Time was when Americans used to be frugal. We took great pride in not being wasteful, and taking nothing for granted.
Perhaps our pioneering roots and turns into economic depression left a lasting impression on us concerning the relationship between effort and reward. Perhaps that alone caused us to consider more deeply the cost of things — whether with our own labor, or in paying for things from others.
But as the 20th century proceeded, and fossil fuels drove production, everything became cheap, ubiquitous and disposable. Soon, nothing seemed to cost much, nor mean much. Cranking the heat in winter while wearing shorts, and going bare footed with a tank top on was no big deal because the bill was low and the living was easy.
But gone are those days, my friend.
The new frugality
With so many of us out of work or barely scraping by, the time has come where the relationship between things is pretty clear cut again. That’s why conservation of all sorts — from energy use to driving less to reusing things rather than buying new — is all the rage again.
And with these new challenges we have to find ways to get places, keep warm, stay cool, and have what we need without stressing out about it.
So during the cold and wintry months ahead, let me advise you to again consider the lowly blanket.
In my house my husband runs a tight energy ship. We have two heating and cooling zones, upstairs and down, which allows us to keep the thermostat low when we’re upstairs sleeping, or downstairs working during the day. Never but never is the winter heating allowed to go above 68 degrees during the day. And in all zones it’s kept at 63 or lower over night.
We have an elaborate ritual of closing our black out curtains when the sun goes down to preserve heat, and opening them with the sunrise to capture passive solar during the day. This alone has shaved our heating and cooling bill by about a quarter in all seasons.
But I’m from a race of cold-blooded women. Oh we’re nice, sweet even. So not that kid of cold blood. But we’re always shivery and cold, even with me starting to “go through the change.”
And so enter the humble blanket.
Wool is best
As it is I love to collect wool blankets. My favorite are Pendletons, in case you want to send some to Lindsay’s List for us to product test.
But back to basics. When I’m working in 68 degree conditions I am, frankly, cold. It takes a sweater, scarf and lap blanket to keep me warm.
When we’re sitting around the dining room table, either to eat, or while my daughters are doing their homework, we’re all cold. So I’ve taken to putting a blanket on every chair in the house.
On the couch, on the comfy chairs, on the office chairs, on the dining room chairs there are blankets. Everywhere you look we’ve got top quality wool blankets and afghans (many acquired inexpensively at Goodwill or requested as gifts) which has helped make it a habit to turn to blankets instead of the temptation to bypass my husband’s heating limit rules to tweak the thermostat. That especially applies to the kids, who are now on board with the blanket protocol, at least in part due to the snuggle factor.
Upping your blanket supply
It doesn’t take a lot to start collecting blankets. First, there’s no real worry to getting them second hand. Get them disinfected or dry cleaned if you like, or not if you’re not so fastidious. If the blankets come from family or as hand-me-downs from friends, you can decide if you have to go into hospital sterility mode or just trust that the universe isn’t delivering you a small pox blanket.
Check eBay, Etsy, and above all, church sales for excellent quality vintage and new blankets. (Forget those light, microfleece pieces of nonsense. They don’t keep you warm in a well-heated house and they sure wont keep you warm in a time when energy scarcity is in force.)
Once you break out your blankets or acquire some new ones, start putting them everywhere. Find colors you like to add to your decor. Individualize so that each family member feels there’s a blanket that belongs to him or her.
Model your blanket use so that when friends come over to your frigid abode, they think nothing of donning one of your blankets, or bringing their own.
A small footprint, a warm body
Conservation that helps the environment begins with the simplest and in many ways, painless act of doing with less energy. Substitutions are often inexpensive, long lasting, and easy to integrate into your life. In the case of more blankets, you get all that and being cozy, too.