‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come out right
1848 Shaker song by Elder Joseph Brackett.
It says something about me that I first thought this was a Raffi song. My son had it on one of his kids’ song tapes.
Over the years I’ve tried to be frugal and simple–after doing one at the expense of the other, I’ve decided that the two lifestyles are mutually exclusive. You cannot necessarily be both frugal and simplistic.
My friend (and probably everyone else in the United States, including me) says she is overwhelmed with everything in her house and that she wants to simplify. Now I LOVE getting rid of clutter…especially OTHER people’s clutter. You see, I don’t have any clutter–only really important things that I have discovered a use for, but I digress. My friend needed help, my clutter gene kicked in, and before you knew it, I was in her house saying, “this needs to go, this needs to go, this needs to go.” as I emptied out her life. It’s sort of amazing that we are still friends. I consider her patience with me to be one of her strong suits, as my patience with her is one of my talents.
The thing my friend kept reiterating as I was suggesting to get rid of things was, “But they are still good. They still fit. They still work.” And she was right. They were still good. They did still fit. They did still work. BUT I asked, “Do they bring you joy?”
“Yes.” She replied rather smugly.
“Do they bring you peace. Do you love the things in your house MORE than you want peace of mind?”
She thought about it and said, no.
But she hit on an interesting point that I myself have always struggled with: frugal v. simple.
A simple lifestyle eschews stuff and clutter. How many jeans does one person need? That is a different number for every person. A person craving a simple lifestyle would decide on a number and never get more than he/she needed. But why would you get rid of perfectly good jeans just because you’ve gone above that number? A frugal person would say, “But these were given to me,” or “I bought them for $1.00 and they are normally $100.00. How could I resist?”
Simplicity is realizing and embracing the least you can live with while a frugal person recognizes the potential for everything. I went through a frugal period where the Boy wanted a knight suit. I wasn’t about to pay good money for a knight suit, so we saved for MONTHS the tops and bottoms of frozen orange juice containers, saving up enough so I could punch hole in the tops and bottoms of them and make him a “free” knight suit. He stopped wanting to be a knight before I’d gotten enough lids. But I did have quite a few lids and why, as a savvy, frugal mother would I just (gasp) throw them away. What if he decided he wanted to be an armadillo? Or a robot. For YEARS I save the lids until one day I tasted “not from concentrate” orange juice and never bought another frozen can again. Even after that, I still save the existing lids “just in case.” I will refrain from saying I “saved for good.”
Finally, one day I’d had enough. Hubby and I were finally earning decent money and I no longer had to aim for the same level of frugality. I did, however, as a working mother, need more simplicity in my life. I didn’t have the TIME to make a months worth of meals and shop at 4 different grocery stores to get the best deals. I couldn’t save every plastic container that entered my house with the thought it might someday be a craft project. So I purged. A lot. A lot, a lot. And it felt great! I felt 10 pounds lighter. Maybe more! I actually had drawers in my house that were empty! I was ruthless. If I couldn’t readily identify the object and determine that it brought me joy and peace, OUT to the trash it went. It’s a good thing the kids were on their best behavior that day.
Embracing simplicity meant spending more money. I didn’t buy a bulk of salad parts at the produce store for $3.00. I bought the premixed bag for $5.00. And, quite honestly, I probably didn’t even loose that much money because half the time, the bulk veggies made it into one salad before committing suicide in my refrigerator. Okay, so maybe it was an assisted suicide, but how many times do you really expect kids to be fooled into eating “lettuce sandwiches”?
Now that I’m not working again–full time that is–BUT now navigating the world with three children–I’m trying to find a happy medium between frugal and simple. Simple is buying pre-made meals at the grocery store, frugal is making from scratch. I sometimes opt for the crockpot method where I take all the “from scratch” and toss it into a crockpot and call it dinner.
I actually make a mean pot pie from ready-made pie crusts and some store brand soup.You get the thicker, sirloin or beef soups, pour them into the crust, add another crust on top and maybe toss some frozen peas or carrots into it (and leftover mashed potatoes are great too). Cook it for an hour at 350º and you have dinner. It’s more expensive than making it from scratch (frugal) and not as simple as purchasing a frozen pot pie but it only takes about 15 minutes to do, the kids LOVE it (and like to help) and I KNOW it has to be healthier than the frozen pot pies.
If you have frugal v. simple advice, I’d love to hear it. As everyone is dealing with working more and earning less, getting hints from others who’ve BTDT is a great help. Finding a balance is such a difficult task in today’s busy world. We feel guilty about spending money we don’t have, but at the same time, sometimes deprive ourselves of peace when we do without at the expense of time. I KNOW there are things in this house that I don’t need even though they are still good, fit and work. I just need to be honest and decide if the space they occupy in my house and life are worth it.
Now, I’m off to sort a HUGE bin of buttons. I’m saving them so I can make some really cool jewelry. Okay–maybe I don’t NEED all those buttons, but they are perfectly good buttons and I might need them….