Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts
We live in a disposable generation. I am constantly told by repair shops (when you can find one) it is generally cheaper to buy a new item than to replace the old one once the warranty is out of date. I tried to get my Hoover repaired once, heard the same spiel, caved in and decided to by new one. They then informed me that I had an out of date model which had been replaced by a new version costing 100 pounds more. But, the sales pitch continued…. why not buy the supermaxi version which has 35 mega pixels, 300 outlets, massages your head when you are depressed, will do the washing up for you with a smile and make you a cup of tea afterwards. I snapped it up – I could finally dispose of the partner!
I was brought up in family who had lived through the 1st and 2nd wars, post war depression and periods of high unemployment. Being thrifty was something to be proud of. You name it my family recycled it. Balls of string pieces knotted together, vegetable scraps for the compost heap, brown paper, tin foil, newspapers, ribbon, used cards – the list was endless. But that’s not all, the ‘good life’ family also grew vegetables, serviced their cars, built house extensions, sewed and knitted clothes, did all their own DIY (I actually learned to make a fitted wardrobe before I could cook an apple pie), catered for parties and repaired white goods. What my father could not do he learnt, ie plumbing and electricity. In fact my father was so good at repairing stuff that my mother in despair of ever swapping the ancient wash tub with mangle for a front loader took matters in to her own hands. When it broke down she had a crack at DIY herself managing to lose nuts, screws and a major part in the process. Thus consigning it to the scrap heap (after my father had stripped them of any usable spare parts of course). She acquired a new Hoover in this way as well. My father put it down to incompetence. My mother was one smart woman.
Now in my line of work I come across many of the older generation who have similar values to my grandparents and parents. The problem starts when being thrifty turns into hoarding or a reluctance to throw unrecyclable stuff out. My grandfather hoarded sugar, tea and coffee as he was convinced that we were headed for food shortages. He also pickled many thousands of onions (stored in recycled jars of course) which were sharp, crunchy and spicy delicious. However, we are a small family and onions can induce unsociable noxious body fumes therefore there are only so pickled onions one can eat. Many jars were offloaded onto friends, work colleagues, neighbours and homeless shelters. However, we still had a large collection of jars in our pantry long after my grandfather passed away.
When I settled in Australia it was great to find out that recycling is a way of life and that Aussies are into opportunity (charity) shops in a big way. Between these shops my friend’s greek famliys we managed to fully furnish a home without spending a fortune. The family, like mine, also suffered from the thrifty syndrome and as a result I became the proud owner of 2 broken hoovers; 1 temperamental washing machine which only worked only on one wash cycle, electricity eating fans, towels that you could sandpaper wood with; a pine table with four chairs so small that when sitting one could look up at the bottom side of the table. A bedstead missing a vital bolt (use your imagination), a side table that listed due to a glued on leg and a fridge that was aspiring to be a freezer – ever had frozen tomatoes before? Apart from the hoover, which had a tendency to retract its cable at an alarming rate causing the user to jump out of the way or lose a limb, the rest of the quirky equipment lasted until we could replace it. Unfortunately, my friend has inherited the family saving trait and is reluctant to throw anything away. He can often be found screwdriver in hand trying to fix broken items. However, I am my mother’s daughter and she taught me well. The washing machine is next on the hit list.