Hoarding and Waste

Is there a connection between hoarding and waste? You’d think not, since hoarders are hyper-savers and wasters have no care for saving. And yet I believe they are two sides of the same coin.

The Bible tells us innummerable times not to hoard (save up your treasures in heaven, not on earth), and that what we save of our harvest will be shared (as Joseph did in Egypt). Our own folk myths tell of the humble poor being rewarded for sharing their meagre goods, as well as being the subject of Jesus’s great exposition on the widow’s mite. (She gave her ony coin to serve God, trusting God to provide for her.)

When does saving prudently cross the line into hoarding? When the corners start to get rounded. I can understand that someone might not be willing to get all the closets cleaned out as gifts and purchases accumulate, but at least the stuff is stored in closets. It’s just a procrastination or a busyness elsewhere. It will get done at some point. (Whether it is good stewardship is another question.) But when the closets and attic and basement and sheds are full, no one is making a move to clean anything out, and more stuff is coming in, then the corners start to fill up. Cardboard boxes migrate to the outer walls of rooms; coats and stocked- up toilet paper, cases of soup, tools, and old newspapers pile up in corners. The corners of the room start to look rounded into the room; the furniture no longer fits. The space between the couch and the wall becomes storage area. Beds can`t be moved for the boxes and old toys or shoes pushed under them. Slowly, the person loses control of the house; possessions take over. Then it is an apparent pathology, and something needs to be done.

Waste is similar. There is a disregard for the needs of others; there is a disregard for one`s own needs, to some extent. Insead of using what is available, it is replaced with something else more appealing at the moment. We are all guilty of this when it comes to food. I personally can`t bear eating leftover soup made from leftovers more than three days in a week, so if I`ve accidentally made more than we will eat in that period, the last two servings will languish until I give it to the dog. (Please note that I know what is appropriate to feed dogs. My homemade dogfood was better quality than most commercial foods, and it used grocery store ingredients. I don`t feed dogs onions or chocolate or any of the things I know they don`t tolerate, and it is lowfat and lowsodium food.)

But waste goes beyond kitchen waste – the wilted lettuce or the week-old egg whites that didn`t make it into an omelette. It`s also the clothes we bought that we didn`t wear much, the shoes bought to go with an outfit but we didn`t wear them but once, the cute Christmas or Valentine Day stuffed toys that don`t serve any purpose but to give someone a gift they didn`t need. And then periodically we bundle it up, drop it off at Goodwill or the church rummage sale, and don`t worry about it. But it was still wasteful. We didn`t use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without. We discarded carelessly, warehousing it with a resale shop or even tossing it out because it lay on the floor so long that the stains set or the dog was sick on it. We bought something we didn`t need and then we discarded it so it became someone else`s reponsibility.

Hoarders waste because they can`t let anyone else use what they have. The goods deteriorate, are destroyed by rodents, or are so hopelessly outdated by the time they are rescued that no one would want them. By keeping things that won`t be used, they keep the basic materials out of the recycling stream as well. They don`t want to deal with their accumulation, even though it sits there uselessly. They want someone else to deal with it, as one therapist said while trying to help a person caught in a hoarding pathology. While trying to maintain control, they don`t take control.

Wasting means that things are not used and discarded inappropriately. They don`t get used while fresh or timely; they get tossed into the waste stream instead where they might or might not get recycled. We live in a culture of disposal. Nothing is considered permanent – except maybe some church buildings no one attends but the former parishioners won`t tear down! (Hoarding church buildings must be a particuarly bad form of hoarding.) We have a Walmart mentality – buy it new, buy it now. Have it all. Then get rid of it when it is no longer appealing and start over.

Have you ever redocoratedÉ Have you ever had the impulse to go out, buy new curtains, slipcovers, towels, and rugsÉ Have you ever discarded a sofa just because you didn`t like the fabricÉ I never have, because I`ve never had the money to do that, but it is tempting, when we are bored or we`ve visited a friend who has just completely refurbished the bedroom and we are feeling kind of sad and left out, like it`s not our birthday. This is the attitude that leads to waste. Shopping and new things are not a source of pride or therapy. Retailers would like us to believe this – that a new pair of shoes will lift our spirits and we will not need to deal with the reasons we felt depressed or anxious. But new shoes get scuffed or stained pretty quickly. Someone else will have a newer pair, and again we will feel like the loser. It used to be called keeping up with the Joneses, an escalating battle of goods that sends families into debt and separation and envy.

Hoarding is the same illness. The hoarder looks at an item and says, I must have this! It fills a need in me! It will add to my collection. I will corner the market on left-handed antique screwdrivers, so it will be worth something some day. (It won`t be, most likely. I used to be a museum curator – the reason we had all that antique stuff is that it wasn`t worth anything, and people were getting rid of it.) Hoarding wastes things by warehousing them where they are not useful. And someday I will explain why being a museum curator gave me pangs of conscience, for that very reason.

So before you all start squirming over whether you are hoarding or wasting – here are some basic rules.

1. If you aren`t going to use it soon, move it along. Give it away, sell it on eBay, donate it.

2. Don`t buy it until you need it. this means kitchen applances, power tools, cases of anything on sale if you don`t use it regularly.

3. Stay out of bin lot and discount stores unless you have a specific need.

3. See if you can re-use something yourself before you discard it. Can you make it overÉ Clean itÉ Move it to another roomÉ

4. If you are discarding, do it rationally. Recycle what you can, even if you have to put it in the car and drop it off at the recycling center – batteries, old paint. Break things down into components for recycling or it will end up in the landfill.

There are lots of resources for dealing with clutter, for streamlining the waste stream out of your house, for changing your attitude. I think the primary one is to see how the Bible tells us to deal with material possessions, and to pray for the Lord`s help in doing that.

More Wasted Food Blogs

I think we frugal types just seeth with repressed something when we see good food thrown away, or the good ingredients used for the worst junk food. (Why do we buy french fries and potato chips when a potato is cheap and easy to cook?)

It is unGodly to waste the good things He gave us – farmland, water, nutrients. It’s sinful to keep food to ourselves when others need it. It’s ignorant to ask for food and then waste it because we don’t know how to cook it.

Here’s my suggested procedure for changing this, one household at a time, maybe one or two steps at a time. Don’t shock your family by jumping in with both feet!

Subscribe to some good blogs on the subject of frugality and food waste. Here are the ones I read:

Katy Wolk-Stanley’s “the nonconsumer advocate” at http:\\thenonconsumeradvocate.com. Katy is Mama to many of us in this endeavour.

Kristen at “The Frugal Girl” – http:\\www.thefrugalgirl.com. Kristen is a home-schooling, gifted artist and music teacher who runs the household on some strict Christian financial principles.

The Green family and their friends and community at “My Zero Waste”which is British: http:\\myzerowaste.com.

And my latest discovery, Jonathan Bloom et al at Wasted Food; http:\\www.wastedfood.com.

Second: Make a grocery list and stick to it! List the foods you know you will use, plan a menu, and try to buy only unprocessed food. If you don’t go up and down the aisles, you will avoid a lot of temptation. I buy produce first, then meat, then dairy. If I need baking products, then I get those last. I’m less likely to toss in chocolate chips or a jar of jam if the buggy is already full.

Buy large quantities of things you use – like meat – and divide the package into smaller freezer package. If you can get a good price on vegetables, then cook them right away and freeze. This is the part that takes a little more discipline, because you have to plan the day to include time to do it. Shop early, set aside an hour for putting things away and getting things into the freezer or storage.

I cook some things ahead, like poached chicken for chicken salad, get it made and put it in a covered glass dish.

Don’t eat out. At all. Get out of the coffee a day habit and make coffee at home and take it with you in a mug or thermos. Don’t buy bottled water or pop. Buy waterbottles for the family, filter the tap water or get a water cooler, refill the bottles.

If you don’t know how to cook something from scratch – dried beans, potato dishes, bread – then learn! There are tutorials on line, there are cooking classes, there are neighbours and relatives who will teach you. Kristen at the Frugal Girl has some really good illustrated blogs for baking.

When things are really tough, make sure you make a tight budget for food. I have to sometimes, and I estimate what I am willing to spend on each item on my list, so if I pick up an item, and it is too much, I don’t get it or substitute something cheaper. Write the estimated price next to the item on the list, and tally the bottom. Edit it if it’s too much before you go to the store. Be tough with yourself and the family on this if you have to. You’ll find that money is not oozing out through your fingers every time you get to the checkout.

Use your leftovers. Eat them for lunch, send them with the husband in his lunch (no more take-out lunches for him, either) or turn them into something else. If I have just one serving of three different things, I heat it and offer it around; whoever likes sausage takes that, whoever wants chicken gets that. You don’t all have to eat the same thing at the same meal.

Keep track of your food waste. Make a note to yourself of what you threw out instead of eating it, what went bad, what no one really liked. Some of us post our food waste at Kristen’s or Mrs. Green’s blog. It keeps us honest!

Finally, but not all, since there is always more – remember others. If you are not going to eat the can of bean soup, send it to the food bank. Buy extra for the poor, send it to a charity at a food drive. Convince your church to take up a monthly or ongoing collection for a local food pantry. Share your garden produce with a neighbour in need. Make a cash donation to a food charity or a poverty alleviation group. The poor will always be with us, and that’s our own fault.

Let me know how you are doing.

Food Waste, Wasted Lives

When did we get to be so careless about food? If anything shouts, “Total biological decadence!” it’s food waste. Animals don’t waste food. They eat or leave it for some other creature. (I know, animals that form pantries – squirrels, foxes – sometimes lose their stashes, but usually some other critter finds it and eats it.) It seems so against our nature to waste what we need.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about food waste. We throw away at least 30% of our food production, mostly post-consumer. This goes into landfills where it becomes methane – a result of uncontrolled and inefficient decay. We often waste as many calories as we eat. Which means someone didn’t get to eat.

We can blame politics and infrastructure for famines; we can blame poor farming and conservation methods. But we can mostly blame ourselves, for hogging the food and then throwing it away. (Hogs are pretty efficient food converters, so it isn’t a good metaphor.)

But the governments (USA and Canada, pay attention) can get tanks and whole military bases to the Middle East reather quickly; why can” they get food supplies to the Sudan and Haiti? they could if they wanted to put the resources into it. These armies can keep armed civilian populations under some semblance of control; why can’t they control food ditribution so that it is equitable?

If the governments wanted to really wage war on poverty, they wouldn’t put billions of dollars into fighting a war of death.

We can do our part at home. Buy only what we need. Buy it fresh and unprocessed. Use it up, freeze it or give it away.

I am called to make this my cause of faith. I’ve been hungry and undernourished, more thanonce in my adult life. I’ve seen people and worked with them when they have been eating out of the dumpster behind MacDonald’s. I’ve given food to needy families right out of my own freezer and pantry. (And those who answered my calls to provide when I didn’t have enough at home to provide for others – God bless you!)

I’ll have more to say on this, and I’m going to include some links for your pperusal if you are interested,so stay in touch!

And more job search

The internet is a great way to explore the Anglican Communion. Whether it will get me a job, I don’t know. Priests do move around quite a bit, even from country to country. It’s that old missionary model, perhaps. But bishops may look askance on someone who out of the blue knocks on the website door.

But what else can you do? Most of us here don’t even get the Anglican Journal anymore. Not that it is defunct, but a lot of parishes are no longer subscribing; we can read it on line, though.

There was a time I made long distance job searches by buying out of town newspapers and writing reams of letters to send with double reams of resumes. That didn’t work well, either. I never foudn a job until I showed up in the city and started calling around. So much for the old technology.

But, hey, bishops – I can see you have vacancies. Some dioceses like to keep that a secret, but if anyone searches church by church, they can find the gaps. Couldn’t you make it a little easier to get in touch? Like, have a heading on the website “job applications” – and then something about “Send your resume or CV to: (name) at (email address). We will get back to you within a week.”

Often, bishops expect you to have pretty much already resigned where you are and have a letter in hand from your bishop saying it’s ok, I know. This is so foreign to how job searches usually happen. First, you start looking for work (not at work, mind you, that’s just bad manners); you produce your resume; you send it to prospective employers; you get interview dates and take those days off from your regular job; you get an offer and then announce to your boss that you’ll be leaving in two weeks.

Just an observation. Priests are not a dime a dozen. We invest a lot in our educations. Would it hurt to show the same respect a secular employer shows to a prospective employee?

Plain Love and Marriage

Those of us who live traditional lives accept the validity of headship – there has to be someone in charge in the family, and that’s the husband. Paul held that up as the model for Christian marriages, and it had worked for millenia before the church existed. So Christians held on to it, for many reasons. First, the husband was the one who moved in the outside world, who interacted the most with the official community. Father or husband held property for a woman, and represented her in court. Some of this became rather narrow-minded in Judaic custom, but Christians seem to have tried to loosen that up a bit.

Nonetheless, women ran their own businesses, had control of some kinds of property, and were in charge of the household itself. Women expected to find husbands who had been raised to be good providers and managers, who listened to their families, and who were integrated into the surrounding community. Women expected husbands who were reasonable, and who shared the responsibilities of family life.

Men expected to find wives who knew how to run a household, who could cook, clean, sew, care for children, and do what was necessary to make some money from their skills, such as spinning, weaving, trading, gardening, or raising livestock. Women were sometimes employed as scribes to copy manuscripts or as artists.

It’s not a bad model for Christian family life now.

Plain life echoes these traditions. We do as much as we can ourselves, whether it is food production, clothesmaking, raising livestock, or engaging in a craft that provides income. Sitting at a computer isn’t a Plain occupation, for many reasons, alhtough I admit it is a part of what I do from day to day. I would not want it to be my main occupation though.

The Christian model for family life is of Christ as the head of the family. We all serve Him in each other. That’s simply all it is. We look for spouses who are God-centered, and willing to be servants to the rest of the family. It’s not a matter of power or privilege.

I think that is a huge modern misunderstanding about Plain life, that father knows best and what he says goes, right or wrong. I’ve never known a family where that worked, or could work. Humans are frail and sometimes wrong; it is sinfully stubborn to refuse reason just because it comes from wife or child. If it comes down to a matter of both being equally right but in opposition (such as a matter of spending money on each one’s priority) one has to take charge, and in traditional Christian families, it is up to the husband. But first of all, the family and community needs are to be considered, not just one’s heart’s desire.

A Christian man treats his wife as an equal in reason, unless he has positive and longstanding proof otherwise! And if he is more likely to make whimsical and foolish decisions, it is up to her to gently lead him to the best choice. That may mean appealing to a relative or close friend for support in that decision; we don’t need so much autonomy that we can’t listen to the good advice of others.

I’m afraid modern marriages are made on the basis of superficial traits – who is beautiful or handsome, who is most popular, who is most appealing. Marriages are too often begun in deep debt, as couples look to start their new life together with expensive clothes for the wedding, big parties, luxurious honeymoons. Young people buy houses and cars they can’t afford, because they think it is what is expected of them. It’s a fantasy life, and not one of responsibility and reason.

In the traditional Plain wedding, the bride makes her dress, The groom will buy some new clothes, but they will be worn again and again. They will perhaps have their own household established, but family will have helped to furnish it. The biggest expense will be the huge home-cooked meal provided for the many guests!

Modern Plain people who live outside Plain communities might consider a different way of beginning their marriage. I recommend that the wedding apparel be the least of their concerns, and that they focus on receiving good counsel and preparation for the long term contract that marriage is! The wedding itself could be a small Saturday afternoon gathering of family in the church, with no expense except an at-home meal afterward. Or for those who are entirely tradition-minded, get married on Sunday morning during the service. This will throw most minsiters for a loop, having never done it that way, but it a very old and almost defunct custom. The promises are dropped in at the prayers of the people, or just before the offertory. It is right that the first meal the couple share is the eucharist. The wedding reception can be cake and coffee in the church hall afterward, with a family meal at home later in the day.

Christian marriage is a relationship of love in Christ and mutual respect. It is not one taking orders from the other, or spouses competing for control. It is not about who is most popular with the children. It is about serving Christ in one another, and in the whole family and community.

On Lent

The season of Lent as preparation for Easter began in the third century, with St. Iranaeus; it was probably established as a fast of a day or more in local churches. The word “Lent” that we use is from the Anglo-Saxon word for spring. The churches kept Lent as a time of increased prayer and scripture reading. it was the last phase of catechism for those wishing to be baptized at Easter.

Lent is now the forty days before Easter, or Pascha. In the eastern churches Lent ends with the Vigil of Pascha, which starts at midnight on the Saturday preceding Easter, the end of Holy Week. While Lent is a time of fasting, Holy Week is a time of concentrated preparation for Easter, with special prayer services and scripture readings.

Must a Christian fast before Easter? Traditionally, and by church law or canon, the answer is yes. Most Protestants do not keep the fast, however, reflecting the scriptural passage that the guests do not fast while the bridegroom is with them. Most of the “Jerusalem” or high churches would disagree, saying that Jesus meant only while He was physically on earth were the disciples exempt from fasting.

Certainly, fasting from foods was an expectation in the apostolic church at the proper seasons, or for reasons of prayer. The forty days of Lent were not established until the fourth century, and may have arisen from a misreading of the historian Eusebius, who was commenting on a forty hour fast. Nonetheless, the forty day fast became established, to remember the forty day fast of Jesus in the wilderness.

Christians are never expected to abstain from all nourishment for extended periods of time, and water is allowed in all periods of fasting or abstention.

In our century, fasting from food is less common; some churches interpret or allow fasting from activities if that is more practical. Families might abstain from watching television or going to movies. (In centuries past, the theatres were closed in Lent.) Others may use the time of Lent to give up a bad habit such as smoking or gambling. Any fast or abstention must be accomplished with prayer, scripture and the support of the church community. One should at least confide in one’s minister or priest as to the form of abstention one wishes to undertake.

Fasting is not atonement for our sins; it is discipline so that we may strnegthen our souls, bodies, minds and spirits against the onslaught of evil and temptation. it is for our benefit, not God’s.

Please let me know if you need support and prayers in your Lenten journey. I will keep confidentiality if you request.

Enjoy a blessed Lent! Christ is coming!

Lent, Fasting

Because a controlled intake diet is being undertaken in the household, we are not strictly fasting this Lent. I’ll follow this diet for a while and try to drop some of the past year’s uptick in poundage, but I won’t continue it for long since I don’t have but a few kilos to shed.

The discipline will be to eat other things moderately, and not tempt those who are not allowed them.

I’ve blogged a lot on Lent, fasting, and the typikons for seasonal fasting. So you can go look if you are wondering.

I’m an old hand at the fast, so I’m going to just leave you with a few words of encouragement.

Don’t be proud of your fast. Answer if someone asks, but don’t judge. Also, don’t accept the judgement of others if they are critical. Stick to your discipline.

If you fall off the fast wagon, just get back on. Don’t make excuses or whine or give up.

If you need to give up – because you are sick, you have a change in circumstances, you have to move or change jobs or take care of someone else – well, that’s fine. You did what you could.

God doesn’t keep score. It doesn’t go on your permanent record.

Have a blessed Lent, and look forward to Pascha! Maranatha!