Thursday, August 28, 2014
I found a little treasure the other day, a book published in 1833 entitled The American Frugal Housewife. Of course, a book with that title would be burned in the streets today. I purchased it because (a most humble confession) I often engage in housekeeping (or househusbandry) activities.
The nature of “frugal”
The word “frugal” has become a somewhat homely word, a cast-off from ages past. Today, I reinstate it and hope for your spirited approval.
Mrs. Child, the author, defines frugal as “the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing is lost. I mean fragments of time as well as materials. Nothing should be thrown away as long as it is possible to make any use of it.” Ah ha, so this is how quilts came to be: patches of excess cloth sown together.
In the spirit of Mrs. Child’s advice, I keep old shirts as rags for dozens of purposes. As I thought about that, I felt good about myself until I got to the part in the book about plucking turkeys and keeping the feathers to make fans and using every part of a slaughtered pig. On to the next chapter!
How to shop
The shopping advice is priceless. Quote Mrs. Child: “If you are about to furnish a house, do not spend all your money, be it much or little. Do not let the beauty of this thing and the cheapness of that tempt you to buy unnecessary articles.” I would add, don’t go shopping at all; instead, go to a movie. That’s my definition of frugal.
Here’s a gem: “Those who are under the necessity of being economical, should make convenience a secondary object.” I guess that’s like saying buy what you need, but not what you want. Separating true needs from mere wants is a difficult but productive activity. For example, I truly need season tickets to the Utah Jazz and BYU football. My wife thinks those are wants. Doesn’t she understand?
Converting kids into productive citizens
Here’s great advice on child rearing: “A child of six years can be made useful and should be taught to consider every day lost in which some little thing has not been done to assist others.” Amen to that. I tell my kids that we got them so that we could have some slaves to help around the house, so could you please take out the trash.
Mrs. Child waxes bold when it comes to education: “In tracing evils of any kind which exist in society, we must be brought up against the great cause of all mischief—mismanagement of education. If young men and young women are brought up to consider frugality contemptible and industry degrading, it is vain to expect they will at once become prudent and useful when the cares of life press upon them.” I’m bringing this quote to the next PTA meeting. Wait a minute. Could it be that she’s talking to me as a parent, and not just to the local school?
Maxims for health
Mrs. Child’s health tips are to the point. “Rise early. Eat simple food. Take plenty of exercise. Never fear a little fatigue.” No, donuts and soda pop are not simple foods. Onions are a simple food. I enjoy onions with almost everything; it’s the misunderstood vegetable, as I am sure Mrs. Child would agree. In fact, on page 116, she recommends “a raw onion” as “an excellent remedy for the sting of a wasp.”
She even has tips for horse health. To keep the flies off your horse, put indigo weed around the saddle horn or wash the horse with pennyroyal. And that costs nothing or close to it.
As a final tip, she says ear wax is good for chapped lips (on you, not your horse). That explains why I often have my little finger in my ear. And certainly ear wax is the frugal choice over expensive lip balm, chapstick, and lip gloss. A penny saved is a penny earned.
Monday, August 4, 2014
I sat next to a good friend who was about to conduct a church meeting to start in ten minutes. Together, we faced the congregation. A piano stood directly behind us. We were in mid-conversation when someone started playing. I stopped talking. The music was beautiful.
I turned to my friend and said, “Ah Gretchen is back from her trip.”
He looked back to see if I was correct, and was astonished. He said, “How did you know?”
I replied, “Because most people just play the notes; Gretchen plays the music.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Senior, said, “Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.”
I learned a lesson from that, one that I have not always applied. Whatever you do in life, don't just play the notes and go through the motions. Play the music; play the music that is in you…and keep living!