Thursday, 15 December 2011

Something for nothing and the art of giving

This is a time of year when a lot of thought goes into giving and receiving.  I find the whole spending thing depressing.
Thinking about shopping in general and the waste of stuff and money got me to thinking about how easy it is  to get many things without money if you are prepared to wait and to share what you have with others.  
Frugal living is not sponging 
 That said, frugality is not about being a sponger, cheating or using others.  It does not mean going to the pub and letting someone else pay for the drinks and the golden rule is always give something back somehow, in some way to somebody.  Simplicity is about is building a sense of community in which people feel okay about borrowing things, sharing and passing on good fortune. 
gift carpet spare room

A good example is the past ‘foraging for clothes’ article on this blog.  I rescued a bag of clothes dumped beside a re-cycling bin.  It was raining heavily; a bank holiday and they would have been ruined long before being collected by the charity. 
I took them home and kept some of the clothes.
We gave the rest in to a charity shop and I donated £10 to the charity who owned the bin.  They got more than the value of the clothes had they been re-cycled, another charity benefitted by being able to sell the clothes and we got some good clothes for only £10. They did not end up in landfill so the Planet benefitted too.
I call that a win-win though am not strictly clear about the legality of it!  I was honest and did not rip anyone off though and my conscience is clear.

Accept things graciously.
Most people enjoy helping others by passing things on.  The bit we all find harder is accepting things when they are offered to us.  By saying no you deprive that person of the satisfaction of helping another and re-homing things that are no longer needed.
So if you say no do it gently and thank the person for thinking of you. It takes courage to offer things to others which is the main reason it does not happen more often. If you don't want something but know someone else who could use it, offer to pass it on. It will encourage that person to offer things to others again and it may have been the first time they plucked up the courage to ask.  
Deal with your ‘gratitude feelings’ about being given things by entering into the spirit and sharing or passing on the surplus. 

gift carpet 2
How long can you keep it going?
The best fun ever is seeing how long you can keep it going.  For example, Jude gives me 6lbs/3kg of rhubarb from her garden.  She has more than she can use and does not want it to be wasted.  I say thanks and make some rhubarb jam and chutney with some of  it and put the rest in the freezer - which is easy as you just chop it up and bung it in a plastic bag.  If you make wine (but only if it is good wine) you could do that too.  Never, ever inflict battery-acid style home made wine on your friends.

  • I give some jam to Eric as a thank you for the wood he gave me for the stove. (His old garden furniture and it saved him paying the Council to take it away). 
  • I give some chutney to Joanne because I know she likes it and doesn’t make her own.  I would like to get to know her better and it breaks the ice. 
  • I leave another jar on Clive’s doorstep and hope he has fun guessing who it is from.
  • I invite Jude, Eric, Jude, Joanne and Clive round for a Christmas Eve drink and nibbles 6 months later and tell everyone the jam in the tarts is made from Jude’s rhubarb which chuffs her no end.
  • Everyone brought some baking with them (unasked) and I now have a freezer full as no one wants to take it home with them.  I decide to stop buying Kettle Chips and eat pancakes from the freezer saving me £3 a week.  I give some of the baking to the Church for their forthcoming coffee morning although I do not attend that Church.  I find out about their shoe box campaign for Romania as a result and resolve to fill a shoe box next year.   
  • There is lots of milk left over from the get together.  I put some in the freezer in small jugs or sterilised plastic milk cartons, as we don’t use much and it is handy for visitors. 
  • I make some yoghurt with the rest and give half to a friend.
  • We have an almost-free pudding of stewed rhubarb, yoghurt and left over macaroons that someone brought to the get together.  Yum.
  • Everyone gets to know one another a bit better and Clive and Jude realise they could give each other lifts to work.  Jude decides to help at the Church coffee mornings now she knows that Joanne goes.

This is how you build community.  Everyone used to do it before going to the shops and going out for dinner (aka spending money) took over as forms of entertainment. Many people still do it of course  (and if that is you well done).
Those of us who commute by car tend to get the shopping from the supermarket near work on the way home.  This means you are not  out and about on foot near home, will not see the notice about the church coffee morning and won't even know it is on.
this phone just needed a new battery

How to give something back
We have great fun thinking how express appreciation.  Sometimes it is just a thank you card.  The fact you have thought to say thanks can build bridges and friendships in surprising ways.
It does not always have to be something given back to the person concerned.  The general concept of generosity, passing on good fortune and not being stingy is the overriding principle here. 
Giving and not getting caught is one of our best forms of entertainment. 

Here are some other ideas.
  • The no hoarding principle.  If you don’t need all of it, keep some and pass the rest on. That generosity will come back in surprising ways.

  • Each time you get something for nothing, give something back to someone somehow, somewhere. 

  • Offer to re-home things you cannot use if you know someone else who would appreciate them.  Always ask if that is okay with the person giving it to you. 

  • If something is re-homed make a point of telling the giver where it ended up as it will give them great satisfaction.  Feedback encourages people to re-home or re-cycle in the future.

  • Think who would like things before offering and do not burden others with your old junk.  Some things really do need to be re-cycled or thrown away.

Some of the things we have been given.  Most were destined for landfill.
Our son’s 3 piece suite and cooker due to be picked up by the Council one hour later!
Floor covering for the garage
A washing up bowl brand new, rescued from a skip
A chest of drawers
A carpet for the spare bedroom
A carpet for our bedroom
The living room carpet in our last house
Towels that did not match someone’s new decor

woodshed from re-claimed timber.
Timber for building a wood shed
Herbal and fruit teas that no one wanted
A cordless phone that needed a new battery
Children’s clothes
Tea bags being dumped when a wooden holiday chalet was cleared out

Some of the things we have given to others.
A disabled hand rail given to us by someone for re-homing
Jam, chutney, home-made wine
All manner of garden produce including apples rhubarb strawberries potatoes leeks herbs garlic and salad
Plants for gardens including herbs, blackcurrant bushes, raspberry canes, strawberry plants
Children’s clothes
Home cured bacon made from pork we got on special offer ( A future blog topic this)
Kitchen units we inherited in the garage
Seeds for the garden
Hand knitted hats and baby things

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