The Joy of Doing Things Manually

Over the years of simplifying my life and spending I’ve rediscovered the joy of doing things manually. Years ago I was hooked on every electronic gadget and power tool. If it plugged in and was convenient, I used it. But I learned that the convenience came with a price tag. Not only were the electronic/plug-in models more expensive, they often broke, required replacement batteries, and were often expensive to repair, if they could be repaired at all. They also consumed electricity or gasoline, which was another added cost. Not to mention the noise and pollution that many of the items put out.

As I simplified my life and as those convenient gizmos broke, I tried replacing them with their manual counterparts. Rarely have I regretted the choice. Sometimes there are jobs that require more power than a manual option can provide, but those are few and far between. For the most part I have been able to retire many of my powered appliances and tools and still get the jobs done. Here are some of the things I now use almost exclusively in their manual format.

Can opener

I had an electric can opener. In fact, I had five of them in five years. That was how often they broke. At roughly $20/apiece, that was $100 spent on underperforming, noisy can openers. Finally I decided I’d had enough and bought a simple $4 manual can opener. It’s lasted about nine years so far, it’s silent, and it draws no electricity.


I used to have a roto-tiller to turn over new garden plots and to turn up soil to plant trees and flowers. It broke a few years ago and I was quoted $150 for the repair. I decided to let it go and instead use a shovel and hoe to turn the soil. It’s worked out well. Every spring I get a lot of exercise, I don’t use any fuel, I get some quality time outside, and I get the satisfaction of a job well done.

Lawn mower

I had a power mower but the thing aggravated me. It needed a tune up every year, oil, new spark plugs, new wheels from time to time, and blade sharpening. When it finally died, I decided to try a reel mower. Since most of our yard is natural area or gardens we don’t have much grass to start with. The power mower was overkill. The reel mower does a very nice job, needs very little maintenance, consumes no fuel, and is quiet to use.


When my hand mixer died, I decided to just get a whisk. For the cooking I do, a whisk is sufficient. Yes, I have to beat cake mix for a longer time with the whisk, but in the end the ingredients are well blended and I have very little to clean up, I don’t use any electricity and I can still carry on a conversation with others in the room. The whisk was $6 and has lasted several years. A new mixer would have cost at least $20, more for one with more features.


I sold my leaf blower a few years ago. I hated the noise the thing made, the fuel it used (and the smell), and the maintenance it required. I bought a $10 rake instead. I think I actually get the leaves done faster now because I can really move them with a rake. With the blower I spent more time chasing them back and forth across the lawn and trying to herd them into a blow-able line.


I still have my dryer and use it on bad weather days (although I’ve been known to use an indoor drying rack in the house). But if the weather is nice, I much prefer to line dry my clothes. They smell better when dried in the sun and I know that sun will kill any lingering bacteria on my clothes. The reduction in my energy bill has been substantial and there is a lot of exercise to be had hanging wet clothes.

Pencil and paper

I used to take all my notes on the computer and I kept my calendar there, too. But lately I’ve gone back to pencil and paper. The act of writing things down by hand gives me a chance to really gather my thoughts. Plus I find it soothing to my mind and I don’t have to worry about backing it up. I use the computer for a lot of things, but sometimes I just prefer old fashioned paper and pencil.


When I got rid of the carpet in the house I discovered the joy of not having to use a vacuum cleaner. A simple dust mop or microfiber mop for damp cleaning is all I need. I don’t have to deal with the heavy, noisy vacuum cleaner and I’m no longer traumatizing my dog with it, either.

Ice trays

The ice maker in the fridge broke a while back and I was quoted $200 to fix it. I said forget it and bought a set of four ice trays for $5. They’ve served me well. With just the two of us here we don’t go through that much ice so the manual method is well able to keep up with demand. As a plus, I don’t have to worry about the ice maker going nuts and leaking water overnight and soaking my floor as it did one time. That was a time consuming clean up job and an expensive water bill the next month.

Phone (corded, not cordless)

It’s not as much a “manual” way of doing things (that would be going and talking to the person), but it is a simpler method of phone ownership. Corded phones rarely break, they don’t need expensive new batteries, and they don’t draw electricity. Also, when I’m talking on a corded phone and I can’t roam or do other tasks, I find that I pay a lot more attention to the conversation.

With manual methods the work may not be as quick or as easy, but there are benefits to slower, manual work. I get more exercise and I get some quiet time to think or burn off stress. It’s hard to be too stressed in the middle of manually tilling a new garden plot in the spring sunshine with the birds singing. I also save a lot of money and hassle. I don’t have to buy new things as often because the manual options rarely break. If I do have to buy something, the manual options are almost always the cheapest on the market. I don’t have expensive repair bills, I save electricity and fuel, and I reduce noise pollution. Other than the loss of a little convenience (which I’m willing to trade for the other benefits) there’s no downside.

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5 Responses to The Joy of Doing Things Manually

  1. Those little things add up. And they enable us to continue with things when the power goes out sometimes. We get stupid sometimes about electronics that we don’t need.

  2. sewingirl says:

    My kids laugh at me for balancing the checkbook with pencil and paper. About 20 years ago, my calculator was goofing up, and I totally messed up the checkbook before I realized what was going on. I use one once in a while to double check long columns of figures, but the calculator between my ears works just fine, thank you, (never needs batteries).

  3. Love it. I’m with you on most of these items….. like you, all of mine have broken and we aren’t replacing it as it breaks.

    Another (non-financial) issue I have with all of this junk is what to do with it when it breaks? I have a whole drawer full of non-working cell phones. The landfill doesn’t need them!

  4. Cheryl says:

    Regarding the drawer full of old cell phones – contact your local Lions or Rotary club. Many of the clubs recycle the phones for a fundraiser. Helps the community and cleans out your drawers.

  5. mahanda says:

    my children also think i am silly for doing so many things the “old school” way, but at least one son has realized, i save money, the environment, and gain much needed exercise. plus, when doing it myself i receive the bonus of a little self pride.

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