Growing up my grandmother had some very odd quirks. She would save every shopping bag she had, especially the little paper ones. She had an entire drawer where she filed them. She saved all of her butter wrappers so she could use them to butter pans for baking. Looking back she probably had some sort of mild hoarding disorder, but it all stemmed from her growing up during the aftermath of the depression, and the world wars when everything was rationed. You didn’t throw things away because you never knew if you would need it again, or for something else, and you may not be able to find it or afford it again.
This isn’t just a physiological phenomenon within that generation. This is the reality of what it is to be poor, really poor. I caught myself today reusing my coffee grounds. I know this sounds gross but coffee is expensive and for so long we had to ration it. I would brew a pot one day and then add a small amount to that the next day and re-brew it. I had to force myself to throw away (compost) my coffee grounds even though they were only from yesterday, because we can now afford coffee everyday.
I still mend socks, pants, underwear, and anything else that is in mild disrepair. The idea of throwing things away and buying new is a privilege many don’t have. Even though we are no longer food insecure the idea of wasting food is unimaginable to me. We spend +/- $100 on food every week, almost nothing boxed, mostly fresh food. What isn’t frozen or canned is eaten by the following Friday. There is very little need to clean out the fridge because there is nothing going bad.
It is so difficult to be wasteful when you spend so long saving everything. Waste is a privilege many can’t afford. I am glad I learned to ration and not be wasteful. It may be a privilage money can afford but the planet cannot. Maybe everyone should spend time being really poor and learn to appreciate the things they have. I know I am grateful for my daily coffee.