Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beauty, Simplicity, Frugality

I walked out into the (very) cold weather this morning to start the car so it would be nice and toasty warm when my son drove to his classes (a way to show love that doesn't cost anything). I was rewarded for my efforts with a surreal and beautiful view of a country lane at dawn.

In winter, I have a full view of the farm on the other side of the county road. There is such a rustic beauty to the scene that it often makes me smile. It takes the sting out of the morning walk to take the newspaper out of its' rural container.

It is not surprising that we need beauty in our lives. We, who believe in the Book, know that Humanity was born in a garden. Thousands of years after the Fall, our inner self still yearns for the Perfect but settles for "looking in a glass darkly" as we see beauty where we can find it.

I was thinking of this while I sat in the big recliner, enjoying a second cup of morning coffee and watching sunbeams flow through the crocheted lace on my kitchen window. The design created on the butter yellow cabinets was so entrancing that I sipped coffee and watched nature's artwork for awhile (this type of morning pondering is only possible when I'm alone).

It's probably not surprising that my budget priority lists are almost always items for the house or garden. That's where my heart is located... my home and my family... the visual aspects in particular. This is my assignment from the Lord, my career of choice, my passion... my calling. I am always looking for ways to do my job better and with less expense. Because I ponder these things, I can walk into a thrift shop or park at the edge of a garage sale and my eyes will go directly to that which I know will add beauty (or practicality, or both) to my home. It is then that I look at the price tag and I know if this item will go home with me.

It's the same way with books. When I was recently in the thrift store (the one that I have to search through lesser quality items to find the diamond in the rough), I was looking over the titles of books when I saw a small decorating book that I'd checked out of the library before. It was only $.50 and as I read through it again when I arrived home, I had already gleaned many ideas to use in my own home. I read that the author had written a book about tea and tea time in the home (can you tell this is my kind of woman?) so I went to Amazon, typed out the author's name, and found it was one of those books that had lots and lots of copies available so I clicked on the "One Touch" order button and started the process for the tea book to come my way. The cost? Seventy-five cents plus shipping.

I could not have afforded either of these books at full price right now but I could at their thrift store and used book price. I have a couple of shelves, one in my bedroom and another in my living room bookshelves (which have space for taller books) that is full of books about my passion in life... homemaking, hospitality, tea "stuff", decorating, gardening (I'm just learning about outdoor gardens), etc. Books about these subjects are on my priority list because they continue my education for that which God has given me a passion. The magazines I receive through subscriptions (and pick up off the new stand once in awhile) or all about decorating, cooking, and living a life surrounded by beauty.

There was a season of life where many of my books and magazines were about quilting and sewing (I hope to eventually return to that interest). My friend, BB, has a passion for photography and that is where you will see her expenditures (for she is also continuing her education on a budget). My daughter's reading is similar to mine but her Amazon wish list had a number of books about being a Mom. My son-in-law has a passion for theology. My sister is at an age and situation where she has a great deal of time to read and her passion is fiction.

So... what does all of this have to do with simplicity and a frugal lifestyle? I've learned through the years that by being careful how I spend money on everything in general, there is often enough left over that I can purchase the budget book... or flowers... or teacup... or decorative item... without guilt. Also, by being more selective where my money is being spent, there is less chance of filling my home with clutter and stuff that I really don't need.

My son always gets a chuckle because people who know our limited income or astounded when they come into our home. (People in our former neighborhood, when we could afford a bigger house, often thought we were wealthy.... yeah, right.) It's that old thing I've already chatted about... buying quality when it fits the budget. We have had an upper middle class income before that made it possible to purchase good quality furniture (not high end... just quality) and some artwork here and there (good prints, my originals are from Goodwill). :) We also inherited some items from our parents.

However, I am convinced so much of what gives a rich look and feeling in our home is brought about (for the most part) by accessories purchased for dollars; the rich look of books lined up in shelving (that kind you have to assemble and hope you are still talking to each other when finished), the silver tea service, lots of silk plants and greenery mixed with the real stuff, beautiful china in the corner china cabinet, etc. Most of these items were purchased on fun thrifting jaunts. (Same with the clothes in our closet... good quality basic items purchased, usually purchased on sale at the clothing store mixed with good quality Goodwill and garage sale items.)

We all go through seasons in our life and there are times we can afford a lot more than other times. However, even if I won the lottery (and since I don't play it, that is unlikely to happen), I would still enjoy the hunt for beauty at bargain prices.

The decision to put materialism behind me had nothing to do with a lack of quality in my life. Far from it, I went from quantity to quality! I no longer felt I had to purchase the best brand available to be happy and to compare myself to my neighbor (for true success was measured in what I could spend, you know). I still appreciate buying the best brands but now I purchase what I NEED (like the cookware) at the best price I can find and just what I actually will use.

I still enjoy lots of extras in my life but they are always provided by the One who loves to give gifts. I used to have friends and family tease me because I pray before going to garage sales or in thrift stores... the same prayer each time for the most part... "Lord, if there is something that you know I need or you just want to delight me with today, please let it be there at a price I can afford.". It works. Also, when the people at Goodwill tell me I just missed a beautiful tea set (they know me) that sold yesterday, I know it wasn't meant for me.

We are all still a work in process. I continue to learn a lot about living a life of simplicity (with less coveting, less things, and more thankfulness). I'm still learning to put an object back on the shelf even if it is beautiful and cheap if I have to think about how I would use it or where I would put it. I continue to have those times when I walk out of the grocery store asking myself how in the world I went so far over budget. One can be materialistic and still fill the home with too much stuff... purchased cheap.

It's a heart thing. It's learning to be content with what we have and thankful when God provides. It is also all about "where our treasure is, our heart will be"... I strive each day to find that balance between materialism and contentedness... and I always will. But at least I'm now going Due North toward Simplicity.

*The book I purchased at the thrift store was "It's About Home, Creating a Place to Cherish" by Patsy Clairmont. Her tea book is called "Tea With Patsy Clairmont". The reviews on the tea book were excellent so I'm looking forward to adding it to my collection. Her book about decorating is absolutely delightful!


*carrie* said...


What a lovely post. I admire and appreciate your desire for--and commitment to--simplicity.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I love Patsy Clairmont so thank you for sharing that information. You had me mighty curious!

As always a thought-filled and thought-provoking post. I think of you as a true Proverbs 31 woman!

meg said...

This is also my heart's cry, even through seasons of plenty- let go of the wants, give thanks to the Giver for the needs provided, & making my home a sanctuary for family & friends- a place to which we can hardly wait to return.
Thank you for voicing this so eloquently & sharing the author- sounds like something to look for on paperback swap :-)

Kelly said...

Another great post! You are for sure on the right track, it takes some people a long time to get there, but it is so rewarding once they do!


Anonymous said...

We no longer live on a farm so I miss the morning scene you described.

Books are a very important part of life. Within reason, one can never have too many books. We're in the process of adding built-ins to help hold my overflowing collection. I hope you enjoy your tea book when it arrives.


What a perfect Blog!
Lovely posts, wonderful colors and arrangement of music... Hope to visit you soon :)Greetings,

Susan said...

I agree with you and discovered a while back quality over quantity. I loved your description of watching the sunbeams through the lace curtains. A few years ago, quite a few, a friend and I went to a tea at Mrs. Bell's Forest Farm. She and her husband are Civil War buffs and friends of Patsy Clairmont. It was there where I purchased "Tea With Patsy Clairmont"; I have always enjoyed reading the book.
~Susan in Michigan

Daffodil Hill said...

Thank you for this post! My dear husband of 31 years passed away unexpectedly 3 weeks ago, and I have suddenly found myself in "reduced circumstances". Suddenly I have become a widow at age 51 with no income. I am not physically able to work. Having always lived simply and avoided debt, I know that I will be ok, but still your post is a great encouragement to me. I know that God is my Provider and my true source of security. He is going to take care of not only the necessities, but even perhaps surprise me with a little treat now and then. He is good!

She'sSewPretty said...

You sum up the important things in life so well. Once, I had everything. The big house with the pool, two new cars, money in the bank and I lost it all. I had my children and $80. in the bank when I started my life over again at age 39. I have learned since then that possessions aren't what counts. My life has turned around 100% but I learned an important lesson. The love in my home is worth more than anything I could buy.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have embraced a simpler lifestyle and will have to even more as my husband is changing jobs. I love how God does indeed bless us with little special things He knows in our heart we want. I have had many experiences like that myself.