Friday, 25 September 2015

The epitome of frugality

I thought I'd share with you a description of my aunt as an example of living frugally and simply. She hasn't actively chosen to live this way, more fallen into it as a natural and sensible way to live.
My aunt is 92 this January. She lives on her own in the same terraced prewar house that she has lived in since she was 9 years old. The house has no central heating, no double glazing, no fitted carpets and in fact none of the modern conveniences we have become used to. Her kitchen consists of a very old stove and 1940s free standing units. She does now have a kettle, but for many years, water was boiled in a pan on the stove. We bought her a fridge with a small deepfreeze, but she refuses a microwave.
She has a range of small (probably leathal) portable heaters which she moves around, heating only the room she is in. There is no heating in the bedrooms - she wears a bed jacket and snuggles up under eiderdown covers and throws with a hot water bottle if necessary.
The toilet is a high flush toilet, mostly likely original and the bath is a metal, claw footed tub. She washes her clothes by hand, drying them outside or over the bath on a wooden airer.
She makes the best tea in the world - proper tea leaves, warmed China pot and China cups and saucers. My children all love afternoon tea with their great aunt. She still bakes fairy cakes decorated with chocolate buttons, butterfly cakes and a fruit loaf or Madeira cake. All this is served on proper china with pretty napkins and cake forks. Needless to say, washing up is done by hand.


She keeps brown paper and setting to wrap things and always has recycled plastic tubs in the understairs cupboard so we can pack cakes to take home with us. Wrapping paper is carefully removed, smoothed out and reused. Nothing is thrown away as it might have a use, but her home doesn't become cluttered because not a lot comes in to her house either. She is very good at repairing things even though her eyesight isn't what it was.
In the garden, she still has apple and pear trees and grows her own tomatoes and runner beans. She used to grow a lot more. The apples are made into a lovely chutney. She eats very simply, walking to the local supermarket with her shopping trolley to buy supplies every now and again.
We have bought her a small flat screen TV and a DVD player because she likes to watch gardening programmes and nature documentaries, but she would have done without had we not bought them for her. I'm not actually sure she ever uses the DVD player actually, but I'm too polite to ask!
Over the years, she has embroidered, crotched and knitted her own clothes. I bought her a set of new teatowels one Christmas to match her newly painted kitchen - she made them into chair seat covers.
Despite such a simple existence and a life that hasn't afforded her many opportunities, my aunt is 'savvy' and keeps herself up to date and aware of  world affairs. She is wise and clever. She may have never travelled or married but has friends whom she sees regularly.
Her incoming budget is probably tiny, but her outgoings are very low too.
She lives a quiet and fairly solitary existence, but I never feel that she's unhappy. She is still generally in good health and is managing to do everything that is needed albeit at a much slower pace. I admire and look up to my aunt who has lived this way all her life, not doing anything that isn't necessary, having minimum negative impact on the world. She is the very epitome of simple and frugal living and she doesn't even know it!

18 comments:

  1. Aunties are wonderful role models! Due to family circumstances, I ended up living with an aunt and uncle in my teens and stayed with them until I met my husband. They were very frugal; grew all their own fruit and vegetables, shopped very frugally, cooked everything from scratch and repaired everything. I remember my uncle resoling a pair of slippers using an old tyre! They recorded every penny they spent and started Christmas shopping in the January sales. They paid off their mortgage early and are now enjoying a much easier life. I learned a lot from them and admire them hugely.

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  2. She sounds exactly like my Grandmother. She and my Granddad moved into their council house when it was first built after the war and they lived there until she died 10 years ago, they didn't have a colour tv or a phone for many many years, until my Mum bought them for her. She used a twin tub until 2001, but would use the bath or sink to handwash many things. She didn't have a fitted kitchen, or like using the heating, she was very thrifty but also very generous and fun to be with.

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  3. I think so many of us could have much better and happier lives living simply and frugally, like your aunt.

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  4. Wonderful post. Reminds me of my grandmother.

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  5. What a lovely portrait of a lovely lady. Simple life but a very authentic one. It seems to me that even if we have and do so much these days, a lot of the time we are hardly present in our own lives. I grew up in a frugal home - yet I never realized it until I was grown up. My gran used to make lemon curd in the big old farmhouse kitchen. I remember her calling us over to the kitchen window one sunny summers evening, and giving us a big spoon of the wonderful warm homemade stuff. One of my fondest childhood memories. Pam in Norway

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  6. A lovely post, and it shows you dont need to live for the next thing out you can live a very fulfilling life without, may she continue to have a long and happy life :-)

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  7. Lovely, reminds me of my grand parents - a "dying breed" unfortunately. Oddly enough, i still miss my twintub!

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    1. Oh so do I! so glad that I'm not the only one.

      My mother and her sister and two cousins all lived very simply too, they were brought up to be thrifty and resourceful - and happy.

      Kitty

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  8. I wish I had done things different in the past, I really like living simply and frugally, hubby and I were chatting over our cup of tea in bed this morning and we were saying we have everything we need, we are happy ,we are warm and have food what more can you ask for.

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  9. My grandparents were the same. Your aunt sounds like a wonderful person. Living simply releases the shackles of the treadmill. Retailers will always try to convince us we need the latest thing and work tirelessly to part us from our hard earned cash. I am enjoying shaking off the shackles of modern life a little bit at a time.

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  10. I love this post!!! I admire your aunt and the way she lives. If only everyone could be like her. I'm sure society would be a much better place if everyone lived simply.

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  11. A truly lovely and inspiring post. But this is how so many people once lived, and in my lifetime! I can remember a time when we saved all our brown wrapping paper and string, jam jars, buttons off discarded garments, turned sheets side-to-middle, and so forth. Nothing was wasted, we shopped with baskets and string bags, and food wasn't over-packaged, bottles were returnable and even the cinders from the fires were put down as cinder paths in cottage gardens. It isn't a glamorous way of life, it wasn't a life-style choice as so often it is today to live 'frugally', but joy can still be gained from now being spendthrift or wasteful.
    On the other hand, you have to strike a balance. Husband saved bits of wood and MDF from various projects over the past 30 years and just recently agreed that 'it all had to go'. If he started a new project he'd just have to buy fresh supplies and so it went to his brother who will be using it as winter fuel, so really, it's making a cost saving for him now.
    How proud you are of your aunt, she sounds a wonderful woman.
    Margaret P

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  12. She sounds wonderful. She reminds me of my husband's 2nd cousin Isabel who is now 83 and living in the house she lived in with her parents. She has a tv, but no computer, so she's the one person I still write too. She's lives simply, but elegantly. She loves to travel and recently flew to London to take the Queen Mary II to New York. I hope to be like her when I get to her age.

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  13. You have painted a wonderful picture of a lovely lady. We can learn a lot from people like your Aunt. Thank you. X

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  14. This is just like my UJ, who I mention such a lot on my blog! He lives very simply and quite self-sufficiently, and very happily! He spends as little as he can get away with and I think that Contentment is a key thing - he has never been someone who needed to have new stuff, nor to keep up with others, so he is very content with what he has, and doesn't see the need to keep buying new stuff all the time! There are some lovely people around who we can learn a lot from, like your dear aunt and my uncle xx

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  15. Lovely post. What a lovely Lady.
    Reminds me of my Mum.
    One of our fun things to do is save wrapping paper too. We have a few special pieces that we look forward to who gets it on their girt every year !

    cheers, parsnip

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  16. PS I meant "not being spendthrift of wasteful" in my comment - apologies for the typo!
    Margaret P

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  17. You have painted a lovely picture of your dear Aunt.
    I was bought up in that fashion and after years of consumerism I'm going back to it as I grow older. I can't do with all that "stuff" and I'm getting rid of stuff all the time to the local Op Shop.

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