Forward to the past

How have your habits changed this year?

There’s nothing like six months of confinement to make you rethink things: what your home looks like, or what really matters in life. And why on earth incessant shopping ever seemed like a good idea. For nearly three months, we all went through shopping rehab and discovered that acquiring more stuff wasn’t the key to happiness. What did become apparent, though, was that where we live and how we live makes a huge difference to how we feel about life.

I know I’m not the only one whose lifelong eco inclinations crystallised during lockdown. All over social media, all over the world, people are flocking to join sustainable living and tiny home web pages, expressing a longing to live cheaper and start homesteading. Perhaps learning to make pasta and sourdough bread drove us over the green edge, but we’re suddenly going all wholesome, organic and artisanal, and I don’t think it’s just a passing fad.

The fact that Eskom keeps falling over, our clean water resources are running out and nobody has a job anymore has contributed to this too, of course.

But here’s where we could be going from here, and a lot of it looks like a blast from a long-gone past. With the added advantage of WiFi and streaming. Obviously.

People who can now work from home forever may question why they live in cities at all, and start moving to smaller, prettier towns and rural areas. Cities will become quieter and cleaner, and more people will take their Sunday morning walks through the city streets with their families and dogs. It’s already happening.

Those who lost jobs will sell their overpriced homes and use any money left to downscale to a smaller home, or even a tiny home, in a cheaper area. Mansions will fall into the hands of communes of young people who can’t afford to live solo. Farms that aren’t making money will start leasing spare land to tiny home communities.

Small is beautiful

The demand for beautifully fitted tiny homes will spark a wave of entrepreneurs building them, which will eventually bring down prices, and put neat little homes within reach of the lower income middle classes at last. Tiny homes will be seen as aspirational and enlightened, and nobody will be judged on their limited floor space. Carpentry and metalwork will be back in demand as people seek out perfect, miniature, multifunctional furnishings.

There will be demand for solar power, gas and biofuels. Eventually, we’ll all become experts on renewable energy and forget what Eskom was supposed to be doing in the first place. We’ll start taking composting and incinerating toilets seriously, which is great news for millions of underserved people. And the planet.

Driven by the high cost of living and the new-found homesteading trend, people will start planting food. They’ll turn wastelands into food gardens and learn to use grey water to sustain them. Homesteaders may never grow enough to meet all their food needs, but they will appreciate and support larger scale farmers more. Young people will start discovering that getting their hands dirty can be more fulfilling than acquiring another pair of branded sneakers.

My late grandmother Elsie, who raised her children in an austere post-World War II world and routinely saved things like old wrapping paper and string for the rest of her life, would have been amused by my enthusiasm about a back-to-the-good-ol’-days way of life.

Using only what you need, and sharing resources and efforts, worked pretty well for our ancestors, and it can work well for us now. We now have things they didn’t have, such as technology and life-saving medicines, and nobody’s suggesting we get rid of those. We all want nice things like indoor plumbing, more than one pair of shoes and perhaps our own transport. But it wouldn’t hurt us to scale down and adopt some of the best practices our forebears used for getting by.


TRACY BURROWS is a freelance IT and  corporate writer and a long time contributor to all  of ITWeb's platforms.