Mary Beth Writes

I started this a month ago. Time flies…

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to values and values.

 “When I first started in the garbage business back in 1990 with my Dad, our first new truck we bought cost $88,000 … Today we took delivery of a new front loader. The same kind we bought back in 1990. But today that same truck cost $295,000!”

It’s Monday morning and the garbage trucks are growling past.  Welcome to Life in the West - where most of our communities have fleets of $300,000 trucks while our schools can’t afford extra teaching assistants or to give raises to their teachers or to help them pay down their school loans.  But … By Gum, we’ve got garbage trucks to haul away all that plastic that will never decompose.

It's crazy what we get used to thinking of as a normal way to live, says the frog in the getting-hotter pot. Maybe the uncomfortable frog is waiting for Jesus to come back and pull him out

Here’s a Mindful Chickens list of things we/I do or don’t do to spend less while living as well as we want to live.

1. We don’t buy much that is new. This is easy when it comes to clothing and household goods, most of our stuff is thrifted. You know what happened at St. Vinnie’s yesterday? I was chatting with the cashier; she volunteered that she knows she could work elsewhere and make more money, but in her two years there her supervisors and co-workers have never been rude or difficult.  She thinks liking one’s job is worth a lot so she stays. I want to support THAT business.

2. You know what is HARD to buy second-hand? Presents for my kids and grandkids. Each of our kids knows the rationale and techniques for thrifting.  Each kid sometimes buys thrifted things, but they do it in their own ways and I’m not here to have opinions on how they consume. (I really like the multi-thousand-dollar dining room set one bought for a couple hundred and the Craigslist midcentury dressers another one scored.)

Anyways, in case others wonder about this, these are our thoughts about buying gifts. I rarely buy new plastic. There is too much (toxic, ocean destroying) plastic in the world already and many (adorable) plastic toys in our grandkids’ lives. From us the grandkids get books, or handmade toys (not many), or money towards things they need.

For our children and friends, we give homemade or specialty foods, chocolate, and/or booze when it’s appropriate.  I have women friends who DO like things I find at a Goodwill. God bless them for giving me a reason to buy pretty vases, dishes, scarves, and books.

We send cash in birthday cards to the adult kids. Not enough to change anyone’s life, just enough to require that kid (sigh, they ARE all adults, but I can still call them the kids, right?)  to think about what they would like which IMHO is what an adult birthday should be.  A day to slow down and remember what they are about and like to do.

I know and appreciate the approach that gift giving should be about sharing experiences – but our kids live hours away and are super busy people. We do things with them, but on their timing.

3. I did a whole lot of eBaying a week ago. Listed 25 things in two days, it was a slog-fest to list that much. So far I have sold four of the items. This is more about getting rid of treasures that have become clutter.  I also sent some family things to family who wanted the items.  (No money involved except postage.)

4. My mother passed away in 1992. She was not a materialistic person but she was careful to take care of things others gave or left to her. Her small house had two large china hutches filled with pretty stuff. Others took things but, of course, a lot came to me.  And like my mom, I never felt like I could just box it up to donate. These were the remains of the generous lives of the women who came before me.  Sigh. So I guess I have been doing Swedish Death Cleaning slowly, and in spurts, since 1992. 

4 ½. The BEST gift I am giving my kids is that they will not have 400 antique bibbly-bobs to get rid of …

5. THE STOCK MARKET! HOLY COW!  Len and I have lost more in the last few days than I used to make in a year. How’s that for fun?  However, we live on our hard-earned social security benefits and can get along without infusions from our investments if we want/need to. 

Which means those of us securely retired are in a unique place.  Those of us with homes, a car, steady and reliable income – we need to be awake, observant, thoughtful, and creative about ways to share our security in the looming future. I don’t know what that means, but I think we better pay attention.

As folks who have sometimes been poor, strapped, and hard-pressed know – the fastest way to feel more secure is to be generous. If you are feeling scared today, donate to your community’s food pantry or some other helping organization.

That’s all I’ve got right now.


PS: I am scared and sorry for people who are facing insecure futures. But I have to say, one of my fav parts of a bad stock market day are those photos of white men with stricken, terrified faces.  You sort of want to say – “See, this is what it feels like for the rest of us when we do everything right and you screw up our jobs anyway…”


One of my “forever” friends, living in Oakland, CA, mentioned to me that for the 40 days of Lent every day she (and/or hubby) were boxing one item to donate. I decided to follow my fellow Dane’s example. Letting go is a challenge for me; maybe because of all the losses I have had? I have been faithful in my quest and one box filled so far...
Mary Beth's picture

I find that giving things away gets easier the more one does it. In many instances, de-cluttering is very much related in me (and others, I bet) to anger and power. I don't want to take care of old memories anymore. I want to make new ones. Cleared spaces create places where new thoughts will fit.

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7-6-2020 Mindful QUARANTINED Chickens

(Thanks, KJR, for the funny fluffy chicken photo!) 

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

Making (a little) Sense of Medicare by Len Lamberg

Friends learned recently that they are facing imminent retirement with the accompanying medicare and insurance decisions - that have to be made now and made right. They asked how we figured out what to do. I asked Len if he could write up what he knows in plain English - and thought this would take him 20 minutes.

This took Len several hours over several days.

Our friends say this makes more sense than anything else they have read so far.

Big Shopping & Quick Shopping

Len and I are buying groceries differently than we used to and we are saving $100-250 per month doing so. If you know us, you will have noted that neither of us are any slimmer.  This is not about eating less.

Mindful Chickens - the "It's been a while" edition

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.


Mindful Chickens in Canada

In case you don't already know... My husband and I did a 15-day road trip to eastern Canada.  Kurt Vonnegut wrote “Unexpected travel is like dancing lessons from God.”  The plan was to visit Nova Scotia and Newfoundland – but then Hurricane Dorian changed that. Stories and photos at my website.

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

How Big IS Grandma? Do You Need More Space?

Our internet service had been goofy all that day; the house alarm system sent a random beep to my phone at 3AM. Waking from deep sleep to “Is there a bad guy coming up the steps right now?” turned into the kind of insomnia that requires … decluttering videos. My heart stopped racing as I watched a mild woman talk about the closet in her laundry room.

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