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“Soap is cheap.”

In my first post on this blog, I mentioned my frugal grandma. She lived through the Great Depression and I think that experience left a mark on her for the rest of her life.

Kristen's grandma and grandpa in 1960.

Anyway, I reshared that post recently because of my blog’s birthday.

Kristen's grandma holding her dad as a baby.

(that baby is my dad)

That put Grandma was on my brain, and I was reminded of something she once told me: “No matter how little money you have, you can at least keep your things clean. Soap is cheap!”

third day naturals bar soap

I think she was actually relaying something her mom told her, so this goes back to my great-grandma, a lady I barely got to know.

Kristen great grandparents, in a black and white photo.

(I’m guessing she was a kindred spirit, though!)

Kristen's great-grandma

Clean = a cheap luxury

I like the idea of self-respect inherent in this advice; you might not be able to have fancy things, but you can at least enjoy the luxury of having clean things.

I can imagine that in those lean years of the depression, keeping things clean helped my great-grandma and my grandma maintain a sense of dignity.

Kristen's grandma and grandpa in 1954.

And in a situation where you have more time (and elbow grease!) than money, cleaning can help you feel a little more in control of your life situation. It’s something you can choose to do.

Kristen's great-grandma, holding a baby.

Throughout my life as an adult, I have often thought about this advice, particularly in our leanest years.

A new, fancy thing doesn’t feel too great when it’s dirty. And by the same token, an older, not-fancy thing can feel pretty good as long as it’s clean.

For instance, our little basement apartment was no great shakes, but keeping it clean and tidy helped it feel pleasant.

Your car might be old, but if you keep it vacuumed and you clean out the trash, it will feel much more luxurious.

Your deck might be old, but if you scrub it, it’ll feel much newer.

Deck boards in the midst of being scrubbed.

Your kitchen linens might be faded, but if you boil them and then wash them, they’ll smell like new ones.

How to keep towels and dishcloths sanitary

Your kitchen might be small, but if you clean it and keep things put away, it’ll feel bigger.

A view of Kristen's main kitchen wall.

Your bathroom floor may be old, but it will look better when it’s clean than when it’s dirty.

Your wardrobe may not be new, but your older clothes will look pretty good if they are clean and mended.

Really, anything looks better when it’s scrubbed and clean!

Decluttering is cheap too

Kristen's grandma and grandpa in 1945.

While my grandma didn’t say this specifically (she was actually a bit of a clutterbug in her attic!), I’d add that keeping things uncluttered also really helps, and as with cleaning, there’s not much cost inherent to decluttering.

In cases where your stuff is worth selling, decluttering can actually make you money! And if you stop buying clutter, that will save you money.

Kristen's grandma with her hands on her hips.

Decluttering can also help a space feel roomy, fresh, and new, which is not too shabby for a process that usually costs nothing.

And this holds true for your car too; cleaning clutter out of there is an immediate upgrade!

What could you clean or declutter?

Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I always find it to be helpful to think, “What CAN I do?” 

So, if you’re feeling a little discouraged right now because you’d love to upgrade your house, your car, or any number of your possessions, it might help to think about what you could clean or declutter.

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Friday 10th of September 2021

You are so fortunate to have such wonderful, clear, old photos in good condition. The genealogist in me has to ask if you have posted them (deceased folks only, of course) to sites, such as FamilySearch Family Tree or WeRelate (both free) to preserve and share with others? That would be a very generous gesture for your relatives and descendants. Best Wishes!


Friday 10th of September 2021

I haven't! My mom gathered my grandparents' old photographs and scanned them so that our extended family could all have access to them, but those are just hosted on a private drive for family.


Friday 10th of September 2021

Wow! Do you look just like your grandma in that second to last photo!!


Friday 10th of September 2021

It's so funny that until I wrote this post, I have never, ever considered that I look like my grandma at all!

But I can kinda see it, in the way her eyes crinkle up when she smiles; mine do that too.


Thursday 9th of September 2021

I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this post! What does it matter if you have a brand new car if you fill it up with garbage? Our 11 year old minivan is kept clean and tidy (or as much as we can with 3 young kids!) Tidy and clean makes everything seem newer and nicer.


Wednesday 8th of September 2021

Kristen, my parents were both "depression babies" and as such carried anxiety about money. They lived simply but the burden of financial insecurity shaped how they talked about money (only fear-filled, doomsday scenarios) On the flip side, they were minimalists, found pleasure in the simplest of things and loved us unconditionally. I carry both sides within me, I love to clean to control my stress and anxiety and also find it makes me love what I have, not want more. The anxiety of what if we lose our jobs, my pension etc still lurks within me, but I have a safety net they never had, an emergency fund and a retirement account. I remind myself how strong they were to face such difficult times growing up in the depression and then losing everything in the 70s (pension went under with the factory closing down) Now I am the age they were when it all went under. It is profound, the respect and gratitude I have for them, they carried themselves with such dignity and raised us to keep going despite the losses.


Wednesday 8th of September 2021

When my kids were little, we were poor--enough to qualify for Section 8 Housing (subsidized housing) and we lived in a city where many of our neighbors and the kid's friends were in a similar income bracket. All of our furniture was from garage sales or found for free, and our clothing often came from the free table of a local community center or from garage sales. However, everyone thought we were rich. Why? Because our house was clean, super clean, and well organized. That curb-side, garage sale furniture was cleaned and repaired/repainted as necessary. Our curtains were clean and opened to let in sunlight coming in from clean windows. Our floors were swept/mopped or vacuumed. Our clothing was clean and mended and even tailored (by me!) when necessary. This is all something I've practiced throughout my life, even now that the kids are out of the house and I own my home.

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