Post 60: People Bought These 10 Items! You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Not buying stuff adds up to real money. It doesn’t always seem like it, when the refused purchase is something small, but it does add up. I was able to retire at age 49—even without Social Security and Medicare. It wasn’t like I was making the big bucks; I think the most I ever made in a year was $25,000. I worked half-time for most of my life. (For more of the story, see Post 49, Are You Wearing a Hair Shirt?) There were a number of factors involved in my ability to retire young, but a key ingredient was simply not buying a lot of new stuff.

Of course you want to make good financial decisions when it comes to the big ones. But don’t underestimate the bank-account benefits of a resourceful life. The interest you earn adds up, too. For me, another plus is not having to drop what I’m doing to go on a shopping errand.

The list below names some things I don’t buy because I have other ways to meet those functions. These are pretty much off the top of my head—not necessarily the best examples (being taken, as they are, from my uber-green life), but they do illustrate a way of thinking that’s larger than this short post. It’s an attitude for life.

Garlic press and cheese

1. Cheese grater

If you have a garlic press, you don’t need a cheese grater. (Did you know that the tiny, crushed pieces that come out of a garlic press provide more surface area—and more flavor—than if you sliced the clove?) Often when I’m using garlic in a dish, the recipe calls for cheese, too. Then I cut cheese cubes that fit in the garlic press and squeeze out a nice pile of “grated” cheese. It makes the meal prep easier. And cleanup, too. Those sharp, spiky things punched in the metal grater are hard to clean without injury!

If you don’t have a garlic press, look for one in the kitchen utensils section of thrift stores.

The best thing, of course, would be to eliminate cheese and other dairy from your diet. (Sadly, I’m still working on it.)

Emery boards
. . . And I’ve seen much thicker ones than these.

2. Emery boards

Emery is an abrasive ground rock (known as corundite). An emery board is supposed to be coated with this grit—in other words, it’s sandpaper. Why not just use sandpaper? You can pick whatever grit size works for your nails, or whatever you have on hand, and you can keep folding it for fresh abrasion surfaces. I’ve noticed a disgusting trend with emery boards lately—they’re making them unnecessarily thick, or even in shapes like a cube, filling the shapes with useless, foamy material. Garbage. Just use sandpaper, for Pete’s sake.

bottle-cap washers
These have hardly rusted after six years outside.

3. Washers

Not the things that do your clothes, but the little round pieces of metal that keep your bolts from sinking into what you’re bolting together. In many cases, instead of a washer you can just pound a hole into a bottle cap. Use a small nail or a larger one, depending on your bolt size. These freely available “washers” can even create a design element: Choose bottle caps that are all alike, or make things more colorful by using only unique caps.

Coffee-can wastebaskets

4. Wastebasket, plus

You might want something fancy, something with a hinged cover and a foot pedal. I don’t blame you. But maybe you need a small trash can for the bathroom or bedroom. By the time you need one, though, it might be too late. Start thinking about this when you’ve just used up the last paint in your gallon. You’ll have a small amount of paint still sitting in the bottom and some still on your brush. Brush all that leftover color on the inside of the container, and when it dries you’ll have a clean, plastic-lined container—a wastebasket, or storage for something else. Still have more paint? If you’ve saved a few cans or even glass jars, you can give them the same treatment. Depending on the container, paint the outside, leave it rusty, or be creative.

Don’t go out and buy paint! The point is to use, not waste, your paint leftovers.

5. Paper towels

Some people, even tree-huggers, can’t give ’em up. Others will loudly defy you to take their roll away. The need for them, or to be free of them, has broken up marriages. Why are they so controversial?

Well, because they’re a problem for the planet. But who wants to go back to rags? They have to be washed and used again. A bucket of water turns dark; things are floating in it, bumping your hands. You have to find a place to dump the filth, find a place to dry the graying cloths, and then do the washing.

I don’t do all that. Because clothing and cloth are pollutants now. (See post 17, Riches to Rags—it’s not a good situation.) I make rags from cloth headed to the landfill, or into the sand on an African beach, or into the sea. I make rags from my own hole-damaged, now indecent jeans. I make them from crumpled bedsheets I find in alleys. I make them from lumps of t-shirt I find on the bike path. Of course, I wash them first. The fabric is as clean as a paper towel when I begin to cut it apart. I cut big pieces, tiny pieces, and sizes in between—my options are even better than that paper towel you can buy with extra perforations, letting you choose your size. And, after I’ve used my “towel,” I can throw it away—where it was headed when I found it. Or, if it looks like a natural material, I’ll toss it in the compost bin. That’s the ideal.

Remember the commercial where the competitor’s paper towel fell apart? My cloth “towels” are always stronger than a paper towel. Superior to any brand, even the one featuring the plaid-shirted lumberjack. (His shirt looks like it might be wool!— compostable.)

Broken shoe
Scary monster?  I can often fix this problem with glue. This time I tried three different kinds of glue—nothing worked. I think it’s time to throw the pair out. (Our shoe repair shop folded last year.)

6. Laces

Before you throw shoes away, take out the laces. They’re endlessly useful—for tying up plants, tying up rolls for storage (yoga mat, posters, wrapping paper, stiff fabric),

7. Spray bottle

Don’t buy new plastic! Save your old cleaning-product spray bottles. If you keep the water or other liquid clean—free of particles—the nozzle will continue to work.

8. Envelopes

Nobody should need to buy business envelopes in this day and age, because we get so many in our junk mail. If you’ve ever contributed to a cause, you’ll also have plenty of stickers—including white space—to cover the old information. That bar code with short parallel lines next to the stamp area? It’s a postal code, and you do need to cover it or black it out with marker, or it might interfere with delivery.

Table top covered with pennies

9. Table top

When you can’t stand your scratched and stained table top anymore, give it a new surface by covering it with pennies. They’re so worthless as money now that some people throw them out. (Today’s pennies are just 2.5 percent copper.) But as a material they still have value. Check out these remarkable floor applications, where they’re grouted and sealed.

10. Plants for your landscape

Succulents will readily grow from cuttings. Stapelia, left, has beautiful flowers that smell like rotten meat. (Few flies come.) Lace aloe, right—just pull out any rosette from the top. You’re good even if it’s rootless.

Most plants can be rooted from free cuttings. Some do best in water; others like being stuck directly into dirt. Get cuttings from friends, or go for a walk and snip pieces from sprawling, out of control plantings you come across. (Ask permission from someone at the residence if it seems appropriate.)

So when people bought these ten items, what happened next? Nothing, of course. Nobody’s reprimanded—in fact people are sometimes rewarded—for buying new stuff. It’s the kids and grandkids who will feel the pinch.

4 thoughts on “Post 60: People Bought These 10 Items! You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

  1. I pride myself in having rarely purchased a roll of paper towels in my life. I carry a plastic bag in my purse or backpack and put paper towels that I dried my hands with that are a little wet in the bag (they’re clean, just wet) then re-use them later when they dry. Of course I only use them for really yucky things that I don’t want to touch, (like the floor, sometimes) and can just toss them, then. Another thing I hang on to is unused napkins from a restaurant. I find especially with pizza they give you a stack of them, which I never use. If you don’t take them, it’s not like they ‘ll re-use them, they’ll just throw them away so I keep them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: