“A wife that does not know how to keep house throws out more with [a] teaspoon than a man can bring in with a shovel.”
Obviously, we’ve seen some changes in the world around us since this German-American proverb was originally coined. Though the phrase may be outdated socially and politically, the lesson itself is not only still relevant, but also imperative. Its implications weigh heavily in our daily lives, and in the possibly limited days of our future generations.
What can we do about the materialistic runaway-train that drives many of the culturally and spiritually degrading views of modern society? For one, it is high time for us to let go of the destructive habits of consumerism. We must reclaim the thrifty mindset of yesterday in order to create a better tomorrow…and it all starts at home.
SMASH THE (CURRENT) STATE (OF MIND)!
One of the most genuine and lasting ways we can address wasteful living and spending is to attack our concepts of abundance and status.
The Evangelical Christian movement touts the promise that their god will bring you profit. Their reverends preach that god wants you to be a financial success—indeed, that your riches prove your righteousness to those around you. Although we don’t dispute the idea that the divine wants us to prosper, it is possible to prosper in many ways other than monetarily. The well-known fable of The Midas Touch serves as a reminder of what truly matters. King Midas may have acquired gold, but it did not compare with the taste of ripe fruit or the pleasure of holding his beloved daughter to his breast.
In addition, the media, through screen, radio, and printed page, constantly calls us to define ourselves by what we consume—and to consume as much as we can. You can buy power, happiness, beauty, prestige, even love—or so the powers that be would have us believe. Walk down the aisles of any store. You will be surrounded by shelves upon shelves of food with no real nutritional value, items with no real use. (This is where the millions of dollars spent on marketing come in.) We are human animals and shaped by the stimuli in our environment, which urge us to feed our souls with things that we don’t truly need.
But we do have wills, and the ability to make our own decisions. Don’t buy that variety box of 8oz. individually bagged chips; don’t buy that inferior set of plastic shelves; don’t buy into the idea that money and possessions make us who we are…or that convenience is worth any price.
At times we may feel helpless to enact any real change in this modern age. But, by being that change you can reclaim your personal power. To live by the principles of our ancestors, who, yes, loved to feast, but wasted nothing, is a step in the right direction. Another definitive action toward real freedom and self-sufficiency is reducing your needs. Whittle them down. Get past the temporal wants to the core of what is necessary.
That’s not to imply you should be stingy with yourself and family- quite the opposite. When you cease to squander your funds, you can afford to be generous! For living mindfully is not just about physical survival, it’s also about learning to thrive without going into financial and spiritual debt. It’s about freeing yourself from the slavery of material possessions.
Contrary to popular belief, being thrifty is quite different from being cheap. When you are thrifty, you are showing care and respect for the abundance the divine has bestowed. In contrast, when you are being cheap and miserly, you obstruct the monetary energy flow. You’re telling life that you don’t trust in the promise that you and yours will be cared for. This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Be frugal with money, but not out of fear or a mindset of poverty. Be frugal with the knowledge that the less money you waste, the more you have for the things that are truly important to you. And sometimes the ‘truly important’ are not ‘things’ at all.
Maybe the most important thing to you is time. If you spend less money, (surprise!) you don’t need to spend as much time earning money. Who wouldn’t like more hours to put into their creative endeavors, or toward a cause they feel called to? Who wouldn’t like more time with their loved ones? In many households, both parents feel the need to work outside the home full-time. However, once you pay for that second car, gas, insurance, childcare, etc., two forty-hour work weeks may not be financially justifiable. Making decisions based on our heart’s desires becomes more feasible when we loose ourselves from the constraints of status quo mandates.
The balancing act of directing this energy we call money, without holding the reins too tightly, is a worthy endeavor that will pay for itself—not just in dollars, but also in peace of mind.
DEATH TO CONSUMERISM!
The invasive weeds of institutionalized consumerism have been allowed to smother what is truly useful and beautiful for far too long. The world garden, rampant with capitalist monoculture, is in desperate need of tending. By taking responsibility for our own existence, and deciding to be the conscious gardener of our own lives, we can weed out undesirable influences, and make room for positive growth.
Many of the things we can do to save household resources will also save natural resources, and lessen the strain we put on the earth and its population. Here are some of the most basic ways to enact the philosophy of frugality daily:
• REFUSE to buy disposable items (paper napkins, tissue, diapers…) and poorly-made, replaceable goods, whenever possible. Often ‘less expensive’ items are manufactured in third world sweat shops, which support globalization, slavery of the world’s poor, and unemployment for the working class of developed nations. The real price of disposable culture is rising along with the level of our landfills.
• CHOOSE alternative modes of transportation (biking, walking, carpooling, public transportation, and car shares).
• REUSE Discover the joy of second-hand clothing, books, furniture, and building materials—one man’s trash…
• GROW your own groceries—start a Victory garden!* Eat at home. Skip the processed and refined foods; buy in bulk. Convenient foods generally have more packaging, cost more, and offer little in the way of nutritional value.
• RESIST fads, ‘sales,’ and other tactics that trick us into wasting money. The idea that one would be “Born to Shop” is not only ridiculous, but insulting.
• NOURISH your babies with breast milk. Besides being a far superior nutritional choice, it will save money in a myriad of ways: no need to buy formula; less money spent on treating sick babies, which turn into sick children, and sick adults.
• REVISE your definition of “quality time.” Take a walk. Play cards. Have a conversation. These activities are, literally and figuratively, priceless.
• REJECT Lysol and Chlorox, and all those other over-priced cleaners full of noxious fumes and chemicals. Baking soda, vinegar, and Borox cleaned our grandmothers’ houses just fine.
• REDISCOVER the crafts and pastimes of our ancestors. Sewing, knitting, canning, and cooking are activities that connect us to previous generations, make us more self-sufficient, and save us money.
Seemingly minor decisions often have major effects on our pocket books, our souls, the environment, and even people we will never meet. Small choices make up the whole of our lives. We undertake journeys, one step at a time. Conscious decisions, although sometimes unpopular and often ridiculed, are never in vain.
– A. von Rautmann
* See our Spring 2008 issue for more about the history and lasting benefit of Victory gardens.