Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Frugal Angst

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Spring cleaning is a good time to purge, and for me it is a good time to reassess my hoarding frugal re-purposing strategies. My parents were adults during the Depression and WWII when rationing was necessary. Subsequently, everything was saved. I grew up watching my mom wash and dry plastic bags for re-use. So much so, it is second nature for me to just automatically save everything that comes my way. My hubby is the same way, socks beyond repair become grease rags, coffee cans can hold nuts and bolts, and old jeans can become patching material for new jeans.

I'm in the camp though that I don't think I can ever get enough canning jars since I use them so much. The collection above is about a day and half worth of scratch cooking from the freezer and pantry. So I of course save all my jars, and use my rusty rings and used lids for freezer storage items. These are destined to go back to storage for summer time preservation.

Lately though, I have been going through lots of stuff I have saved, you know, like magazines I can't live without etc. Straddling the old way of information gleaning and the Internet has been giving me conniptions. I find comfort in my old quilt magazines, but I know if I needed a patchwork pattern I would never even begin to look through 25 years of magazines - I would consult one of my quilt books or just draft my own pattern. I donated them to a senior center where at least the photos of quilts would bring joy a few more times to someone. I no longer had that need. My quilt bucket list is already too long... . For me letting go is the hard part. Saving something for someday, some doomer scenario or just plain to save it is one of my bad habits.

So systematically I am retraining myself, to not save every useful container that comes my way. Our waste stream is pretty small, since we don't really purchase much, but still, I think I have enough yogurt containers for now. Besides magazines I went through our storage areas and recycled all those yogurt and sour cream containers that are just too useful. Keeping back a storage box of each is enough I think.

So what do you think, is frugality causing more hoarding? Or is it a necessary evil of frugality to have lots of stuff?


spinnersaw said...

I have news raido on all day. Hording is a subject that they gleefully love to talk about. Recently there was a fire in the news. The home owner was a horder which I heard about all day long. One of the times that the fire was talked about on the news a neighbor was interviewed and she said that he was a very kind and helpfull neighbor. I think that it is sad to hear about the terrible horder about 12 times that day and one time that he was very kind and helpful. A friend of mine who also listens to the raido all day had a stomach ache and tried to pick up her home, she did not want to be known as a horder when she dies. I don't care what people keep or what their home looks like, I want you, Matron, to know that you inspire me. This morning I was looking up your old posts for your rhubarb curd recipe to share with a friend. I have been inspired to grow more heirlom plants in my garden and someday I hope my kiwi look as good as yours. I hope that I can pick carrots and beets in February and be more content at home. Throw out stuff if it makes you happy but don't worry about being a horder.

Diana R.Smith said...

I recently gave up my huge collection of quilt magazines to our local library. They were able to put many of the collectible issues on Ebay and make a large sum of money for new craft books. Then they gave me dibs on all the new books to check them out first!!!

Hoarding tv programs got me going on the big clean up. Our house is tidy and organized but I thought of my kids having to go thru my mountaineous collection of books/magazine/quilting supplies/knitting supplies/seeds. Good grief...I can go overboard. But not parting with a single canning jar!!!!

Miriam said...

Oh, this is such a timely post! We quit our teaching jobs three years ago and loved to a rural property, where we're poorer but much happier - and the "poorer" part has meant I am saving things I wouldn't have dreamed of saving before, and consequently have too much stuff! I notice this especially in the workshop, where every scrap of wood and every bit of chicken wire is saved just in case it might be useful some day. And often it is, which is great, but in the meantime the sheer volume of it feels like a burden. I guess it's all about balance, isn't it?

Jana said...

Ha this post rings true for me. I'm very much into organization, but also believe in reusing things that can still be reused. We keep eggs cartons and baby wipe containers for planting seeds and yes we had a huge collection of yogurt/sour cream/cream cheese containers, they are great for packing snacks. Recently though, I got rid of (in the recycling bin) about half of them, but I can imagine more slipping into our home.

Chile said...

To answer your question, "Is frugality causing more hoarding?", in my case, yes, it was. We had more canning jars (and lids) than we could store, more material than we would ever use (especially considering I don't sew...), seeds for vegetable varieties we hated, and so on because OMG! TEOTWAWKI is coming and we'll need it all! And we won't be able to get it later. (Insert appropriate panic-inducing music here.)

Thankfully we came to our senses and began to seek more balance. I took a good look at how much canning I'd actually do and what type of jars I'd use. I made a good chunk of change unloading dozens of jars. We thinned out the material to keep only the best and most useful pieces. And gave away the rutabaga, parsnip, and turnip seeds.

And you know what? Our home is more comfortable, we feel more relaxed yet still prepared, and we've made room for new and useful items (and people!) to come into our lives.

quinn said...

It's tough not to hang onto things that "might come in handy"...because they really might! I'm always cobbling things together out of bits and pieces of other things. But I rarely bring anything "new" home ("new" as in salvaged from from the recycling area at the dump) unless I have a pretty good idea of what it will be useful for, and where it will be stored (meaning which shed, not the house) until it is needed.
In the house, paper is the devil. Also, the thousands of negatives, transparencies, and photographic prints from my darkroom days of professional photography. Most of this is filed and worth keeping, but any effort to winnow out the chaff just means a wasted day and a huge mess. Better to just clean out the chicken coop!

becky3086 said...

We definitely have too much but there are those times when it really does come in handy. However, I do really have a problem with magazines and books. I am always so afraid that I will need the information and a magazine doesn't take up too much space. I go through the books now and then but the magazines collect. I do try to keep things neat but the need for neatness is slowly leaving me as we get older.

Marijke VanderVlist said...

We have found that more space is more stuff. Having lived in very big houses, it was a scary how much we collected and had hiding away in cupboards, only to be found with our next move. Holding on to things for later use is great, but too much will also mean you forget about what is there. We now love our cosy home, big enough to be functional, small enough wanting to declutter and stick to the basics. Enough space for a healthy collection of canning jars and containers. But out of space for unnecessary kitchen equipment.

claudia said...

My kids teasingly call me a hoarder. I work in hardware store and am in charge of the "defective" things customers return. As far as I am concerned this is total bunk. I bring the stuff home and fix it or repurpose it. I also have a wonderful assortment of nuts, bolts and screws that are deemed trash. (ugh!) One day my daughter needed her truck repaired which meant replacing a few screws. I found a few in my "hoard" that would do the trick...they haven't teased me as much sense. I built my chicken coop out of garbage wood and nails that were also deemed trash. My chickens seem to love it. I may slow down on my collecting, but I will never give it up totally!

Joyful said...

I think one area where hoarding can become a real possibility is having too much stuff due to too many interests and hobbies. If one isn't actively engaged in the hobbies "stuff" quickly takes over as it seems there is always another thing that isn't already in the stash that you do need when wanting to do a project.

I'm trying to use stash and then not repurchase thing unless and until I really need it. This sometimes means paying more for an item.

It is always gratifying to give books and nice magazines of all kinds to people who will appreciate them. It makes letting go a little easier.

Your canning jars are always needed so it would be much harder to try and minimize the number. At least you are aware of potential hoarding issues and that will make you vigilant and help you.

Joanna said...

Ooh I feel your pain. We reuse a lot of things and canning jars are precious. I am now out of canning jars having had to jar up a lot of my food because we had an infestation of maggots and I don't want a repeat performance. Our "new" chicken hut is made up of wood leftover from a greenhouse that fell down and a new barn just built. Seed boxes are also being made from scrap wood and reusing margarine tubs. A curtain over a door to reduce draughts is some fabric that I was given, and a replacement lampshade was made from a stained tablecloth. Cardboard boxes! Not a problem they will be going out on the garden to keep the weeds down. Now where do we put all this stuff until we need it - that is the problem.

Karen said...

I'm somewhat of a hoarder, and the more room I have, the more gets 'hoarded'. But then on a farm, there are all sorts of weird and wonderful things that come in handy for something or other, eventually. The hard part is finding it when you need it. And if you get rid of it, you are almost guaranteed to find a use for it soon after:(

SarahR said...

I don't think it's a problem to keep stuff that might be useful so long as you have the space for it and it's not in the way EXCEPT if you have to move it. I've just done an interstate move and it was incredibly expensive and incredibly painful. I'm determined that there will be a lot less stuff by the time I have to move again.

Pam R said...

I agree with the poster who has a farm. I save anything that will have a use. I also collect things that might have a use down the road.

An example: I have been collecting crocks and lids for decades. I had no use for them, and didn't know how to store food in them. Didn't know if I would ever learn, but figured, the way things are, I might have to.

In 2008, I got a flock of laying hens. Was told they'd effectively stop laying over the winter. So I decided to store eggs against that. I hauled out the crocks, got some waterglass and stored 23 dozen of them in crocks I'd had for decades. The eggs last 8 months and stored perfectly.

I like being able to start and finish projects without having to go buy things. There's precious little cash flow so I like to divert it towards things like bills.

I don't think of myself as a hoarder, but more of a packrat. I come by it honestly, as I'm a 4th generation packrat. Everything gets used here, sooner or later.

Mum said...

It's funny that we spend half our lives collecting things that may come in handy and the other half worrying about what to do with all the stuff that we've got. Sould we or shouldn't we get rid of it. But as is always the case - as soon as you get rid of anything you always need it the very next day!
Love from Mum

ThisIsMySimpleLife said...

I can totally relate to this! I find it extremely difficult to balance between collecting nice useful things for later use, and hoarding loads of stuff that end up making it almost impossible to find anything when I need it.

Right now I am in the process of decluttering my basement storage room. And I have a really hard time deciding what to keep and what to let go. I mean, all the good stuff could come in handy some day, right? And if I get rid of it, I might end up having to buy new things instead, right?

Well true, but at the moment the volume of stored items makes it impossible to find anything down there, without having to move a lot of things around. I hate going down there to find something and it simply prevents me from using all of those nice things.

Teresa said...

There's a fine line between "being a frugal person who's keeping useful stuff" and "being a crazy hoarder worthy of reality TV" and it's hard to tell which you are looking at your own life. (Reality TV might make something of my book collection.) But you know, I'm still kicking myself over the canning jars I let go when I moved to Massachusetts 20 years ago, thinking I'd never need them again. :-)

Local Nourishment said...

I'm a tosser, hubby is a keeper. We don't fight about it, exactly, but it causes a fair share of tension. We finally agreed to restrict his "keep" space to the garage. We spent six hours down there on Saturday and didn't even make a dent. I mean really, do we need Star Wars Mr. Potato Heads because they might someday increase in value? Really?

On the other hand, if we ever lose the internet, we will lose the sum total of my knowledge. I rely almost entirely on electronic storage for all my recipes, garden plans, instruction manuals, etc.

Clearly what this family needs is some balance!

Curvywitch said...

Ah yes - the jar dilemma. According to my husband we have enough jars to last us through to the next millenium and 'why do you want to keep this one again?'
Some people just don't understand the importance of being well supplied :-)

Karen said...

There is a huge difference between keeping too much stuff and being a hoarder. Hoarding is a mental illness - someone who is a hoarder cannot simply "decide" they have too much stuff and begin to clean out.
Now lots of people hang on to too much stuff - and that probably isn't a good thing. Sometimes, though, it can be tough to decide how much is too much.

Jenn said...

While I wouldn't call myself a hoarder, I do think sometimes that I have too much stuff. My tendency recently has been to save and stockpile. I tend to hold onto bits and pieces of things that could be useful someday, and pick up extras of what I think we might need - candles, knitting supplies, materials, canning jars, warm clothing, extra blankets, piles of books, and even a bike trailer. I think it's all useful and it contributes to the life that I want focused on greater self-sufficiency. But that doesn't mean that that things don't get messy, and there aren't times that I wonder if I just have too much stuff hanging around here sometimes.

Chris said...

This is funny because it reminds of the time my mum came over, and she forgot her glass jar. What's so important about her glass jar? Well, it's where she puts all her cigarette butts.

It's not healthy to smoke, she's tried quitting a few times, but at least she takes responsibility for her butts.

Okay, so she asks me for a jar from my collection!!! I said I needed them for food storage. But it's just one jar, she says. I had to apologise and feel like an meanie, LOL, but I wasn't going to part with one useful jar from my kitchen for cigarette butts.

That was a tough call in some regards, because who refuses their beloved mum a recycled jam jar? I did feel like a meanie, but it's for food storage, "oh the humanity!"

Thistledog said...

Stuff is definitely a necessary evil of "frugal repurposing" as you so aptly named it.

My parents lived through the Depression as well. And we were very poor growing up, so my Mom sewed, cooked, gardened, and fixed her way through raising six kids under the poverty line. Saving useful stuff is hardwired into me. Thankfully, so is being able to organize and "make order out of chaos" as I call it.

Still, it's a lot of work, and I find as I get older that I lose track of stuff more. Packing for this move to the Farm has been a great, awful opportunity to see everything I've hidden away and decide if it's worth wrapping and boxing or should I give it away.

I'll keep most of it, especially the canning jars/gallon jugs for cider, that sort of thing - I intend to keep my purchasing to a minimum and these resources are so precious in that endeavor.

sawn48 said...

I am so busy with my crafting and frugalizing my life, that I don't spend as much time as I would like reading all of the posts from my blogger friends, but today I took a few minutes and read a few of your older posts only to see myself in every one. It is unreal how similar you and I are in our way of thinking. It is so nice to find a kindred soul amongst my blogger friends. I intend to follow you more closely in the future to see how much more we are alike.

cumbrian said...

I sometomes think that frugality encourages hoarding.
I'm one of the glass jars and bottle keeping brigade, for home-made drinks and preserves.