The Frugal Fanatic

By Carolyn Henderson Created: February 9, 2012 Last Updated: February 9, 2012
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Angular, modular, stackable shapes. Whereas the Norwegian Artist finds them in nature, I collect them from the grocery store.(Steve Henderson)

Angular, modular, stackable shapes. Whereas the Norwegian Artist finds them in nature, I collect them from the grocery store.(Steve Henderson)

Sometimes this frugality thing goes too far. So says the Son-and-Heir, who is singularly unimpressed by the toys I magically create for the toddler out of nothing (“junk” he calls it), but maybe he’s just irritable because it’s his job to take the trash out each week.

My latest conception was a tambourine and a drum and an interactive puzzle, which to the uninitiated looks like six used thread spools rattling around in an empty 50-CD disc holder. This kept the child entertained for, well, a good 45 seconds, which isn’t bad considering that the average $20 purchase at the box store lasts 10 seconds longer than that.

When you remove the thread spools from the CD case, and if you aren’t too particular about authenticity, you now have great little people for the dollhouse. On another day, they’re aliens.

My fascination with plastic products stretches back decades, when my childhood bath-time companion was an empty dish detergent bottle that, except for the spout at the top which was disappointingly too small for a head, looked like a lady in a white dress. When she wore out or ripped or caved in beyond repair, another was always ready to take her place. And sometimes, when there were two at a time, we had a jolly tea for three.

While on the one hand this stuff is garbage, think for a minute: If you were alive in 1365 and carted your macaroni and cheese around in ceramic pots and someone handed you an old, bright yellow margarine tub with a lid, wouldn’t you get excited? It’s lightweight, doesn’t break, and seals in freshness.

My preponderant weakness is for the metal canisters that hold flavored coffee. They’re small, cute, modular, and every time I see an empty one of these I think, “There’s surely got to be something that we could do with these things.”

I must frequently speak the sentiment aloud because the Norwegian Artist (my husband), while it would be rude to leave the room, does avoid eye contact when I pick up the empty boxes and eye them.

“No,” he has lately taken to saying, circumventing the issue before it becomes one. “I can’t use them in the studio, paint tubes won’t stack in them, brushes would fall out, I don’t use crayons, and I can’t see any possible reason why I want or need them.”

Once in frustration he counterattacked, “Why don’t you see if you can use them in the sewing room?”

Not a bad idea, only I couldn’t find anything to fit in them other than used thread spools, and I’ve already got that one covered. So with a sigh I throw them away.

The other day someone gave us a flavored coffee box of monumental proportions, and while it’s not metal, it does have a lid. And it sure looks like something you’d put things in after the coffee powder is gone.

Do you remember the Winnie the Pooh story about Eeyore’s birthday present, in which the sad little donkey spends a pleasurable afternoon dropping a broken balloon into an old honey pot, and pulling it out again? Everybody thinks that Eeyore is cute. Pathetic, but cute.

I don’t mind the pathetic part if I can be cute as well, and the Norwegian doesn’t have to panic, because this massive new box is the perfect size to hold a stack of empty six-ounce yogurt cups, which everyone knows make great drinking glasses.

Carolyn Henderson is a freelance author and writer of the blog Middle Aged Plague. In addition to looking at modern life’s oddities and ends, Carolyn is the manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art, which features the paintings of her husband, the Norwegian Artist.


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