Things My Grandmother Knew: Waste Not, Want Not

(new brick house on my grandparent’s farm in western Kansas…probably 1940’s)

My grandmother lived through the dust bowl and the Great Depression.  Some events in your life make such a lasting impression on you that they forever change the way in which you approach life.  My grandmother’s experiences were no exception and one thing that I remember most is that she seemed to save everything.  However, she didn’t save things as “hoarders” do.  No…these things that she was saving would have a purpose and she put them to work right away.

I asked my mom to help me remember some of the “things” my grandmother knew and together we came up with a list of her useful “waste not, want not” habits.

Old nylons – She saved old nylons and used them to tie up bushes and plants that were bending due to the weight of blooms or produce.

Terry cloth remnants – She would save her terry cloth remnants and make her own washcloths

Cereal box cardboard – She used the cardboard of cereal boxes if she needed something to put in an envelope with a photo for protection

Material remnants – She used bits of material for several things — pin cushions – a little strip pin cushion thumbtacked into the bath cupboard for pins etc. (still there)

Seeds from plants and flowers – She kept seeds from flowers in baby food jars and even small medicine bottles.

Material – She labeled things like the squares for making a quilt so that we would know where they were from and who they were for.

Several years ago, when we were going through my grandmother’s house to get ready for “the sale” as she prepared to enter assisted living, one of my relatives criticized the way my grandmother had saved things.  I guess this individual was tired of going through all of these things.  As I looked around me, I saw things very differently.  Each thing my grandmother had saved had been carefully organized and put away.  There were no piles, no junk, no disorganization.  She didn’t keep things just to accumulate items.  She kept them to put to use and I appreciate what I learned from watching her do that all these years.

After living in a rural setting now for six years, I understand this even more.  It’s HARD to be self-sustaining and independent when you are trying to make a living in this setting.  Every penny counts and every trip into town to pick something up (over an hour one way) takes precious time and gas money.  I’m learning that there is more than one way to accomplish something, fix something or prepare something.  More than the way I see on TV or read about in a book.  Sure, I can gain ideas from all of that input, but when it comes right down to it, I have to make things work based on our own situation.  I don’t have the money for fancy closet organizers or shelving, I don’t have the money for fancy storage containers.  I don’t have all the latest gadgets for “backyard chickens” nor do I have all the latest in gardening paraphenalia.   What I do have is an imagination….a desire to do things well and to do things right….and I have the things around me right now….at my disposal.  SO, I will continue to try and learn what my grandmother seemed to know instinctively:  Waste not, Want not!


7 thoughts on “Things My Grandmother Knew: Waste Not, Want Not

  1. Oh, this brought tears to my eyes!! Lori, I was right there in the places you were describing and my feelings just rose within me. Excellent!!!

  2. […] other things as well, but that’s what I remember.  They did well….they built a new brick house, expanded their property, hired help.  They were successful.  They had two young children.  Life […]

  3. I found you through the Barn Hop and Morristribe…I so agree with your post! It is so fun to use and be creative with what we already have. Piles of junk are one thing, but organized extras that may be recycled or useful can save lots of time and money. It feels so refreshing to live with less. We have lots to learn from our grandparents.

  4. Oh, are you sure we don’t have the same grandmother? 🙂 I too have learned so much from my grandmother.

  5. Sounds like your grandmother was very organized which is so important when you’re living the ‘waste not, want not’ life style.

  6. […] sure that some of the things that I shared in my Waste Not, Want Not post were results of her thinking outside of the box for solutions.  She ran out of twistie ties […]

  7. My mother in law is the same way. She saves rubber
    bands the inside packages of cereal boxes for wrapping sandwiches and a bunch of other things. Farm life big FAmily poor and no stores growing up. Now the have a small store in town.

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