Old Boots and Ugly Couches
I lived in an old pioneer house for a while. It had been built in the 1800s by a Swiss immigrant. It was a great, old house. A young friend of mine came to visit one day and remarked that he thought it was neat I had bought an antique couch to go with it. I giggled to myself. I could understand how it looked like an antique to him, but it was just old. I had paid $20 for it from an old grandmotherly woman. It was probably made in the 1980s or 1990s. I love it. I love the colors, I love that it is broken in and comfortable, and I love how homey it looks. My husband hated it and asked me what my fascination was with ugly furniture. I just laughed.
I have an affinity for old, used, and well-worn things. I like the look of them, the feel of them, and the sense of comfort they bring. When I bring old things home it feels like rescuing an animal from the shelter. They still have value. I also like the thrill of finding something great at a cheap price. It makes me feel like I beat the system while at the same time doing something responsible, ethical, and healthy. I would like to believe that it is purely conscientious motives, but in reality, it is probably also neuroses and my upbringing. My mother was very frugal, and had a knack for decorating simply and elegantly with minimal old and interesting antiques. I’m certain she influenced me. But I think it was the hard knocks of life. When the great recession hit and the construction industry tanked, we tanked with it. It was gut wrenching and humbling. Through it we were forced to re-evaluate what a quality life is. We found out quickly how much our possessions were really worth when we tried reselling them. As we struggled to survive, slowly getting rid of all our unnecessary belongings for extra cash, we discovered the meaning of value. We learned that more is not always better. We learned how to live lean, to buy only what was needed, to splurge on wants sparingly, and in the process, we learned that losing material things didn’t hurt us or change the quality of our life. By losing everything we gained perspective. In a nutshell, we discovered an intentional way to live that freed us up to enjoy things that truly mattered. When we stopped consuming, we discovered that we did have a choice and that when we made wise choices, we gained time and freedom. And it felt good.
I would never suggest that we all must suffer to learn this, but I do believe that because pain is a great teacher, it one best learned from by example rather than experience. Through this process I discovered two essential ingredients to living a quality life: peace of mind and meaning. Living in a meaningful way and having peace of mind is critical to enjoying life – really enjoying life. Financial decisions are a huge part of that. Debt is stressful and in the end, may not be that meaningful. Have you ever gone shopping and felt hollow after? Or stressed out? Have you ever paid for something that brought years of joy to your life? I have. I have things that get used all the time, and things that fill drawers and take up space that I never use. The un-used items were a waste of money, regardless of how much I spent, because I don’t use them. The things I need and love get used to death; literally. It drives my husband crazy, who is meticulous with his things. But I believe that while we should take care of our things, we should get good and meaningful use out of them too. If you look through my things, the pristine items are probably the least used and liked. This is partly why I like buying old things. If they are still in good shape at a thrift store, they are probably solid, sturdy, and well-worn. Or they were barely used, but recycled by someone. Either way, when I buy them used, I don’t stress about them, and for that, I love them. I found an old pair of Lowa hiking boots at a thrift store. They appear to be virtually un-used, but were used enough to be broken in. The hard part was done, and they feel great on my feet. I paid $4 for them. There was no stress, no justification to spend hundreds of dollars for the years of use I could get out of them, and I got a great (normally very expensive) pair of boots for a steal.
But there is a difference between using something and abusing it. I will never buy a thrashed couch, or shoes that look like they have been through a meat grinder. I reuse for many reasons, most of them selfish, but one of them is to try to be good to the earth by being a conscientious and good steward. When I reuse I not only feel like I have done something good, I reap financial benefits that bring well-being and peace to my mind. And, at least in my mind, the earth takes less of an impact. We are going to use the earth, hopefully through love, but we should try not to abuse it. There is a reason we visit National Parks rather than landfills. A well-used and loved planet is like a homey home, a trashed planet, is well, trashy. It can only absorb so much, over-compensate and be stressed so much, and still provide for the lives we live. We have to learn to use the earth well. Using it well does mean using it, but with a mind to be careful with how much and of what we take out, with what we put in, and with not consuming more than we need. How we consume matters. It’s not that it’s not okay to buy new things, I buy new things, but ask yourself if you could find it used, if you really need it, and if buying it will make a significant difference in your life. You might be surprised at the answer.
Posted on February 27, 2014, in Health & Wellbeing and tagged frugal living, hiking boots, meaningful, old furniture, peace of mind, pioneer house, recycle, reuse, thrift store shopping. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.