When we moved into our first mortgaged house, an acquaintance told me that she observed that I liked nice things. I didn’t exactly know how to take this, since she and her executive husband had inside knowledge about my husband’s paycheck (and it was not large). I felt a bit judged (like maybe she thought that I mismanaged our money), but I also found it a bit funny. We had been married for six years, had a four-year-old daughter, and still only owned one car. Most of our furniture had been found on the side of the road, at garage sales, or at the flea market. I did like what I felt were nice things, but my dad would laugh (lovingly) at all the “junk” we had (I called it 'shabby chic'). :)
Now that's a variety pack of perspective. My eyes feasted on treasure at the flea market. I could easily calculate how to sand, repaint, change knobs, slipcover, and highlight all the glorious chippy wear on those bits of not quite used up treasure. My dad just saw the old, discarded junk of his past. And that acquaintance...I guess she must have seen something in the tattered lace, rusty candleholders, and hand-sewn floral curtains in our home...did she just misjudge how much they cost?
I guess that's my point...perspective. I view frugality as a state of mind which involves the cost of things being top priority. I suppose my fewer ends series could be seen as a list of frugality…but I view those posts as offering thoughtful choices with an eye toward budget, but also toward environmentalism + sustainability…acts of a conscious steward of the earth. I choose the mindset not of scarcity, but of abundance. Yes, my budget is limited, but the choices I make are ones that I would (mostly) choose anyway. By choosing to feel the seasons, I do save a few dollars...but I also put less carbon into the atmosphere. Those dollars have allowed me the luxury of being the one at home raising my girls, and the decreased carbon has an impact on climate change. Now that doesn't feel meager at all.
I don’t make purchasing decisions based solely on how much money I can save. On the contrary, I am glad to spend a little bit more for the organic potatoes, because I value the farmer’s and the soil's health, not to mention my own family’s health. I am willing to pay more for milk that comes in reusable, glass jugs in order to avoid the manufacture and waste of plastic jugs. I am willing to pay a little more for well-curated vintage from a local shop, because I value the time and attentiveness that went into the hunt and also the cost of a storefront and employees. I am willing to pay more for a pair of shoes with traceable, natural origins and well-compensated maker’s hands.
My roadside finds were free + thus quite economical...but that's not the only reason I stopped the car. I saw beauty and possibility in those finds. They were incredible gifts not paltry substitutes for real furniture.
So I like nice things. I don't need a lot of them, but my home is filled with simple, gorgeous abundance. It’s a state of mind.
P.S. Read Omnivore's Dilemma for more on the benefits of organic potatoes. It's no little issue!