Am I thrifty or simply a tightwad?

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The weather here has been glorious this entire winter, that is for those of us who really don’t enjoy winter. With spring just around the corner it has given many of us the urge to spruce up our homes and surroundings.  I am no more immune to this than you probably are.

With sprucing can come expenditures

I have lived in my small apartment, yes really 300 total square feet, since mid-May of 2011. It has been a wonderful nine months, opening my eyes to things I had missed in my life yet not realized I missed.

When I  moved in the apartment came with a twin bed, dresser, and desk. I got rid of just about every piece of furniture I owned, pieces I had found and refinished (and loved very much), and things that I thought were necessary but really weren’t. I gladly got rid of pieces which were in bad shape and were not a reflection of what I wanted in my home.  Once I moved in, I spent a great deal of time outdoors and quickly met many neighbors. Several would become good friends. We worked on sprucing up the fields surrounding the apartments, even began an organic garden.

Last night I had a conversation with one of my neighbors about her plans for the community garden.  She is putting together her list of  what she wants to grow,  ordering and starting her seedlings. We discussed where we could rent/borrow a tiller since the fields hadn’t been farmed in many, many years before we got a hold of them last summer.   I mentioned I wanted to contribute by investing in fencing (chicken wire) to help keep the deer from eating everything, which is what happened last year. I’m all for sharing with the wildlife, but our deer weren’t so nice as to leave us anything. Even the hosta I planted around a seating area I created under a patch of shady trees was quickly eaten in one night.

After our conversation, I began to look around and think of how I would like to put more personalization into the apartment I  live in.  I began to search for art work online that says something about the newer me, from there I looked for options to the twin bed I use for guests both as seating and sleeping. Better yet, I could replace my bed which takes up quite a bit of space.   I quickly looked into a Murphy Bed, then a sofa sleeper as I told myself these would look more  aesthetically pleasing.  Next, I mentally rearranged the pieces I have for a new look.

Once I had mentally rearranged the apartment for that new look I realized I could add a dresser which would make storing my linens easier, I could add a chair for comfy seating and a new place to read in.  STOP! What was I doing? I had made the conscious choice to show myself I could live with less and now I was planning to add more.  I had not been unhappy with my space, or felt it lacked anything  until this moment.   What brought this on?

Dreams can cost money

Other than moving the pieces around for a new look, everything I was contemplating was going to cost money, and was of new construction, something I have tried most of my life to avoid.  I wasn’t thinking at all of how I could re-purpose something, I was looking to buy new. This just wasn’t me.   Would have to choose between not being a consumer or having the dream space I had just created.  Being honest with myself I quickly knew I would not be happy with all these newer things.  But more importantly,  I realized it is very easy for one thing to spark an interest in something else, to get carried away with an image.  It was time to decide what I really needed over wanting.

  • Murphy bed:  These are lovely but come with a huge price tag. I looked online to see if I really loved any of these. Would any of them make my life that much better. I finally had to admit it wouldn’t, nor did I love any one of them. Why would you spend money on something you aren’t in love with?
  • Sofa Bed:  I wasn’t willing to give up my extra soft full-size mattress when I moved, so the idea of exchanging this large piece of furniture for a sofa bed was something that briefly interested me. But after carefully considering I knew I wouldn’t be happy with the comfort of the mattress for my daily  use, nor would I enjoy having to open this up every night and put it away each morning, but it is still something I continued to  consider to replace the hard, lumpy twin bed that came with the apartment.
  • Artwork: I found four pieces all under $20 dollars each that spoke to me. (after searching and other places I ended up finding just what I wanted at Ikea.  And at that price you gotta love Ikea).  After telling myself I didn’t need these I looked around and knew I wanted to replace a few pieces that are no longer me. So I saved these on the computer to consider later.
  • Dresser:  I do want a piece at the end of my counter space. It’s blank and with the shelves above holding my dishes (attached to the wall)  it doesn’t feel comfortable to sit under it. While these are secure having something over your head makes you feel on guard waiting to duck should they fall.  If I had something not too deep I could use it for storage and for counter space when I entertain. But the new shiny piece I spotted doesn’t have to be what I end up getting.

Your first option isn’t always the best one

Instead of looking for pieces that are new, I will simply keep an eye out for items that are gently used.  Instead of the brand-new $99 dresser that would be oh-so-perfect in the space I envision, I can stop by my favorite antique/used furniture store and see if the owner, a wonderful woman I enjoy doing business with, has something of similar dimensions I can update to be perfect instead.

Her prices are more than fair and I wouldn’t be taking from natural resources to have better functionality in this area. The pieces I have loved over the course of my life so far have never been “new” pieces, they have been inexpensive finds that I saw beauty under all the flaws and carefully restored. So why would I choose to buy something new now?

Instead of doing anything with the twin bed, I will continue to live with it.  Maybe I will do something with it, maybe not. It works for me, until I am the one sleeping on it. What bothers me about it isn’t the look, it actually fits in nicely.  I have it covered with a hand-made quilt, and plenty of pillows made from leftover/found fabric  giving it a comfy feel that guests enjoy.

So why was I all of a sudden looking to change out the twin bed?  It’s simple, the mattress is hard and lumpy, fine to sit on but not sleep on. The fitted sheet I have under the quilt slides off which means I need to frequently put it back on and straighten the look after guests have been here.

Instead of replacing the twin bed, all I really need would be to add a mattress cover which would help the fitted sheet stay on better, and maybe down the road replace the mattress or add a topper for more comfort. This would solve my problems and cost me, and the environment, much less than replacing it with that Murphy or sofa bed.

The changing season brings changes in each of us

Excitement is contagious. Change is never-ending.  Our changing seasons each bring change into our environment. What really happened last night was I got excited. Spring is almost here, so close I can almost feel it. Spring is a time of renewal and re-birth. I got caught up in the re-birth of myself and my personal space. For a few moments, I let that excitement overtake my deeper values. Because these values are truly a part of what makes me who I am  it only took a few moments to realize what I was doing was not an answer. Instead of making me happy, it would decrease my happiness.

Winter is a time of seeking comfort and warmth, we spend less time outside, and our indoor spaces become more important. We seek hearty meals of delicious home-made soups and the comfort of a soft cuddly throw when sitting and reading.  As winter slowly fades we enter spring, my favorite time of year.

Spring is a new beginning.   The birds return and we can watch all  of nature awake  to join us as we prepare to move our lives outside once again.  We get to plant our gardens and nurture them awaiting the time we will  enjoy our bounty.  Spring is also when we open our doors and windows and dust out the dust-bunnies bringing a new life to our homes. We put away our heavy blankets in favor of the lighter textures that are more becoming. Our heavy draperies are changed out for light and airy sheers.  But like last night, we can get carried away in the anticipation of a new phase.

What would make me miserly

So that’s where I was last night. I was caught up in the excitement of spring. Once I realized what had come over me, it was easy to stop and re-focus.  I began to wonder if there was a difference between being thrifty and avoiding purchasing new items and being miserly where we refuse to buy any thing, forcing ourselves to live with what we have instead. I believe to deny ourselves of our true NEEDS is to be miserly. We change and our homes must reflect that change.

There is not a lot I need to be happy outside of the relationships I value and a comfortable space to come home to.  I don’t need the expensive sofa/Murphy bed, but I do need comfort and beauty around me. That brought me back to the  pieces of art I have around me.   They don’t have to be expensive, none I have now were costly, and I don’t NEED to have everything now. One piece at a time is fine, but what is around me must speak to my heart.

When you step inside the door of your home are there things you avoid looking at? These are the things that must change. I have a couple of things that I don’t want to see, but are here any way.  Are they the things I mentioned dreaming about last night? NOPE! At least not a single expensive item I contemplated last night.

Here’s what I avoid looking at.

  • a picture I have on the wall in my bathroom. It’s not me and I dislike seeing it. I haven’t taken it down yet as I like the frame on it (I actually picked this up at a yard sale for a quarter and refinished it. I avoid seeing the picture I put in it, but admire the frame. Crazy ha?)  but I dislike even more the blank space that would be there if I removed it.
  • a picture across from where I am most comfortable sitting. It was purchased for my last space and the person I was at that time. It needs to go.
  • the over-sized monitor that was free to use for my computer. The computer I use was a gift in many ways. How many can say they have a computer that didn’t cost them a dime. I am fortunate to say I do.  My son builds computers for fun, so he re-built a tower he picked up at a yard sale,  loading it with the programs/digitized media he believed I would need and enjoy and gave it to me as a gift. I needed a mouse, monitor and speakers. My sister had a computer she no longer used and gave me the components I didn’t have.   Yet I really want a laptop that would be less intrusive in my home.

Now that I have my priorities back in place I can admit that, for me personally, not improving these three things to make my home reflect me I am being miserly.  To replace these items by acquiring them  at the right price, or maybe even free is being thrifty and in line with my values.

Think about your home. What works? What doesn’t? How could you re-purpose what you have or something you found to make you more comfortable? We can have the homes of our dreams in a thrifty (not miserly) way that speaks to our hearts.



  1. i can’t stand the walls in the bathroom after we had a pipe breakage. the tiles are all broken and scratched and different colours and I always want to paint them up every time i have a shower!


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