Thrift is Poetic Redux

Welcome to March where spring is just around the corner! Today’s post was first published in The Marian Room last June. Since we have a batch of new readers; and I continue to possess a high regard for thrift, and its poetic nature (GKC), I am re-posting it today. May you have a good weekend, especially delighting in the First Friday and First Saturday devotions. ~SCF

“Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste.” G.K. Chesterton

In a small village there was a young mother who, after all the bills were paid, had little money to “properly” decorate the cottage in which she resided with her husband, four children, and the occasional long-term relative-guest. The family had means to acquire more, but it would have meant locking the children up with strangers, on most days, in a nondescript building down the street. At that time, it was called daycare, but it had little to do with care, and the love associated with the word, care, and was more to do with simply keeping the children alive until their parents were permitted to leave their places of paid employment, and bring them Home.

Anyway, the young couple chose to have less, and keep the mother at Home, so she might love and care for their own children.

A choice like this was rare in their day, and they were often on the receiving end of unsolicited lectures from family, friends, and the random shopper at the local grocery store (!) over what they simply needed to do to get ahead. The young couple understood they were swimming against the tide, and normally, they did not take such lectures either personally, or to heart. They simply did not care what others thought of them, and decided to keep their eyes fixed on the needs of their children.

It was not easy, and at times, the young mother dreamed of a new house with glistening floors, crown molding, new bathrooms, and a restaurant grade kitchen.

Is that not what all the people house shopping on HGTV demanded?

Slowly, a sly envy began to form in her heart until, one day, it was a bleak Friday in February, she looked about her small cottage with contempt.

She realized that the critics had been correct in admonishing them to acquire more.

The rumpled couch mocked her.

The tired carpeting laughed at her.

The Formica counters screamed, HGTV hell!

Even the children looked messy and bedraggled.

In such a state, she went to her desk, took out her calculator and began to work the numbers. 

She could go back to work and make X dollars a week. Dayminding of the children would cost X dollars a week, and with the leftovers she might purchase X, Y and Z.

Her eyes lit up.

No more lectures from strangers.

No more embarrassing moments in the house, like when the living room chair leg broke upon taking the weight of a rather large guest.

Her children looked clean and beautiful in this new vision of her life: dressed as Lords and Ladies. She, of course, was the best dressed, and to top it all off: she was thin and her hair was properly coiffed. She directed the staff of her house with a calm confidence.

Wait, staff?

And, where was her husband in this vision?

She looked at the numbers.

She had forgotten: in this new vision of things, he had to take a new job with an extra hour commute, to cover the dayminding costs.

The vision changed.

The family was somehow scattered in her newfound greed.


It was tough to realize that she was potentially, if not, actually, greedy.

The word cut her heart, as visions from Dante passed before her eyes, of souls suffering endless torments because of their unbridled greed.

She looked about: the house was small, but tidy. She had purchased old furniture from thrift shops and used furniture stores, and had painted them in cheerful colors. Childish drawings hung about, colorful and sweet. The children were sitting at the table, laughing over their breakfast. Her husband ran in and planted a quick kiss on her forehead as he headed off to work.

The couch was simply a couch.

The carpet was simply carpeting.

The Formica seemed to say, I am sturdy and nothing can destroy me: just what you need in a family kitchen!

She did not have two sinks in a master-bath as the petulant shoppers on HGTV often demanded, but she had four little faces looking at her from across the room, each an unrepeatable creative gift from God.

She brusquely threw the calculator into the desk drawer, drew a deep breath, jumped up, and declared:

“Let’s go to the park today!”

Her children clapped and laughed in response, while the youngest spilled his cereal causing the milk to unceremoniously pour all over the once- despised, but, now, seen for what it was, Faithful Countertop.

No harm done, she thought to herself, as she moved to the sink, picked up the sponge, and began another day of creative home-work.

Yes, “thrift is creative, waste is simply waste,” said G.K. Chesterton, she thought to herself, as a smile began in her heart, and moved to her face:  I think I’ll stop at the thrift store today, her thoughts continued: One day, they will have the couch I am looking for, and until then, the old one will do!

And, therein, lies a short version of one little battle which took place in that fresh and bright cottage on the edge of a small town, on a day not too long ago.

Hail thrift!