Making Things Last

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Part of living economically is not only the avoidance of unnecessary purchases, but also making things last; by “things” I mean anything you would use long-term – clothes, shoes, appliances – as well as your non-perishable grocery store items, such as toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, cleaning products, etc.

With clothes it’s really straightforward. We have work/play clothes, which we tend to treat a little more carelessly (and more often than not, we either got them for free or for a bargain), and we have good clothes, such as for Shabbat. Clothes go into the wash because they need a wash, not because they had been worn once. Of course, with children’s clothes, being worn once usually means a wash is in order!..

Doing less loads of laundry means reducing your expenses of electricity, water, detergent, and wear and tear on the clothes and on your washing machine. Line-drying minimizes wear and tear, too, not to mention it also saves electricity.

Good shoes receive regular treatment of shining, oiling and polishing, which makes them last longer. I have a black pair for summer and a black pair for winter, and they are in such condition that I hope they might last years. Of course, for walking, yard jobs and home, I also have sneakers, mud boots, and slippers.

When it comes to non-perishables, I guess disposables should be mentioned. I wish I could say I don’t use disposables, but I will be honest. I do. Sometimes we have friends over and I use paper cups because it’s late at night and I can’t face waking up to a sink full of dirty glasses. Sometimes, when you go out for a picnic, for example, using disposables makes sense. But generally I try to minimize that.

As for other non-perishables, I don’t mean to imply gross things such as that you shouldn’t wash your hair, skip washing your hands, etc. Use what you need – but not more than you need, like the manufacturers of every product would have you do (so that you run out soon and go and have to buy more). Have you noticed the enormous holes they make in toothpaste tubes? If I’m not careful and squeeze just a little bit too hard, half the toothpaste comes out at once.

I used to wash my hair three times a week, and thought I needed it. But then, one winter it was cold and I only washed two times a week, and I noticed that very soon, my scalp adjusted its oil production so that I had the same result as when I washed three times a week. Now I wash once a week, and find it more than enough to keep my hair in good condition. This, obviously, means I use three times less shampoo and conditioner.

It’s important to keep your hands clean, especially when working in the kitchen, but you don’t have to use soap every time. Using too much soap makes your skin dry. When I use detergents – such as for laundry, for floors, for windows, etc – I always use less than is recommended, and the results are very satisfactory. Remember, the instructions on the package are made by people who want you to use it all up and go buy more!

Author: Anna

An Orthodox Jewish wife and mother enjoying a simple life with her family and chickens, somewhere in the hills, in Israel.

6 thoughts on “Making Things Last”

  1. Hi Anna
    I live in the Adelaide Hills in south Australia and always enjoy reading your emails.
    I agree with what you say about making things last. I always squeeze the last out of tubes or cut them open and put the contents into a small reusable jar.
    You are quite correct in saying the instructions on the package are designed by the manufacturers who want you to use more of their product.
    I find I can use half of the washing powder recommended and I always get good results.
    Thanks for all your really helpful tips.
    From Merryl


    1. Treading the line between frugal practicality and just being a pack rat can be hard, but we sure do find many ways to repurpose things.


  2. My parents grew up during the Depression, and started their marriage during WWII. Because of their training, making do and stretching things is just the way I was brought up. They tried using tooth powder instead of tooth paste, but a certain little girl would add water to the can and try to make paste, anyway. My dad used to keep a pair of pliers in the bathroom to get the last of the toothpaste out of the tube.

    I really don’t like those plastic tubes for hand lotion and such. You tap the lid on the counter and nothing comes out, but if you hold it up to the light you can see there’s still a lot of product left. I also cut open the top and then fold it down and use one of those binder clips to keep it from drying out.

    Oh, the stories I could tell!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure that the story of your parents could make up a whole book, as in The Grapes of Wrath, and much of the literature describing that period! And surely those methods of scrimping and saving are not to be scorned even today, when so many of us are trying to make ends meet.


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