The other day I went to First Landing Beach on the Chesapeake Bay near my house. Stretched out half the length of a football field was a fishing net on the edge of the water. I plunked my beach chair a few yards away and watched a fisherman painstakingly mend every hole in the net. His friend kept trying to convince him that they should cut it off and bind one edge. “It’s trashed from here down to the end. It’s not worth the time to fix it.” The mender replied, “It’s a good, strong net. I can repair it,” and diligently went on with his work.
That scene made me think back to a time when we were a young family with just two kids. We had no money and lived paycheck to paycheck in a drafty old farmhouse in rural Connecticut. We belonged to a natural food coop, taking our turn sorting and packaging everyone’s order when the bulk food came in. I made all our own bread, even grinding the wheat berries into flour in my Vitamix, and the kids wore many hand-me-downs from their cousins. My husband was a police lieutenant at the time,
and his uniform shirts were very expensive, so when he would wear out the collars, I would take them off, flip them, and sew them back on again. After all, the rest of the shirt was still good. I was like that fisherman, not willing to throw out something if it could be salvaged.
That was so many years ago, back in the ’70’s, and we’ve come a long way from that pinch-penny time. Yet I find myself reflecting on the words of that fisherman. I wonder how many of us, myself included, are too quick to pitch something just because we’re tired of it or it needs some mending. I think our country as a whole isn’t used to frugality, though many of us are having to learn to be that way. Maybe in this economy I need to return to some of my old habits and fix things if they’re broken, and find new uses for things before I go out and buy something I could do without. No, I’m not ever going to go back to flipping collars. I’m not that desperate. Yet. But that image of the fisherman gives me something to think about in these hard economic times.
Those lean years were good teachers. I see many people now who do not know how to live lean. I used to do the same, reusing and repurposing everything; I’d take old curtains and ala Scarlet O’Hara, make them into something else. I used cloth diapers, and later turned them into dust rags. Today’s society is too disposable – we throw everything away. My kids are horrified when I suggest getting cloth diapers and washing them instead of throwing diapers (and money) in a landfill. Have we of our age group become old fuddy-duddies?
We used cloth diapers, too. Sure wish I still had some for dust rags; they were the best. One of my sons married a girl from Eastern Europe, and she is very much into using and reusing things and not buying too much. I agree that American society in general does not know how to conserve. Our government certainly doesn’t either; otherwise, we wouldn’t be in the big mess we’re in. But, hey, they are just made up of—us!
This reminds me of a concept I stumbled over in the 1980’s – the move from being a consumer to being a prosumer (a producer-consumer.) While the term means many things to many people, in my mind it means being more self-sufficient, and reusing or repairing the things we have vs buying new ones.
A good way to live, isn’t it! Thanks for visiting, Margie.
Frugality is a blast! Unfortunately, I have lived more than my share of times of just enough. My life journey has included starting over several times. I started over when I divorced. I started over when I remarried. We started over when we lost our business. It’s funny how the economy is an equalizer. Suddenly, all of the friends who were so much better off than me…aren’t any more. And they don’t know how to live or what to do. Guess who they ask about coupons and deals? Me! Yay! I have just become very valuable!! The consolation in never having had tons of stuff, is that stuff has never had me. Oh well, enough of a rant… I loved this post!
Good for you that you are so well prepared for this economy! That’s a hoot that everybody now comes to you to learn how to live frugally. Thanks, J to E.
I’ve been in the midst of learning to be more frugal as I also learn to simplify my life. I’m finding that I don’t need (or even want) all the Stuff that seems to accumulate when one stays in one place for a long time. I am aspiring to be a minimalist. 🙂
Less to dust! With my Nook, I’m even buying far fewer books. Another thing I need to get better at is not wasting food. One of my worst habits. I buy things and then don’t fix them before they go bad. I want to get more creative with using leftovers, too. Thanks, Robin.
Hi Susan. In these changed times (financially) I am learning not to buy everything I see and really to concentrate on what I need.
My mother used to turn father’s shirt collars but as I can barely thread a needle I don’t think I could do that. Anyway, no husband to turn collars for.
Thanks for this post. It has set me thinking about ways to be more frugal. Judith:)
I’m trying to practice what I preach. Thanks for your comment, Judith.
I personally have always been a ‘mender’. I was blessed with parents who instilled the desire in me to keep stuff for as long as possible to help financially. I think in these hard-times it’s easier for folks like us who already utilize ‘mending’ than it is for folks having to learn it.
I love that you mended your husbands uniform shirts by flipping the collars. I doubt I would have thought of that. Well done! Great post and true thoughts.
Yes , you are way ahead of those of us who have not been better stewards. I think our government needs to learn those same skills!
I need to live more frugally and I know it. I’ve never heard of turning collars over and sewing them back on but what a way to save money. I love the idea of the fishermen mending the net what a great illustration of being a good steward of what we’ve been given.
I almost wrote about the fisherman and mending the net from another angle. It reminded me of the Fisher of Men.
I do love your blogs! This one reminds me of earlier times when my husband and I were down to our last $10, living in the mountains. I may write something about that too. Thanks!
Oh, I hope you do! Living frugally, because of choice or necessity, is a good thing right now. If you’ve ever done it, like you and I have, it feels good to remember those times and know you could do it again, if you had to. Thanks for your lovely comment about my blogging. Made my day!
Came here via Absurd Old Bird. Frankly, your comment on her post about religion caught my eye. Growing up in a Congregational church in the south, I’ve met few other congregationalists. Not that it is a good or bad thing. Still, your comment and the description of the congregational church in parenthesis made me smile. I’ve said the same thing countless times.
The current state of the economy is sad – yet I believe the country needs to learn to live within its means. Pinching pennies and frugality is not a bad thing, though it seems to be hard to accept.
I enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for finding the time to visit me via Val. I love her blog. I wonder if the Congregational Church in New England (where I grew up) is a lot different from the one in the South? I don’t know if your church came from the Puritans, but maybe some wanderers brought it down.
I agree with what you said about the economy. I’m trying to do a better job. Thanks, Lenore.
This reminds me of the expression my grandmother used to say to me: “Use it up, where it out, make it do, do without!” We very much live this way — especially after my husband was laid off from his job last year — he’s working again and I’m blogging and trying to sell writing (‘nuf said) but we pay for our own health insurance. Gulp. Add in college tuition and helping out our grad school son…. not flipping collars frugal but defnitiely careful. Love this post!
I think more and more people are finding ways to get by in these hard economic times. The ones who have always lived this way have a head start on the rest of us. And I know about helping out kids, even when they are grown. Seems that these hard times are very hard on them, too. So glad your husband is working again and hope you are finding markets for your wonderful writing. Thanks for commenting, Julia.
I like this story. I don’t buy many things, I shop at goodwill and St. Vinnies’, we get tons of hand-me-downs for the boys and we fix or make many things rather than making a purchase. My sister tells me I live like I am poor, but I disagree. Thankfully this is by choice for us and we feel rich!
You are doing a great job! My daughter enjoys shopping at The Goodwill Store on Fridays because so many things are just a dollar. Sometimes she gives her girls $5 and tells them to have a blast at the store. They’ve gotten some great things. If we all did what you did, we’d all be better off and have a better financial outlook for our future. Thanks, Jenny.