“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Although I consider myself an extremely wealthy woman, by society’s standards, I ‘don’t have a pot to pee in, nor a window to throw it out of’. Sorry for the crassness, but that is the way we are viewed quite often. If, in fact, we are talking cold hard cash, then those who look down their noses at us are probably right. But to use a familiar cliché, they are guilty of judging a book by its cover.
To live a frugal life, and to be as self-sustainable as possible, you have to give up quite a bit of the ‘new and improved’ versions of material possessions. The three R’s (reuse, repurpose, recycle) are your mantra, with the first two being dominant. Most times there isn’t enough left over to send to the recycling plant. They aren’t so much a matter of being ‘green’, but a matter of having enough money left over at the end of the month to keep the lights on and the animals fed.
Being frugal also means to think twice about what you purchase. I want a new spinning wheel, but when I balance the cost to the income we have and the outgo that slips through our fingers before the check clears the bank, I know a wheel is a dream that will just have to wait awhile. If I want something new, I always have to ask myself if a) it can produce an income; b) it is absolutely necessary; and c) it has long-term benefits. A wheel doesn’t fit any of the three (but I can try hard to justify #3 with the Sanity plea – crafting is relaxing and helps me to maintain that sanity!)
If money is what makes you wealthy, my question is, what are you going to do if you lose your job? There are many a ‘rich’ people who show that wealth on the outside with an accumulation of stuff – new boats, the latest model vehicle, designer clothes, and the latest greatest gadgets. However, if you took a close look at their finances…let’s just say I would hate to be them if they ever lost their job. Their debt ratio is out of this world. I may not have much in the way of material possessions, but we are so close to not owing anyone anything that I could care less about having a new boat. THE COUNTRY BOY, however, is still drooling about having a yacht in the pond, kinda like the uncles in Second Hand Lions.
My wealth doesn’t come from the size of my bank accounts, or the value of my land. And I don’t feel I have to show it by having a useless yacht. My wealth comes from living a life of hard work. I can come inside in the evenings and have a heart that is full because I know I did my best and it shows. My wealth comes from my contentment. I don’t have the stress of keeping up with the Jones’, and am happy with what I have, rather than worrying about what I don’t have. My wealth comes from a God who loves me enough to give me the talents I have to make this farm work. And Who loves me enough to tell me a firm ‘NO!’ when I go off on one of my want tangents. My wealth comes from where my heart is, and not from what others tell me it needs to go. And if I am going to have an accumulation of anything, I prefer the accumulation of leaves, caught on a stick in the middle of the creek.
The next time you see someone that makes you wish you ‘had what they have’, take a moment and think about it. Will it really make you happy? Will it add to the contentment of your life, or will it just feed your need to look good to others? I will admit – our place would never make it to Farmitectural Digest. But it is a farm. It is open space with a beauty all its own. It is calming, chaotic, fun, exasperating, heartbreaking and joy-filled, sometimes all at once. But it is our life. And we thank God every day for it.
Monetary wealth? All fine and good. We could use a new barn right about now. But in the long run, I am just happy with where I am, who I am and what I have. I’ll leave the rest of it up to God.