8 Depression Era Habits We Need to Start Doing (Traditional Slower Living)

8 Depression Era Habits We Need to Start Doing (Traditional Slower Living)

The early 20th century’s Great Depression forged an era of economic scarcity — but from hardship arose strength. Despite the unrelenting constraints of the time, people demonstrated profound resilience and social solidarity. Community interdependence strengthened as neighborhoods banded together to navigate challenges collectively. Practical skills for frugal living took on new urgency and value. Daily life revolves around enduring traditions of shared meals, resource exchanges, and folk remedies passed down through generations.

These time-honored habits reveal how collective struggle can cultivate grit, empathy, and purpose. The lessons of mending, bartering, and local harvesting give much-needed perspective amidst the pace and conveniences we often take for granted today. Integrating aspects of these humble but ingenious depression-era lifestyles proves a compelling antidote to modern society’s unhealthy obsession with consumption and productivity. The eight habits we need to revisit include:

  1. Prioritizing home cooking
  2. Embracing frugality
  3. Repairing and repurposing worn items
  4. Sharing resources within communities
  5. Simplifying wardrobes and living spaces
  6. Using natural remedies for health
  7. Creating handmade goods
  8. Valuing leisure time

The Principles of Slower Living

Slower living prioritizes well-being and purpose over productivity and materialism. It emphasizes community over isolation and convenience over accumulation. More unhurried living is not rejecting progress but a reconnection with timeless values to enhance contentment. The principles include:

  • Cherishing time: Protecting space for meaningful pursuits over busyness. From family to hobbies, slower living celebrates leisure.
  • Cultivating community: Interdependence strengthens support networks, cooperation, and a sense of belonging.
  • Embracing simplicity: Distinguishing needs from wants helps identify excess and find joy in what we have.
  • Connecting with nature:  The natural world grounds us, provides perspective, and restores our spirit.
  • Creating things:  Hobbies, crafts, and handmade goods enrich our lives with satisfaction through the process, not just the outcome.

Historical Context: Frugality and Community Resilience Through Hard Times

The Great Depression began with the 1929 stock market crash, sparking an economic crisis lasting over a decade. Unemployment exceeded 15 million, thousands of banks failed, and GNP fell by 30%. Despite New Deal relief programs and public works projects, recovery was slow. By 1940, 15% still lacked jobs.

Amid unrelenting thrift and scarcity, resourcefulness and community interdependence became essential. Government relief provisions fell short, so informal economies allowed people to barter goods, services, and support. Visiting friends meant one less meal to prepare. Hand-me-down clothing got expert mending for repeated use. Scraps became creative recipes to reduce waste. Neighbors shared the bounty of homegrown vegetables. Daily frugality was woven into the social fabric.

Habits to Cultivate Slower Living

Integrating select depression-era habits creates a more intentional, balanced living. Practical ways to embrace simplicity include:

  • Prioritize Home Cooking and Baking: Preparing wholesome meals from scratch saves money, reduces waste, and connects us. Starting a kitchen garden delivers satisfaction plus organic produce. Baking bread or hosting potlucks builds community.
  • Embrace Mending and Repurposing: Mending worn items for continued use rewards skill development. Seeking used goods before buying new ones reduces waste. Repurposing items for new functions exercise creativity, too.
  • Share Resources and Talents: Bartering goods or services on a hyperlocal level circulates value. Sharing space or tools with neighbors strengthens community ties. Exchanging skills cultivate interdependence.
  • Enjoy Simple, Shared Entertainment: Rather than default to streaming entertainment in isolation, share low-cost leisure pursuits. Play cards or board games with friends. Have family movie nights. Local park facilities often offer free activities, too.
  • Reconnect with nature: Reading a book under a favorite tree, stargazing, gardening, or hiking clears the mind while deepening environmental appreciation. Pursuing outdoor hobbies boosts fitness and mood.

Cultivating these habits creates enriching experiences beyond material consumption. The process nourishes our well-being.

Balancing Slower Living and Modern Demands

Integrating aspects of simpler living does not mean rejecting all technology and advancement. The key is a balance between convenience and intention, not absolutes. Schedule time for treasured low-tech pursuits yet utilizes tools judiciously to maintain life organization across work, home, finance, and relationships. Sustainable living entails periodic reflection on safeguarding space for health and community by reducing excess.

Case Study: Kate’s Journey

Kate is a 37-year-old corporate consultant who struggled with stress and lack of fulfillment after years of sacrificing her health and passions to advance her career. Though financially comfortable, she lacked a work-life balance and a community. After a health scare, she reevaluated her priorities and discovered slower living principles.

Kate began cooking wholesome meals instead of buying takeout, allowing her to enjoy the process and save money. She joined community gardening, grew her produce, made friends, and practiced sustainability. Exploring new hobbies like knitting provided a creative outlet while limiting shopping splurges. Spending more time outdoors and with loved ones created precious memories absent from her workaholic years.

By integrating these intentional habits, Kate reduced stress while profoundly connecting to herself, her community, and nature. She incorporated valuable lessons from past generations by living with a purpose beyond productivity and material gain.

Key Takeaways

  • The Great Depression cultivated habits of frugality, skill sharing, and community resilience. These lessons balance modern life’s unhealthy consumption and isolation.
  • Slower living emphasizes leisure, community, simplicity, and purpose as central to well-being over productivity or materialism.
  • Habits like cooking wholesome meals, mending worn items, and spending more time outdoors and with others cultivate sustainability.
  • Balancing convenience and intentionality allows us to maintain modern work organization while creating space for health and community.
  • Integrating aspects of simpler living from past generations inspires purpose and resilience to nourish our well-being, connections, and environment.


The pleasures life made scarce in eras of austerity inspire joy when rediscovered in balance. Hardship borne collectively connected communities in profound ways. By reviving select habits at sustainable levels, we, too, can stretch contentment beyond consumption’s constraints. Our great-grandparents’ era signifies not just struggle, but also stories of laughter shared over meals that try through mending and imagination. Their grace under duress still compels us to realign priorities for greater purpose and fulfillment. We have the tools to live faster; the task is learning why slower matters more.