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The Natural Law of Attrition


I'm cheap and proud of it.

I use and re-use things carefully. It pains me in particular to waste food. The Buddhist/Catholic in me wants to find a way to airlift leftover rice and veggies to the Sudan.

I'm one of those obnoxious houseguests who will walk up behind you while you're washing your dishes in your own damn sink and turn off the faucet.

Unfortunately cheap is a great word, like gay or liberal, that I can't use anymore. I have to call myself a minimalist or a Voluntary Simplist and use words like frugal and responsible instead of stingy. I don't hoard; I "re-purpose". And I live in fear of being accused of not creating abundance. That's worse than being accused of not having a sense of humor. It's actually politically correct for me to be cheap. I just can't say I am.

I am frugal and respectful of the earth's resources. I'm just not sure I'm ready to be part of a movement. Yes. Cheapness has become an ism; a movement; a cause. Which is great because that means you can now make money off of it.

Now there are magazines like "Tightwad Gazette" and "Simple Life". Two great publications which use a lot of trees and expend time, energy and money to reinforce what your mother always told you when she followed you round the house turning off lights and consolidating scraps of soap into nylon stockings.

I turn off lights and save soap, by the way, but I don't stop there. I also re-use Ziploc bags. I don't acquire things just because I can. I have no repugnance in using something, a car, a coat, or a cd that someone else used and valued before me. I've gratefully accepted a piece of clothing from a girlfriend when she couldn't fit into it any more. Why would it matter that I don't have a shared history with the donor of some of my other used goodies?

I'm not a pack rat but I don't throw a thing away just because I'm not currently using it. What if I dump something and suddenly need it two years from now? I still can't get over the fact that my husband sold an expensive pressure cooker for two bucks at a garage sale. So what if we hadn't used it in 5 years? It was doing him no harm at all sitting quietly and dustily on a top shelf. Lo and behold I hit a Macrobiotic phase a couple of years later and there I was in a grain and bean-based lifestyle without a pressure cooker.

So, yes, I believe in recycling and re-using but I'm a little bit of a hypocrite about it. I also don't like getting rid of things. It stands to reason that in order for other people to recycle I have to return some stuff to the product gene pool. I don't. The problem with this is that even if I don't acquire much any more I have a one-way upward accumulation of stuff.

This is where the Natural Law of Attrition comes in. Attrition is the yang to the yin of accumulation.

I've never found this law in any books but I know it exists. How else to explain the disturbing fact that I can't find a favorite sweatshirt I used to have 20 years ago? I know I didn't throw it away and it didn't get ruined in the wash. So where is it? Well, ok, it was 20 years ago and I've moved 4 times since then but it should still be here. Shouldn't it? Unless the Natural Law of Attrition fairy crept in one night and quietly took care of it.

I've also been wondering for the last several years what happened to a particularly fabulous pair of sunglasses which really blocked out the sun. This was a period of time when I was fly-fishing (don't ask). With these glasses you could actually see the fishing line no matter how bright the day. I never lost them. One day I went looking for them and they weren't there. Poof. Gone.

Because I could never bear to give these things away they just had to disappear little by little. Like dead skin cells sloughing off daily or hair quietly swirling down the drain one follicle at a time. You never see them go. Yet go they do. Swept gently and unnoticeably out of my life by the Natural Law of Attrition.

Mary Rosendale is the Founder and proud Mama of The Constructed Life, a unique Holistic Life Coaching service rooted in Buddhist psychology. Come play with her and wake up from the Dream. Visit her on the web at http://www.TheConstructedlife.com or check out her funky blog http://theconstructedlife.blogs.com/clear_and_present


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