On Frugality

I've been thinking, a little, recently about frugality. Cast On finished a series earlier in the summer about frugality and consumption, and I've been talking with people in a couple of different contexts who think about their own consumption habits (of meat and other comestibles, of material things, of cars and transportation, and so forth) as political acts, in one capacity or another, and I think this all deserves some more extended reflection on my part.

Just to be clear, I think it would be safe to classify myself as a "frugal person." I'm pretty simple in my attitudes and my consumption habits. I have stuff, more stuff, probably, than I actually need. I also buy things that I think are almost certainly luxuries. But I'm sort of minimal about the things I have and I'm pretty good about making sure that when I'm done with something, its either unusable by all of humanity or goes on to someone who can make better use of it.

Largely I think of this as a personal quirk. Having a bunch of stuff is sometimes anxiety producing. While many knitters enjoy buying yarn, frankly it makes me jittery, unless my "stash" of yarn is pretty small and I'm actively knitting a lot. Also, as a writer, and a technologist-type, the things I do "for fun," mostly involve sitting behind a computer and typing furiously, so while computer stuff is probably my largest "luxury expense," I'm not particularly guilty about it, and lord knows I use a lot of computer stuff.

And beyond this, I tend to think of frugality as being an extened form of common sense. Finding the shortest way to work, finding the best way to get the most nutrition and pleasure from the food you buy, finding the best way to use old computers, using yarn efficiently, and so forth.

Now, I'm well aware that common sense is a culturally constrained and all, but that aside, I'm unsure if frugality constitutes a political statement, or a political act. Refusing to participate in consumer society on the grounds of a frual-ethic is admirable, and I think a sane way to approach the world, but I've often found myself thinking that acting against superstructural cultural phenomena is the kind of thing that isn't exactly something that starts at home. I mean, changing your own habits is a good thing, because it's likely to make you more happy, healthy, and economically resilient; nevertheless, I think to constitute a political act, "working against consumption" would require contributing to efforts that create viable opportunities for other people.

So then, politics are what happens when you get together with a lot of people and do something, not what happens when you're at the store. I think, at least.

I'm not sure if this logic holds up either, but it's a start...

The world is a weird place sometimes.

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