Before tossing an item into the garbage, consider what other purpose it might be used for. This is a key to being fiercely frugal, and it often provides surprising solutions.
Take my old medicine cabinet, for instance. When I painted the bathroom, the cabinet’s three mirrored doors got in my way, so I decided to temporarily remove them. I climbed onto the counter and straddled the sink on my knees. Wrapping my left arm firmly around a looking-glass door, I whizzed the screws out with a cordless drill in my right hand. What I hadn’t realized was that each screw in that row held two doors in place, not just one.
As the final screw twisted out of its confines, the center mirror plunged into a free fall. Astonished, and unable to react because I had both hands full and was precariously balanced over the sink, I watched the door crash onto the toilet tank and shatter into a thousand needle-like shards.
It was not my finest frugal moment.
Granted, the mirrored medicine cabinet wasn’t the height of fashionable décor, but it did keep supplies handy while providing a reflective surface for all the things for which one uses a reflective surface in the bathroom. Now, naked shelves of toiletries stared at me.
After I cleaned up all the pieces of glass while breathing in paint fumes, I felt a little sick to my stomach. I decided to get fresh air and look for a new cabinet at a liquidation outlet or on clearance somewhere, but I found nothing. I ended up paying full price at a big-box home-improvement store — something guaranteed to make a Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister feel even worse.
Then, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with the two remaining doors. Throw them out just because their companion had smashed to smithereens? Not on your life! I stowed them in the garage and waited for a brilliant solution to dawn upon me.
A few months later, I set up a small bedroom-turned-exercise-room, and the only spot for the treadmill was against a blank wall. I hung a spare oak-framed mirror to reduce the closed-in feeling and put a tiny television on a shelf in a left-hand corner, the only location in that room with cable hook-up. But unless I wanted to risk a permanent crick in my neck from twisting around to watch the news, I figured I’d have to speed-walk on the treadmill in silence.
At that point I remembered the medicine-cabinet doors. Using drywall screws, I attached the hinges to wall studs. The hinges allowed me to move one of the mirrored doors to see the TV set and even bounce the remote’s signal off it to adjust the volume or change the channel.
Who would have guessed that medicine-cabinet mirrors could be so useful in an exercise room? I’m learning a lot from being open to new ways of recycling, and I love extending the life of items that would otherwise go to an early grave at the dump.
Frugal folks must always walk the narrow line between keeping good stuff out of landfills and becoming pack rats. The Savage Sisters recommend using wisdom in this area. If you hang on to an item with the potential of a second life but don’t use it within a reasonable amount of time, consider offering it to a neighbor or posting it on Freecycle.org.
Written by Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister Diana
© 2009, The Savage Sisters