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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Frugal Fanatics: Is There Any Limit for Work Pants?

By Mr. Dr. Frugal Scholar.

Dr. F.S. is taking a well-deserved break, so she said I could post one of my marginally helpful musings on frugality.

Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether I have gone over the line from frugality to psychopathology. And it doesn’t help that so many others are eager to vote for the latter, even my beloved frugal spouse, who thinks that some of my habits and routines are immoderate. But frugality is not just about saving money, it’s also a sort of mental discipline: Zen frugality.

Case in point: my work clothes. My work clothes belong to the lowest of complicated clothing cast system, and are generally culled from the third and final tier of my “general house and lounge-about” attire (not to be confused with my “go to your average store” attire). Work pants, I think we can agree, are for working, and as such I see no point in washing them—at least not until they can stand up by themselves.

Here’s my argument: when I garden, or do any other sweaty, grubby work, the pants get dirty. If I put on a new clean pair the next time I go out, they too are going to get dirty each and every time. However, pants that are already dirty will stay relatively clean—relative, that is, to their initial condition. So what’s the point of wasting time, water, electricity, and effort to wash work clothes after one, two, or more wearings when re-use contributes to the cosmic cleanliness quotient? (I just made that phrase up.) When I garden, I am the king and only subject of my domain: it’s not as if I’m going to an important meeting or can offend anyone but myself. And once I put my old clothes on they feel just fine, however disreputable they may look. And I don’t see how one can object that used work clothes are danger to one’s health. (Paradoxically, donning such clothing might even promote good health, since, as medical researchers have found, keeping children too clean prevents them from developing antibodies, and I don’t see why the same should not apply to adults.)

I have to admit that I like putting on my used clothes. As my friend Henry David Thoreau says in Walden, “Every day our garments become more assimilated to ourselves, receiving the impress of the wearer's character, until we hesitate to lay them aside without such delay and medical appliances and some such solemnity even as our bodies.” (Sometimes, after a few weeks of hard use, it does seem as I’ll need medical appliances to get them on—and off.)

So am I a fanatic? I think not, since I’m not only saving myself time and money, but I’m helping to save the world as well. An overstatement? Perhaps, but I’ve done some quick calculations, which demonstrate conclusively that if everyone reused work clothes the way I do we would save enough energy to light Tickfaw, Louisiana for 625 days. So why not be the Mother Teresa of your garden as well?

Bonus test. See if you can put the following photos in sequence. One is of my work pants after two wearings, one after ten wearings, and one after another 15 hours of very hard use (spring work: on my knees weeding and digging and grubbing happily around).

Answer (I know this part should be upside down): the first is after two wearings, the second is last, and the third is the middle. (Pretty sneaky, hunh?!) So how much longer do you think I can keep going?


Mrs. Jane Doe said...

I don't know. I think you may have a few more wears out of those yet! ;O)

Great Post!

My husband has a pair of work pants and shirts that he uses just for working out in the yard and garden which they get washed immediately after use but then...that is just me. He would whole heartedly agree with your thinking.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Duchesse said...

Answer to your question: Till your wife tells you you're not making her life a blissful existence.

A few things to consider:
1. When clothes get dirtier, it's harder to get them clean.
2. When you exert yourself, you sweat. You do not have to produce rivulets for your clothes to pick up your body odor. You might not smell yourself (or your pants, hanging in the house) but others will. How pleasant is that?
3. It's a slippery slope. Man who enjoys donning dirty clothes is but a dirt clod away from letting his ear hair grow into explosive tufts and refusing to launder his bedding because he 'takes showers in the evening'.

Chance said...

I share your philosophy, my garden pants are not washed until Fall. My clean pair now awaits the first baptism of dirt. I used to think it was a gender thing (and as a woman, I was Really Weird) but now that I have disclosed my dirty secret to female friends, I no longer feel so alone, many others do this. The garden pants are supplemented by the garden shorts, and the shorts stay a bit cleaner as the dirt sticks to my skin at the knees. I do shower every day....great post.

Vicky said...

LOL! I don't think you should wash them till they stand up by themselves.

I do wash my work jeans and shorts along with the regular laundry. My bad habit is to wear them until they fall into shreds.

My very favorite work/painting jeans were the last pair of Wranglers ever made that fit a grown woman in the waist AND the fanny. When they wore so thin that spots were threadbare, I sewed patches on them. The patches got patches on them. Finally they just fell apart in the rear end.

Alas. Rest in peace (or pieces), li'l Wranglers.

{Why does Blogger say "you do not own that identity" when I try to sign in as Funny about Money in the "OpenID function?}

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

I dunno Frugal Scholor.....I have a few pairs of pants that look a lot like this in my barn that I wear to work in the yard. What????
Their still held together by a few threads and are still perfectly good as far as I'm concerned (despite Prince's disdain for them, lol).
I say wear em til you can't wear'em any more!! You go you thrifty lady you. You're an inspiration :)
Happy Easter to you and your beautiful family and I hope the bunny dude drops you plenty of eggs...the chocky kind......the other kind would be......well, kind of gross, no?

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Frugal Scholar said...

Mrs Jane Doe--Hope you're having a wonderful weekend too. Thanks for stopping by.

Duchesse--Generally, my life is quite blissful!

Chance--This is all making me want to garden.

Vicky--that's what happens when you have multiple identities (as I do).