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"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Collector, Obsessive, Pack Rat, Scavenger, Hoarder, or Thrifty?

Here is an article I found on Salon.com, My father, the King of Thrift.

This is the portrait of a man who was passionate about finding “sales.” He would go out of his way to drive to various flea markets, asian markets, and discount stores looking for bargains.

Many have seen the TV show Extreme Cheapskates or other thrift shows where we see people with rooms dedicated to storing items they have saved money on; we see people spending hours and hours searching for bargains or cutting coupons; or we see people go to extreme extremes to save money like not painting their house or not buying toilet paper; and we see people (hoarders) who save everything even used food containers in such haphazard conditions that these people live in precarious situations.

When does being thrifty become more of a problem than a solution?

Balance may be the key.

As I have said before, Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette is my bible for saving money. In the Tightwad Gazette, Amy writes about: bulk buying, yardsaling, gardening, DIY, reusing items, gleaning, dumpster diving, and other ways to save money.

But, what she also says is to pick and choose those activities that work for  you.

There are activities even Amy does not do to save money like dumpster diving.

One of my main ways to save money is bulk grocery shopping. Bulk grocery shopping has reduced my food expenses in two important ways.

One, I do not go grocery shopping frequently thereby saving time and money by avoiding impulse buying and saving on cab fare. Two, I eat out less because I continue to experiment learning to make a variety of healthy easy-to-make meals, beverages, desserts, and snacks for a new volume of Recipes from the Kitchen of a Frugal Non-Cook.

In order to buy in bulk, you need storage space.

Amy even encourages apartment dwellers or people with small homes to rethink their storage options in order to buy in bulk. For example, she suggests putting canned goods under the bed.

Saving items can create problems if you aren’t careful. Wanting to keep items with personal meaning is very strong. Once when I was cleaning out a closet, I found I had saved a marshmallow roasting stick I had made during a visit to the beach many years ago.

When I moved to Mexico, I had to get rid of over 40+ years of belongings. The hardest task was getting rid of my books. Books are my passion. I had rooms full of books. After multiple yard sales and trips to thrift stores to make donations as well as giving items away, and trashing stuff, I shipped the remaining items in 15 boxes to Mexico.

When those 15 boxes of books and items arrived, I had a bookcase made just for them.



Today, I live in a one-bedroom apartment with little storage space. But, it has a large wall closet in the bedroom and under the bed drawers. I turned one closet shelf into a pantry where I store canned goods, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

I also bought a used glass-enclosed bookcase and use the top of the bookcase as a pantry shelf. The four shelves inside the bookcase are used as a medicine cabinet, a bookshelf, a bath linen closet and a bed linen closet. I placed three colorful buckets underneath to hold cleaning supplies and tools.

So, with two pantry areas, I can store a sufficient amount of goods to last months.

For example, recently, I run out of tea bags in the kitchen, I went to the bedroom pantry and found two boxes of black tea. I was good to go for at least two more months.

While I haven't done a labor/time savings analysis like Amy does to determine what my labor is worth, I know instinctively that by making more meals at home and making less trips to the store, I am saving money.

What I am doing now, is fine-tuning the process, to balance what I buy during my monthly shopping trip versus what I can get from tiendas close to my apartment in order make sure I have fresh fruit and vegetables over the month.

A bonus of all this home cooking is I am healthier. I have lost weight and my health is better because I am eating more balanced meals. Plus, I am snacking less.

Being thrifty also means being creative.

Another thrifty habit is to save items that can be reused. I save empty soda and water bottles, empty condiment and peanut butter jars, empty food cans and metal cans with lids and other items.

I wash and refill about six empty drink bottles from the 20-liter water bottle delivered about twice a month. The bottles are stored in the frig for cold water when needed. Then, I fill up clean liter bottles with water as well. This is a backup water supply. So, over time, as the empty bottle supply increases, I cull the supply and toss the excess.

The empty condiment and peanut butter jars are used to store leftover tea, sauce or dressing, or to fill with vinegar and spices to make pickled cucumber slices or onions.

With the empty food cans, I use them to hold pens, “office” items and a variety of things.

The empty metal containers with lids get filled with various items like wrapped candy, cookies, packaged soup, powered drink mixes and other items, and wrapped as gifts.

Making decisions about how to save money and time are important skills to acquire. It is also advisable to reevaluate your thrifty routines, to make sure they are not taking up too much space or time. Don't let attempts to be thrifty dominate your life.

Mom used to say, "There's a place for everything and everything in its place" and it makes more and more sense everyday. My new bookcase holds most of my books, files and mementos as well as casserole dishes and more.



One way I temper my pack rat tendencies is to make sure there is empty space in every room and storage area. Instead of filling space, I seek to empty space.

I cull my closets, cabinets, storage areas, and bookcases frequently. I give away items, or find a way to reuse them, or toss them. One advantage is it is easier to clean the apartment. Plus, I do not want spend alot of time “taking care” of things.

After getting rid of 100s and 100s of books and a lifetime of belongings, I do not relish doing that again, but I do miss my books.

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