Lessons from Poverty

It dawned on me that what went wrong, was having money. It’s so easy to fix things by throwing cash at them. We live in a culture where the idea that you throw it away and buy a new one is the norm.

In my teens, I was poor. I had a paper round the paid for my piano lessons, and sometimes little extras, then later a shop job, but I was saving frantically to fund myself through college. I bought second hand clothes. Often, I acquired unwanted things and turned them into clothes. I owned a lot of patched and patchworked things. If I needed something, I’d try and figure out how to make it, improvise it from something else, find it second hand. I frequented jumble sales and car boots.

It was harder work, but it was also greener, more creative and a lot more fun.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped doing that – in part because I married a guy who could afford to buy me things. What with having a small child and being self employed there wasn’t the time to spend on making and creating. I thought.

Life has changed shape. So I’m remembering those old ways of thinking. Currently making a new lampshade out of the metal bits of an old lampshade that had got too tatty, and an old tunic that had a hole in it, and an old window blind. I like how it feels. I like the weird, eccentric things I end up with as a consequence of cobbling them together myself.

Last week I fixed Tom’s jumper, using needle, thread and chopsticks. We talked about my great grandmother, who darned and mended, and the culture of patching up and fixing that has mostly gone. It’s so easy to throw away and buy a new one. But that doesn’t make it a good call. The jumper came out well, at a casual glance you can’t see the repair, and it will serve for a while longer yet. I take a lot of pride in that. That’s something else I had forgotten – the feeling that comes with having sorted something myself. The sense of achievement. You can’t purchase that in a shop, not at any money.

Being cash rich encourages laziness, makes it easy not to bother, to purchase solutions and relinquish creativity. Being tight for money teaches all kinds of skills. I’m remembering what constitutes ‘enough’ and how to be perfectly comfortable on what, by most people’s standards, is very little. It’s good. I’m going to keep doing it, even if the money is there. If I end up with significantly more money than I need, there are issues I can tackle by throwing cash at it. Like buying land for tree planting, or sponsoring tigers. I’m not up to doing the more hands on solutions there, just yet!

2 thoughts on “Lessons from Poverty”

  1. Mmmm! Yes, Bryn, I do agree. I maked-do-n-mend, can’t afford new too often *g*, but the feel you get from making yourself is so good. I find the same thing growing my own food in the garden too.


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