My granny washes styrofoam plates and reuses them. A little gross to me but true for the frugalness of her nature. I cannot bring myself to do that, and I feel bad about that.

Today, Dad and I pounded out 99 nails that the previous owner of the farmhouse had put into a piece of plywood. My forearm still aches, but this effort will save us some money. More importantly, it will keep that piece of wood from become cinders or trash. Now, it’s part of the subfloor in my mudroom. Part of me really just wanted to go and buy a new piece.

I recycle printer paper as much as I can, and I have as separate trashcan for plastic, glass, and aluminum cans. I try not to throw away something that someone else can use – clothes, picture frames, the cat paperweight someone gave me years ago; all of those things go to a local thrift store – today’s run to the SPCA shop here in the county. But sometimes I just want to chuck everything into a bonfire and save myself the time and gas money.

I only own one pair of jeans worth anything at the moment. All the clothing I own for every season is in 9 drawers and a three-foot long closet. I so badly want new jeans and some really cute shirts.

I’ve never owned a new car. I would love to drive a Fiat 500 (despite the J-Lo commercial)

Part of this is economics on my part. I’ve just never had the money for that great wardrobe (until someone nominates me for What Not to Wear – hint. Hint.) But part of my focus on this is driven by guilt. I feel bad for owning too many shoes, let alone spare houses or cars. I’m frugal because I feel it’s a responsibility.

Sometime just after college, I read a Thomas Merton quote that I have been trying to track down since. The gist of it was this – “For everything we own, someone else goes without. There are limited resources in the world. For me to own, means someone else does not.”

I think of this every time I see a child in Guatemala or Kenya wearing a Pokemon t-shirt or pleated shorts that even my limited fashion sense wouldn’t allow me to wear. I remember this quote every time I’m inclined to just toss my old cell phone or tennis shoes rather than sending them somewhere to be used by someone who not only wants them but needs them. I still sometimes want to just toss them into the trashcan and let someone else deal with them. But most days, I fight against this inclination.

Consuming less, recycling, reusing, donating – those things are not only about green living for me. They are about serving other people, recognizing the way my wealth can mean the poverty of others, and honoring that I can – at least in some microscopic way- change that. Even when I’m tired and it costs me more to do it.

I don’t wash styrofoam or reuse Red Solo cups. . . but maybe Granny was on to something.

Any tips on how I can use less and reuse more? Any things I can recycle that I might not know about?