A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thrifty or OCD

My mother was thrifty, she was extremely thrifty. It was, I believe, as a result of several things.

First, she was a "Child of the Depression". She lived on a ranch at that time, so she never went hungry, but it was impressed upon her that many children did. I'm guessing that it was impressed upon her by her mother, who came from a long line of thrifty Germans. So secondly, it was genetic.

Thirdly, knowing that her father had lived to nearly one hundred, she was very frightened of outliving her money. As it turned out, she lived to 98 and never quite outlived her savings - but she was definitely getting close. Being in my late sixties, I can well understand that fear.

Fourthly, waste was a cardinal sin to her. If only our world had a fraction of that concern, how much better off would we be.

Lastly, she had at some point decided that she wanted to leave both of her children (as well as her only grandchild) a certain sum of money. I can only guess at the motivation for this beyond the obvious - love.

Her thrift was always obvious, but until her later years it was quite admirable. I don't recall as a child ever going without anything I needed, and I know she often went without so we could have things we wanted, but didn't really need. (You'll note I haven't mentioned my father in this post. That is because Mom handled the money and it's dispersal, Dad just handled his share of the acquisition.)

In her later years however, she went beyond thrifty and often tiptoed around miserly. I completely lost count of the plastic containers - with and without lids - she squirreled away neatly in her spare cupboards. She was not a hoarder in any sense. I think as she pushed each new container up into the cupboard she had completely lost track of how many were already up there.

I remember once when I was trying to clear some space in her sewing room, I asked her to go through her fabric stash with me so we could hopefully donate some of it to charity quiltmakers. As I pulled fabric out of cupboards and drawers and chests - she had more pieces of fabric than plastic containers - she began to cry. "I had no idea," she said tearfully, "that I had so much fabric." She was mortified that at the age of 89 she had accumulated all this unused fabric. To her 'donating' was alarmingly close to 'wasting', so she asked if I would use it. Aside from the issue of space, I couldn't even pretend that I would use any of the yards and yards of 1970's polyester. Somewhere there are a lot of children sleeping happily under handmade turquoise and orange polyester quilts.

So now as I watch for signs that I am turning into my mother, I often wonder (and secretly hope) that I will begin to show signs of thriftiness. It is a quality I've never really gotten a grip on. The problem is, when I find some small sign that I might be becoming just a little frugal in my old age, I worry that it is just a sign of my encroaching OCD.

My question then, is this: I find that I now spend an alarming amount of time and energy scraping every last bit out of bottles, jars, and cans, or perching bottles upside-down for days to drain the very last drop. Am I at last learning the rewards of being thrifty? Or am I just getting more OCD?

Just a fraction.......

The neatly sorted stacks of fabric in my studio are probably the answer.


  1. Tere Sue, cousin Judy does all the things you mention in the last paragraph. Not only that, I use all blank sides/sections of paper for lists, etc., before I put it in recycling. I'm not sure that's a good thing, but I can't seem to stop.

  2. Hey, Tere, it's been almost a month since we've heard from you. How could you be so busy as not to communicate with your blog readers?!?!?