As I was contemplating my subject for this month’s article, I asked my sister her opinion – what would she like to see written about frugal and ecological living? She said, “I don’t know….You know I would be more ecological and definitely more frugal if I could, but it’s just so much time and work!”
I laughed. Time and work?! But that’s what it is supposed to save! So I started thinking about it. What things do I do that are frugal but cost more time and effort? Well, I make my own lunches and breakfasts and coffee and don’t get fast food. But if I plan ahead, it doesn’t take me any more time than the alternatives – especially not breakfast and lunch because it takes just as long to wait in line for a coffee and muffin or sandwich and tea as it does to make my own. I’d rather take ten extra minutes in the morning to make the sandwich and forty minutes on the weekend to bake muffins and put them in a jar or boil some eggs and put them in a bowl in the fridge than rush to work while stuffing my breakfast in my face and always check my watch during lunch to see if I’ll have enough time to sit down and actually chew my food before taking a few gulps of fresh air and heading back in to work. Lunch is way more relaxed when I bring my own.
But after going through this in my head, I realized that my sister wasn’t really talking about the time it takes to make your own sandwich vs. waiting in line for someone else to make it. She was talking about the effort it takes to change your perspective on life. It’s not something we can physically see or make up a time-table for. But we feel it. It weighs heavily on our minds and seems so tiring.
Once we get into the routine of the hustle and bustle of life these days, it is easier to stay in that routine than to improve it. The familiar is always preferable, even if it isn’t the best thing for us. Changing perspective can be more arduous than changing a snow tire on your own. I realized that what my sister and I were struggling with was the ability to deal with empty spaces.
We are trained to think that empty spaces in our day mean we are not productive. If the kids or we aren’t rushing everywhere, doing everything, then we are wasting our time. If we are not in line, in traffic or on the phone, we are not doing enough in our daily lives. We feel guilty for taking a hot bath on a Saturday morning and letting the kids skip hockey practice to sleep in or giggle on the phone with friends while we read a good book amidst the warm bubbles. But these things are not worth feeling guilty over – they are worth enjoying.
My grandfather says, “You’ve gotta love what you’re doing no matter what and you’ve gotta laugh. If you can’t laugh, then you’re dead.” He’s right. Of all the crazy New Year’s resolutions that I’ve already broken, I plan to keep one promise to myself. I will enjoy the smell of the muffins I make to put in the breakfast jar. I will breath deep when I open the coffee in the morning. I will not feel guilty when I skip yet another fundraiser dinner to stay home and have a bottle of wine and read a book. I will enjoy hot baths and not feel bad when the phone rings and I don’t pick it up. I will love the way my home-made soap smells and I will breathe in deep when I use it to soap up my washcloth. I will feel each muscle in my legs as I walk and be glad that I can walk to the bus because some people can’t.
I will not worry if I am five minutes late getting someone to dance class because five minutes won’t ruin their ballerina skills and spending relaxed time with my family is more important that getting first place on the barre. I won’t panic if I miss a PTA meeting or don’t have time to volunteer for a bake sale this month. After all, we are doing these extra things in life to have fun, to laugh, to make the world a better place. Once we let them stress us out to the point where they are a chore, we’ve missed the whole point anyway. Both the PTA and the bake sale will go on without me.
I will do whatever I can to live my life to the fullest and make the world a better place and if I forget to recycle a cat food can or don’t have time to hunt down the best organic bargains this week, well, that’s OK. Life will go on and there is always next week. I will breathe deep and enjoy the funky, comfortable disorganization of my household. I think my family will be glad I did. After all, what could be more frugal than saving yourself from going nuts?