My grandmother saved everything: used aluminum foil, plates from store-bought pies, cardboard, string.

Born on a farm in Virginia in 1896, Grandma and her family struggled constantly. They grew their own vegetables and fruit, canned, made their own clothes and quilts and stayed warm by a wood-burning stove. The house she grew up in didn’t have running water or an indoor toilet until the 1950s.

Of course, Grandma was an adult raising children during the Great Depression, a time when everybody was poor, they say. If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand why she saved every scrap of anything that came across her path.

After our pandemic began, I started to understand. I found myself using aluminum foil more cautiously and reusing it, if possible. I’ve always been conservative on paper towel use, but that got worse. Any plastic bag was a candidate for reuse, even bread bags.

I even accelerated my collecting of jars.

For years, if a jar had aesthetic appeal, I saved it. Maybe it was the shape. Maybe the size. Maybe some attractive bas-relief design on the side. Maybe it had a good seal and, therefore, could be effective storage for something else.

I’ve always had a thing for glassware, but this is ridiculous. Saving cheaply made jars might be my latest sign of instability.

Why am I doing this?

Why does anyone do this?


In Grandma’s day, you feared not having enough of everything, so you didn’t throw away anything there might be a possibility of reusing. Today, some have fear of a break in the supply chain, which could lead to a toilet paper shortage.

Getting the most use out of any item is a new concept in our throw-away society. It shouldn’t be, though. Wastefulness isn’t good for the planet or our pocketbooks.  I’m trying even harder to recycle everything. Except, of course, toilet paper.

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