Monday, November 16, 2009

Penny Pinching Tip: Don't De-junk

Home organizing experts say the secret to a happy home is to de-junk. Throw away everything you aren't using right now. Don't save the "second best blender".

It's a nice idea.

If you have money to burn.

But if you take the people who live through the Great Depression as a guide in living through poverty, you'll notice they didn't de-junk.  On the contrary--they saved and re-used EVERYTHING.

So instead of throwing away that pair of too-small tennis shoes, toss them into a box for your next kid to wear when they get that size. Or, if they are too beat up to wear, at least remove the laces first and save them for when you need a string, another shoelace, something to mend with, etc.

Those who live in poverty know that if you throw away that second-best blender, and the first dies (which it will because you've had it for 20 years and you got it used initially), then you won't have one. So you save the second best. You box up and put away the extra pots and pans and then, when your favorite pan starts losing its non-stick coating, or the handle falls off, or the kids take it outside and lose it, you still have one. Or two. And, if the lady down the street loses everything in a fire or the missionaries are stocking a new apartment, you have something to give even if you don't have any money.

The secret to making this work is organizing. Don't just throw all the saved shoelaces and buttons into a junk drawer. But to get rid of the junk drawers, you don't need to get rid of the junk. You just need to find a way to put it away. For example, save that empty shoebox and label it, "laces and ties" and throw all the extra strings, laces, etc, in there. Take that empty oatmeal canister and label it "buttons" or "old toothbrushes for cleaning and art projects" or "broken glasses for parts". Put it on a shelf in the garage or basement or top of the closet, and then when you need a screw for your glasses, or a toothbrush to shine your shoes, or a shoelace because yours just broke, you've saved yourself both time and money.

Not only that, it's good for the environment. The ultimate green living doesn't involve de-junking stuff into the landfill. It involves using every little thing--and every part of every thing--until there is no possible use for it.

Understand that for the poor, "Use it up" doesn't mean until you're bored with it; "Wear it out," doesn't mean only until it looks shabby; "make it do" doesn't mean trash it when it breaks; "Or do without" doesn't mean you can just run down to the store and pick up another "it only costs $10" item.

We might moan about having to clean the thousand empty, carefully washed and put away coolwhip containers out of our recently-deceased grandmother's house. But we might do better to take a lesson from her.

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