As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my extreme sport of choice is radical frugality. I’ve been in that game for a long time, and have all kinds of strategies finely honed. I fix stuff when it breaks, or make do because “it’s still mostly fine!” I’m a magnet for hand-me-downs, and I’ve been known to rescue perfectly serviceable stuff that people put out with their trash. I help friends when they’re moving, and load my car up with the things they don’t want to take with them. Most of it I take to donate, but often a few things come home to live with us.
Using all of these strategies has made a substantial contribution to our family’s economic wellbeing–there’s a lot of money we haven’t had to spend because of the way I manage the homestead. But we also find ourselves well supplied with any amount of random bits and pieces in various states of repair.
In addition, like any athlete that excels at her sport, I have deep muscle memory and very strong habits. After Serena Williams throws a ball in the air, so many muscles spring into action to make that serve an almost irresistible force. In my case, I save things. If something is past saving, I deconstruct it to save the bits that could be useful in some future context. I tuck things away for when they’ll be needed, and I feel satisfaction when I need something, and it turns out I have just the thing that will do.
Eventually though, it comes time to change the rules of the game, and then things can either get interesting, or painful, or perhaps both. Take a simple game like checkers. If, instead of trying to preserve your pieces, you try to get rid of them, you’re playing what some call Giveaway Checkers, or Reverse Checkers. It takes concentration, because your natural tendency is to drift into the way the game is ordinarily played, which would get in the way of your new objective.
Right now at our house, I need to be playing Giveaway Everything. My well-developed skills at gathering in and keeping need to be turned on their heads, because the object of our new game is to scale back dramatically: getting rid of stuff wins. It’s going to be a challenge.
I know I’m capable of working with new rules, though. My usual mode at the grocery store is to try to buy what we need as inexpensively as possible (at least within category–we don’t like peanut butter with shortening in it even though it’s cheaper, but I buy the least expensive natural peanut butter). But I have been known to work to a new script when properly motivated. The French grocery store Carrefour ran a promotion a few months ago where you would get €5 off a purchase of €20 made in the fish, meat, and bakery departments, so I played the game, looking for things that would add up to more than €20. I was quite pleased to find a swordfish steak for €8 (which ordinarily would have alarmed me) because it got me closer to my goal. (Also, the swordfish was delicious.)
Perhaps to help me playing this game with all new rules I’ll need to write some encouraging signs in large letters and post them around the house:
Someone is going to love
that thing I’m sending to the thrift store!
How many things can I send away this morning?
Less is so much More!
We have a friend who’s written several books on getting rid of clutter, including one called,
Lose 200 lbs. this Weekend!
What slogans can you suggest for me? I’m going to need lots of reminders to help me overcome my natural tendency toward gathering in and saving up, so send your ideas my way!