than to have family and friends sit around my table, nourishing their minds and bodies with good, wholesome food that I have planned and prepared. I am always shocked and a bit dismayed when I see what passes for nourishment at the supermarket, how the fresh foods areas have shrunk and the freezer sections have grown; what people now think of as dinner for their families. I do understand the time factor when so many families today must rely on two incomes to get by, but simple meals don’t always take that much more time than reheating factory produced concoctions and, in addition to providing more complete nutrition, also teach our kids that this is what food should be.

    • I agree. FRESH FOOD, as locally grown as possible… I recall eating corn on the cob at my godparents’ farm. It never went more than an hour between field and table, and the difference between that corn and what passes for supermarket corn… blech.
      In the UK, most restaurants outside the major cities try to plan menus based on what’s available within about a ten-mile radius. That’s just how they roll, whereas here, “Farm to Table,” is highly specialized, usually expensive thing.

      • My (Italian) Dad grew figs, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries in our Brooklyn back yard when I was growing up. Store produce just can’t compete with a basin full of produce, still warm from the sun!

  5. Although leftovers usually involve the microwave for reheating, most of our meals are “home made.” After the initial 30 minutes uncovered at 450° (15 minutes, turn over, 15 more minutes), roast beef requires 6ish more hours at 300° (carrots – freshly peeled – are added during the last hour). Potatoes are peeled, cooked and mashed while the roast rests and drippings become gravy with lots of tasty brown bits. If available, a second fresh vegetable or coleslaw is added. Desert is usually apple crisp that shared the oven during the long roast. It’s a traditional family favorite that I serve often. Leftovers are enjoyed as quick snacks and/or full meals in varying combinations. After 60+ years of cooking, I still enjoy and prefer taking the time and effort to do it the long, slow way.

    • Now I’m hungry…
      My mom became quite a cook, because she has to feed the Vandal horde, also because she liked to entertain. Eventually–in her eighties–she decided that her retired husband, professor emeritus of food science (I am not making that up), should share some of the cooking load.
      I honestly think she was looking for something he could so with his time that was constructive.
      What did Dad do on the nights when he was supposed to make dinner? Pick up tacos at Don Bravos. Order Chinese take-out. If he was feeling really ambitious, he’d make bacon and eggs.
      It just didn’t sink in with him that putting dinner on the table could honestly take all day. Or at least start well before mid-day.

  6. I grew up with the idea that you used things til they wouldn’t work anymore – that’s why we were way behind in getting a color tv – those old black & white’s just wouldn’t die! I got my first home computer in 2008 (before that I just used the one at work & frankly didn’t want to see one at night). I’m still using that some 11 year old computer – it has some problems – won’t hold a charge so has to be plugged in, sometimes touchy to turn on, several keys have the letters worn off, operating system doesn’t work well (or at all) with some sites. But it’s mostly good enough. My sister-in-law gave me a cell phone, but I just carry it for emergencies. Still have a land line & have 2 rotary phones hooked up where they’ve been for 50 years – I can answer a call with them (just can’t call out). In the house I prefer a vacuum to a broom because it sucks up the dust, not just move it.

    • I still have a 2003 Gateway laptop. Things weighs a whole SEVEN pounds, and the fur has definitely been loved off of it, but it works great for playing solitaire on the tread desk. I wrote many, many books on it, and I hope it’s still honking along many books from now.

  7. We still have a corded phone for power failures and cell tower glitches. Still works here, too.

    I wear an analog wrist watch when I’m out of the house. We have a mechanical grandfather clock that chimes the quarter hour during the day. It doesn’t keep atomic time and does have to be wound, but one can keep up with the passage of time, if interested.

    With arm issues, I am happy for the innovations that let me read, write, play cards. I also appreciate the e-formats that spare me the allergy inducing sneeze and wheeze that crap paper and ink can cause me.

    That said, I have a large collection of print books, mostly kids’ picture books, larger format, beautiful paper, ink, binding, printing that I will not part with.

    • One of the discussions on the author loops lately is the impact of Chinese tariffs on children’s books. Seems that some of the technology used to create those lovely, lively storybook doesn’t exist in the US. It’s available cheaply in China, and if the tariffs hit, the cost of the books will increase dramatically. Your collection might be worth a LOT!

  8. I started working with computers in 1966 when I programmed an IBM 360 which was a big as a football field, lived in a carefully controlled environment and used punch cards to communicate with it. I have a computer and several Nooks, tablets and Kindles lying around the house. Also a very nice microwave. But I prefer to keep my shopping list in a notebook in my purse and I use to microwave to make popcorn. I’d rather bake, even on a hot day, my potatoes.

    • I think a truly baked potato tastes better.
      I keep pen and paper by my bedside, to write down words I come across as I’m reading that I either like, or that I have to look up. My latest fine is “resile,” meaning to retrench, step back, or otherwise backpedal.

  9. I appreciate the thoughtfulness that the Amish put into whether or not a technology should be adapted. The impact on lifestyle, culture etc. taken into consideration. Of course, very little makes the cut and I have no desire to lead a life that is in most ways pre-modern myself, but the idea of discussions around long-term impact and about what will be lost seems to be missing from most of mainstream culture where new is desirable because it is new. The fabrication of need by the machinery of consumerism is something that is not overtly challenged or discussed enough in my opinion. I try to think about whether something will improve my life or just change it, and whether it is simply a different way to do things and will result in more going to a landfill. Some personalities are more inclined to innovation (if Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed anyway) but I guess I am more inclined to watching what impact something has and determining if I want to invite that impact into my life before I adapt a new technology. I don’t actively avoid the new, but I guess newness itself isn’t much of a draw for me. But I love my home appliances, I just never see the point of the bells and whistle versions. I love my smartphone even though I mostly use it for calls/texts and reading. Like you I don’t fill my phone with apps, privacy is very important to me, but I love my library app and being able to get directions as I am terrible at navigating (using landmarks,my location is turned off-privacy). I don’t watch TV but get DVD’s from the library (my husband is a tech person and thinks I am quaint!) and I refuse to use social media. In a fairly recent job search, I was told many places won’t even consider you if you don’t have linkedin at the very least for them to research you. My next job search may be the thing that makes me change my policy, but I don’t see anything else changing my stance.

    • Myself, I think LinkedIn is ridiculous. My resume says what I’ve been up to, my references vouch for the truth of my claims. LinkedIn seems to be an echo chamber of people all looking make their side hustle the Next Big Thing.
      But then… dinosaur here.
      I could not agree more regarding the machinery of consumerism. Somewhere I saw the factoid that the average urban dweller is hit with 1600 ad images a day. Nobody’s subconscious can resist that much bombardment, even if the only thing to get through is the message, “Solve your problems by spending money and acquiring stuff.”
      Which in many cases is worse than lie.

  10. I actually am the despair of my partner because I don’t keep my phone in my hand all the time and I don’t turn on the data connection unless I really need it for something. I use my smartphone as a phone and I play Sudoku if I’m waiting on something and don’t have enough time to get involved in a book. I don’t why this bothers him so much but he’s always trying to show me some “great” feature I really need and gets annoyed when I say I’m not interested. I don’t think I can be called a Luddite since I have a Master’s Degree in Computer Science but I consider all of these things as tools that I use if I feel like it, though I mostly don’t.

    I do have ereaders and only wish I had them when I was traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast on business trips. I always had to lug an extra bag filled with books since I don’t watch TV and I’m not going to a bar in the evening and what I like to do in my downtime is read. An ereader would have been so handy in those days! I prefer a book so I can more easily refer back to something but then again, not having to travel to the library to pick up or return materials is pretty nice (and libraries are increasingly noisy and full of distractions these days).

    I do love the microwave because leftovers never really heated up properly before. With the microwave, they taste as good as freshly made. Since my partner, the good cook, always makes enough for an army when there’s only two of us, I always have a nice meal for lunch the next day because of the microwave.

    • For a while, I had two phones, so I could call the one I misplaced with the one I kept on top of the fridge. I HATE the idea that the smartphone has become like a tech IV, nearly impossible to extricate. We lived for eons without phones at all, we lived for decades with landlines. We weren’t miserable in either case, and I’m not sure the smartphone has made us any happier.

      • The smartphone certainly hasn’t made us smarter! I admit that I am a Luddite &
        I remember insisting that computers would never replace books or pen & paper. Was I wrong! I just pray an EMP doesn’t destroy everything.

  11. Send to one commenter a broom? LMAO! I actually use a Swiffer on my wood floors, since they are more efficient, but sometimes use a vacuum. The carpets need vacuuming regularly – there’s no way to get around that. I would surely perish without my iPad, with about a thousand affordable or free books on my Kindle app. The print is expandable, background colors interchangeable, definitions and pronunciations are at my fingertips, and I can screenshot and forward editing errors when I’m reading an ARC, to let the authors know the exact location and scene needing attention. I pin all my ideas and recipes on Pinterest, so most of my recipe and craft books have long been donated, along with my novels. Honestly can’t think of a blessed thing that I still do old-school, if there’s a more convenient way to do it.

    • A woman of the times, that’s you!
      I know the day is coming when I will need expandable type to read anything, but so far, three pairs of glasses are holding the line. I can still read a print book last thing of the day. On my computer, everything is at about 150 percent, and I do mean everything.

  12. I love to hang my sheets & towels on the clothesline in the Spring and Summer! They smell great!

    My husband washes the dishes. I am not sure that he knows that we have a dishwasher!

    I send cards instead of emails.And I call friends instead of emailing or posting on Facebook.

    Lastly we try to share at least one meal a week with each other. I feel it’s important to sit down at the table and talk to each other.

    • My mom not only hung the sheets on the line, she kept lots of Yardley soap in the linen closet. That combination is the smell of home to me. Even when she had dryer, she still sun-dried the sheets when she could. It’s a lot of work, especially hanging the wet wash up, but oh, a beddy-bye with freshly laundered sheets was a lovely place to end the day!

  13. I still do not like cell phones because when I am away from the house I do not want to be bothered.I like living in the moment without distractions. I have an old cell phone that I physically have to open and close. I keep it for emergencies. We do not have a large screen TV and we still watch DVDs. We love our books!I finally bought a kindle, however, as we were running out of space for our large book collection.My husband was amused yesterday when he attended an event at a college where some of the best and brightest engineering students attend.The event was held on the college green and they were keeping track of how many radio contacts they could make in a given amount of time.They were keeping track by using a computer which suddenly crashed. It happened when the owner had just stepped away and they could not get it running again without the owner’s password. They were running around looking for a pen and paper. My husband was amused that they were so dependent upon technology that pen and paper were considered obsolete. I do not know about you but I always carry a pen, pencil and paper in my purse but I am not surprised that the younger generation may no longer think these are necessary.

    • I do carry pen and paper in my purse.
      I recently attended the Historical Novel Society of North American annual conference, and I was surprised (and pleased, honestly) at how many attendees took notes on PAPER. We apparently learn better that way, but I also just enjoy it more. I don’t like having that screen up between me and the presenter, or me and the other students. It’s a barrier, though to what, I’m not sure.

  14. These days watching regular TV is becoming Luddite-like with all the streaming services available. My husband bought an Amazon device a couple years ago so we could stream videos and we’ve only used it to stream Good Omens just few weeks ago. (He downloads shows to watch on his long flights for work.) We don’t use the microwave for any real cooking, but do cook a lot of fast dinner options during the week.

    I will defend the vaccuum in that it is way faster at getting dog and cat fur out of rugs. I’ve had to resort to using a broom both at home and work for this when the noisy vacs were out of commission and would rather rely on technology for fur removal.

    • I get out the broom first, and actually broom off my carpets. When that’s done, I’ll use the vacuum. I just have TOO many cats, and I’d go through vacuum bags like greased lightning otherwise. I also don’t like the noise of the vacuum, but needs must.

  15. I have a calendar on my refrigerator, I prefer old fashioned paper page books, I keep a hand written to do list and I write thank you notes by hand. I send hand made gifts through snail mail when I can, although that is getting prohibitively expensive. I like to keep my phone up to date, because it works better, and I like taking pictures with it because it is one less thing to carry around. Then again, I refuse to read email or use the internet, other then to pull down audio books (I prefer old fashioned reading to that too). I probably have a dozen other things, but I will spare you.

    • You are absolutely right about the out-of-date phone working more slowly. I don’t know about Samsung, but Apple makes that happen deliberately. This is another reason why I refuse to update. I will not be manipulated into trashing complicated hardware just so Apple can stockpile even more cash reserves. Geesh.

  16. haha, I love the comment about sending a broom! I am getting away from my electronics a lot, and I am so much happier for it. I’m starting to make my own foods too, and its interesting how avante garde that feels in this day and age! Convenience has become the end all be all, and while I used to applaud it, I am trying to unplug some from it now. I know i am blessed to have the wherewithal to be able to do so, though, though. That’s a privilege, I know.

    • What you said. When I was single parenting, and Beloved Offspring, at the end of long and trying day, wanted her Mac-and-cheese with a side of hotdog (heaven help us), convenience was the greatest blessing ever bestowed upon a parent. I shudder at the thought now, but the day had only so many hours in it and the child was hungry.

  17. I like paper maps. As a kid I thought they had a cool sky down view of a trip. Always grab the freebies at the state fair each year. I put one in my nephew s first car with usual first aid kit etc. He thought ridiculous till the road trip with very spotty cell service. His girlfriend was impressed he thought ahead.

    • Oh, that’s a nice story!
      I like paper maps too, and I understand them. My daughter–a very smart person–does not, and never has. This is very strange, because she’s a very competent artist.
      And spotty cell service is a real thing in many parts of the country.

  18. Reading is my greatest pleasure. I have over 2100 hardcover & paperback books & cherish each one, re-reading them often. When a favorite author (Grace Burrowes!) issues a new book, I happily add it to my collection. Cold ebooks will never replace the joy of holding a REAL book!

    • The New York legacy publishers are wishing they could clone you, Bonnie. I read print for recreation, because at the end of an author-day, the last thing I want to do is take a screen up to bed with me. I mostly give my books away though, except for my keepers of course.

  19. The Sad thing, Grace; is your Smartphone without any apps, still follows you, knows where you have been, and can listen in on you. Trust me, I fought it for years, and call Technology, The Beast! My Mother in law who has nothing on her Smartphone; told her sister, something she was thinking of buying, turns on her Smart T.V., the first commercial is the exact item she had talked about. My husband and I put tape over the lens of our Computers. I still make our bread, jams from scratch, love the same things you do. However, those Silicon Valley Technological Companies know everything! We have Smart 4 T.V.’s; I refuse to allow them to intimidate me.

    • What the phone doesn’t hear, it can’t repeat. I turn off location services, I don’t search on my phone if I can help it. Have no social media on my phone. I also turn the phone off a lot, and keep it in airplane mode much of the time.
      But you’re right: We do not have the privacy protections the Europeans insist on–not yet. I’m hopeful our priorities will shift, because there is mental health aspect to creating spaces where people really, truly do have protection for that constitutionally mandated right to privacy.