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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Near Death By Frugality: A Cautionary Tale

Every now and then, there's a story about how frugality--specifically do-it-yourself--doesn't pay. These are the tales of home repair that necessitate a call to the professional, plumbing efforts that lead to a flood followed by a ceiling collapse, falls and broken limbs caused by efforts to catch dropped items, and so on. These stories are exceedingly silly, because--of COURSE--some efforts at frugality fail, but in a lifetime of (prudent) choices, you save more with DIY than with not-DIY.

Today though MR FS--a DIYer to a sometimes ludicrous degree--came gasping into the house. He explained: "I put some soap and bleach in a bucket to wash the canvas window blinds. A weird film formed. Then I felt I couldn't breathe."

Somehow, I bet, Mr. FS created chlorine gas. There was no ammonia in the soap blend, so we don't see how this could be, but still...He donned a gas mask (!) and got rid of the offensive blend.

But those buckets! They are a sore point with me. I know I shouldn't complain, because Mr. FS cleans a lot more than I do, but...If Mr. FS had his way, we would have buckets in every room, with some article or other soaking in them. These would seldom be emptied, because the soap was still good and could be used for another item. YUCK! I frequently have to insist that a bucket be emptied and removed from wherever it has taken seemingly permanent residence.

OK. I've gotten my hatred of buckets off my chest. Aside from the fact that Mr. FS almost killed himself, this story is revealing in another way.

Both Mr. FS and I have moments of too-frugal mania. With Mr. FS this is his bucket obsession and his use of items beyond the "expiration" date. Those ancient blinds--which were in the house and then in the back building Mr. FS has fixed up as a study--were past the expiration date. i will not divulge my own maniacal moments at this time.

After making sure he was OK, I chided, "You should never have washed those blinds! I TOLD you I got replacements at Habitat last year and that when the blinds got dirty, you should get rid of them."

And indeed, last year at Habitat I acquired a set of never-opened roman shades from JC Penney's for $3.00 each.

So here we have the collision of two styles of frugality. MR. FS the DIYer and washer and Ms. FS the thrift shopper. Together we have frugal synergy. Usually. As today, we have frugal conflict, bickering, and even, near-disaster.

Go ahead and share your near-disaster tales. Also, are you a bucket person or not?


Duchesse said...

First, a burst of thanks that Mr FS is OK! Second thanks you pointing out DIY hazards. Our friend decided to refinish his floors himself. He did not ventilate properly and after inhaling fumes, died within 48 hours.

As for buckets filled with anything, ugh. One of us would tip one over or the cat would drink from it.

Tanya said...

I draw the line at anything that involves fluids or smells hanging out for extended period of time. Yuck!

Revanche said...

Not a chance, I love buckets (empty) or freshly filled with new water and soap for a new project but definitely not left standing. Mosquitos!!

EEE said...

Standing water is a bit yucky to me.

I COMPLETELY understand the I-can-get-one-more-use-out-of-this craze. It is so hard for me to stop myself, even when I know I'm being ridiculous! For instance, in my college cafeteria, there are insulated paper cups (like the ones at Starbucks) for coffee. I felt so guilty taking a new one every time I went (often two times a day!)that I began re-using them. It got to the point that I used a paper cup so many times it began oozing coffee out of its seam in the middle of class. Even with friends complaining/mocking me for my maniacal recycling tendencies, and warning me about the possible danger of chemicals potentially seeping into my coffee from the re-used cup, the I-can-get-one-more-use-out-of-this monster came over me and I used it until the cups until they were literally un-usable.

How do you stop yourself? How do you know how much is too much? It's hard.

In this case, it was simple. I got one of those insulated Starbucks thermoses. No more waste guilt AND hotter coffee! AND no noxious plastic liquids!

EEE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deja Pseu said...

Thank goodness he's OK!

My mother did the same thing many years ago...mixed ammonia and chlorine to try to remove some difficult spots from an ivory rug. She almost had to go to the hospital.

And standing, dirty, soapy water skeeves me out. I used to know someone who would keep the sink filled with tepid dishwater all day and just keep washing from the same batch...YUCK!!!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--What an awful story. We went on vacation while our floors were being refinished. The refinisher was a heavy smoker. Not sure how he was alive.

@Everybody--Mr. FS was offended by my description of multiple buckets. He wants it known that he is a one-bucket guy and that the bucket is usually empty. I hate buckets so much--perhaps I started hallucinating.

Shelley said...

I try to keep any yucky, messy experiments out the in garage, not in the house. Bill normally creeps along behind me and quietly disposes of them. It's not worth arguing about as I generally know he's right. No near fatal experiences come to mind, but we are choosing to pay someone to come along with scaffolding and ladders to paint the ceiling above our staircase this year instead of balancing precariously as in previous years.

I used to shop at a dented can place in the south side of Oklahoma City many years ago. There were also out-of-date items, some of which I would consider, others not. Two that I thought really scary were out-of-date contact lens solution; the other was out-of-date contraceptive foam. Talk about a potentially expensive choice!

Funny about Money said...

Gasp! That is a frightening episode.

What kind of soap did he mix in there? Normally what releases chlorine gas around the house is mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia. I'm very thankful that he's OK!

On a brighter note, I also came to a similar conclusion about blinds: they're not that expensive to replace. I used to drag my blinds down and clean them in the shower. Then realized that cutting my fingers and nicking the shower surround and generally reducing myself to a quivering mass of exhausted frustration was not worth it. Recently I noticed that one of the little strings on a venetian blind in a front window broke. I may try to fix it, but if's off to Sears for a new blind.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Shelley--if you saw our garage (a crumbling building with no floor) you would know that it is not a site for experiments. Mr. FS was outside!

@Funny--The soap blend was a mix of all our shampoos and stuff (a Flylady suggestion0. I think it was not chlorine gas. I think he erred in putting too much bleach in.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, sometimes ill-informed DIY can be a safety hazard. It's worth researching what you're doing first, I think--and is a fairly good way to avoid making chlorine gas!

This is one reason why I haven't delved into making my own soap (lye sounds like something nasty to have around and to play with).

Frugal Scholar said...

@simple life--Lye sounds so scary. Did you ever read The Autobiography of Malcolm X--a "conking" scene with lye.

simple in France said...

Malcom X and lye. . .yes, I did read that, in fact. It just adds to the scariness for me. The things people do and did put on their heads.