Facing up to strange thrift

On a long-planned outing yesterday with my friend Wayne, I bought, among other things, a new rubber spatula. Technically, it was an impulse buy, as it had not made it onto my handwritten shopping list of that morning. But as you can see from the above photo, I was due. How that spatula head stayed on the handle as long as it did is a culinary mystery.

I don’t know what it is in me that resists replacing worn-out low-cost items, but I’m on the path of finding out. Because the reason that old spatula ripped in the first place was that I pried it off the stick to clean out what I correctly identified as toxic sludge when I could no longer ignore that it was growing in there. We’re talking about a vile fungus and/or a lame appliance that I lived—and COOKED—with for the better part of two or three years when a brand new replacement cost 99 cents at IKEA. Ninety-nine cents! To be mold-free! And I have a chronic immune disease!

I wish I could blame my thrifty, Swedish-American grandmother—she of the mended nylons for around the house, and the Three-Sheet Rule of toilet-paper usage. But that woman also bought herself a new pillow more than once per decade. And when something was ready for the rag bag, I’m guessing she just ripped it into right-sized pieces and started polishing the silver instead of putting it in, then returning it to the underwear drawer three times before being able to let it go.

My friends are very kind and patient about this kind of stuff. When I asked Wayne how often he replaced his kitchen scrubber that suction-cups to the sink, again, it was more than once every two years, which is when I bought mine. He also swears that travel mugs wear out and ought to be replaced when they “get gross.” Apparently, you’re allowed to let go of thing not only when they become life-threatening, but when they lose their original functionality, i.e. sucking. Who knew?

It’s not an across-the-board issue, this strange thrift that afflicts me. I have no problem paying an exorbitant amount of money for putatively high-speed internet or shit smartphone service or fees for nonexistent customer service at my horrible McBank. But that is what’s so strange. People like Wayne get that neither moldy kitchen appliances nor bloated fees are tenable. It’s about self-care, not spending money. You get a new spatula, you find a new bank. Period.

So we also replaced a travel mug whose insides have condensation and a dish rack that had started to crack and rust. Some part of me still can’t believe that travel mugs and dish racks have to be replaced, ever. But another part of me is looking forward to a non-sketchy caffeine experience tomorrow morning. And a (first) detailing on my 11-year-old Corolla sometime this year.

And some new underpants as soon as I can bring myself to use the gift card my friend Mary Ellen gave me—two years ago? Yeah. Pretty much.


P.S. Hi, Mary Ellen! You are awesome and I really am looking forward to new underpants!


  1. Weird, ain’t it?
    I tell myself “I’m picky” and “The new one has to hit All.The.Buttons.” (whatever they are – sleeves long *enough* AND turtleneck stays snug enough AND color just right AND torso long enough AND the whole thing “fits right”, before I’ll replace (or just get rid of, without replacing, even!) a knit shirt. …Like that!
    Happy new spatula! ;)

  2. Really? You mean I can *replace* the moldy sponge cage that suction cups to the sink? And the wooden drying rack whose bottom part is now *black* instead of blonde-wood colored? Apparently I’ve been waiting for permission. Thank you for granting it! IKEA, here we come!

  3. Oh yeah! Hearing you loud and clear.
    In my case, I blame it on not living near any large shopping centres, not liking shopping or travelling for shopping, and not being a habitual online shopper.
    And I DO buy myself a new pillow every 10 years or so. Next: two quilts my mother made that have been bedspreads for 15 years are wearing out, and I MUST LET THEM GO and get new ones. But-But- the sentimental value … It was my mother who said to me “You can’t keep everything forever” and so I gave away material things that had belonged to family and that felt good, but years later I wish I hadn’t. Alas, you kind of win and lose at the same time, with things like that.
    But bras, dishes, underpants, pyjamas … yeah, out with the old, in with the new!

  4. Loved this post and I can relate the lack of logic on spending a lot on something without thinking and gnashing my teeth over replacing worn out things. Thanks for calling them underpants (I think that’s one of the funniest words), and not panties (one of my least favorite).

    Based on your post, I hereby refuse to keep around disgusting plastic cutting boards.

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