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Appliances You Might Be Surprised You Can Live Without

I recently wrote a post on how to downsize your life to a drastically smaller living space. I mentioned how, when I moved, I accidentally left something I thought I couldn’t live without at my old house: my microwave.

The funny thing is that it took me four days to realize I’d forgotten it. I hadn’t needed it, and my new kitchen was so much smaller I just didn’t notice its absence.

That was over a month ago. And I still don’t have a microwave.

It’s interesting these days how we define needs vs. wants. Things we think we need, like a microwave, we can actually do very well without. If we can become disciplined enough to reduce the number of appliances we need, we can open up significantly more space in our home while also saving an immense amount of money.

For example, I have a friend who’s oven broke over four years ago. She never replaced it. She cooks everything in a large toaster oven instead. Breads, cookies, chicken…she’s functioning just fine without a huge oven. It’s saved her a ton of space, time spent cooking, and money on her energy bill.

I’m sure everyone will have a different opinion on what appliances they can or can’t live without. But I wanted to write up a list of appliances that I’m very happy living without:

1. Jumbo Refrigerators

The average size of a refrigerator in the U.S. is 18-26 cubic feet. This is huge compared to what they used back in the 1950s. Want to know the average size of a refrigerator in Europe? Nine cubic feet. No, that’s not a typo. That’s 9 cubic feet.

Plus, 26% of American households have two refrigerators. Two! That’s an enormous amount of space and energy use.

The space I’m in now has a much smaller refrigerator than I used to have. And you know what? I love it. I don’t cram it full of food which would, in my old fridge, get lost and go bad. When I want to find something, I can see it easily. It’s not like looking into a cavernous hole.

Your refrigerator is one of the largest energy users in your home, accounting for 20% or more of your utility bill each month. It runs 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Think of how much you could lower your energy bill each month by downsizing this one appliance!

2. Dishwashers

Dishwashers are another appliance I think we can easily live without. There’s been a long debate over which saves more money and energy: handwashing or electric dishwashing. My opinion is that, when water use is kept to a minimum, handwashing is the cheaper, greener option. Moreover, to me, I think handwashing dishes is just easier. Most people rinse their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. And then, all those dishes have to be put away which adds another chore. So, you do double the work! Again, almost the rest of the world does not use dishwashers.

3. Microwaves

I covered this one a bit already, but I wanted to add it to the list because to me, it’s been the most surprising. I seriously never thought I could function effectively without a microwave. But I haven’t missed it. Everything I use the microwave for I can cook just as effectively on the stove or in my small toaster oven.

Not having a microwave has also freed up a ton of valuable counter space. Plus, to me microwaves are just ugly. I have yet to see a cool-looking microwave. So not having to look at that appliance has been a real delight.

4. A Dryer

Laundry Dryer Appliance

I have no dryer. And this is another appliance I’m happily living without.

After the refrigerator, the dryer is another major energy hog. It also puts a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

I use a drying rack for my clothing. This saves energy, and drastically extends the life of my clothes.

5. Air Conditioning

Ok, I’m sure this one is going to spark some fierce debate.

First, let me say this: I grew up in Louisiana. I know how vital air conditioning is in the South and Southwest. And, if I was living there, I’m sure that I’d depend on the A/C just as much as I depend on central heat living up here in Michigan. Additionally, those who are sick, elderly, or have very young children will depend on A/C more than others.

With that concession, I do believe that most people living in northern climates could easily do without air conditioning. Air conditioning uses a ton of energy, and drives up utility bills by a few hundred percent come summertime. Simply using a fan instead of the air conditioning can lower your energy bill by 60% or more.

In line with this advice, cccording to Pew Research, more and more people are jumping on the “no A/C train” thanks to the recession. Because it’s so expensive to use, many people are discovering that they can live without A/C just fine.

My last house didn’t have air conditioning. And my loft doesn’t have it either. Some fans and open windows will do just fine.

Last Word

What do you think of this list? Could you live without these items? Is there another appliance you could easily add here? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(Photo credit: Wonderlane)

Heather Levin is a writer with over 15 years experience covering personal finance, natural health, parenting, and green living. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons, where they're often wandering on frequent picnics to find feathers and wildflowers.