I grew up knowing I should not ask for too much. To not be too loud, too messy, too demanding. I learned to be small, to take up as little space as possible. Maybe this is a girl-thing, maybe it’s just me. I don’t know, but I’m grown enough to know that the only way to get what I want is to ask for it. If I don’t ask, I can’t expect to get it. So I’m asking for a self-cleaning kitchen and a smart home that’s actually smart.
For years I’ve been reading and listening to eco “experts” say we need to live smaller and do more to be sustainable and I get it. I adore Michael Pollan as much as the next girl and I even attempt to grow veggies occasionally.
Living more in tune with nature is a good thing, but I have a problem with the message. The message is do more and live with less. Traditional women’s chores are making a comeback in the eco world. Line-dry your laundry. Grow and cook your food from scratch. I support these chores as long as they bring joy and not just one more thing to do.
The Self-Cleaning House
As a woman with two children attempting to run a business who’s also in charge of the majority of the household cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping, I refuse to do one more thing that’s finally been automated. It’s 2017 for God’s sake. Going back to 1955 holds no appeal for me.
“You can talk all you like about women’s liberation, but houses are still designed so women have to spend half their time on their knees or hanging their head in a hole,” said Frances Gabe. She’s the inventor of the worlds only self-cleaning house. She made that comment to The Baltimore Sun in 1981 according to the New York Times. More than 30 years later our kitchens still look the same. She was so ahead of her time the world has yet to catch up.
Before you say that my husband should do more around the house, let me stop you right there. He’s happy to coach soccer and take the kids on bike rides, and he’s great at folding laundry, but I am done fighting about the dishes. If there’s one thing we both agree on it’s that neither one of us wants to do it. The only solution is a self-cleaning kitchen.
The Eco Mindset
One of my favorite books on climate change and environmental sustainability is EcoMind by Frances Moore Lappe. She doesn’t ask me to sacrifice or do more. Instead, she asks me to re-think what sustainability means.
“Think of music. Yes, there are just eighty-eight keys on the piano,” she writes. “A limits frame asks us to focus on the number of keys we use, but creating beautiful music requires deep learning of the principles of harmony.”
I love this quote.
Harmony is a synonym for balance. Everything needs balance, whether it’s relationships or nature. There also needs to be a balance between what people need to live well and what the environment needs to keep giving us what we need.
We have to live within our means. We only have so much land to grow food on and clean water to drink. But if we stay inside the limits frame, it seems impossible without significant sacrifices. When we instead focus on the principles of harmony, the possibilities are limitless.
A Truly Smart Home
If we want a sustainable future, the positives have to outweigh the negatives. The benefits of a self-cleaning kitchen are obvious, and if that can be designed to be water and energy efficient, then sustainability wins.
Our homes have hardly evolved in the last 50 years. Washers and dryers have become more water and energy efficient over the years, but they still require lots of user input. I still have to fold all those clothes. Why can’t everything be cleaned hanging inside our closets? Gabe didn’t do it perfectly, but she got the ideas right.
The fact that we don’t have self-cleaning homes isn’t because nobody would want them or because it’s impossible. Gabe figured it out and implemented it by herself years ago, so it’s possible. There’s a lot of talk about smart homes and all the gadgets that go along with them. I’m a fan of making our homes smarter, but I think we need to think beyond just light switches and thermometers. What about our dishwashers and washing machines? They haven’t gotten any smarter in the last 50 years. It’s time for a re-think.
Ask For What You Want
If we want to leave our children with a legacy that shows that we cared about their future then we have to make it sustainable, but to make it sustainable we have to get a lot of people on board. Not just a few who are willing to sacrifice their own comfort for the good of the environment. We have to get the masses willing to make changes and to do that you have to give them a better alternative.
Maybe you see the below video of Gabe’s self-cleaning home, and you see limitations. I see possibilities. It’s not the time to do more and ask for less, it’s time to ask for what we want. Where’s my smart home?