Monday, May 16, 2016

The Ragman Fallacy

Throwing things away has been hard for me for years. I felt I almost had a moral imperative to keep things that were still in a usable condition, whether I needed them or not. I was not a hoarder - I didn't have that much stuff - but the consumer mentality was very far from my mind.

"Waste not, want not." "Be a good 'Ragman,'" Berg admonished in his Letter of that name. In it, he went so far as to say, "God will hold you accountable not only for every word and deed wasted, but everything you wasted and threw away which you could have saved or given to somebody else who needed it!"

Is that where this idea came from? More dregs of cult teachings rising to the surface?

Only this past month have I realized how ingrained that attitude of scarcity was. I was downsizing, and I needed to get rid of years of accumulated things.  

First, I wanted to sell or give things away. That worked for a while. Then, when I had no more takers, I started to think... I live in a wealthy country where if someone needs something, they usually just go to the store and buy it. Not so much me. I rummage about and make do with what I have: a daughter's left behind clothes, a son's old track suit, 20-year-old kitchen utensils, etc.  

Finally, the light dawned. If I don't need it, if I'm not going to use it, throw it away. I made numerous trips to the dump, where I witnessed other people throwing things away as if it was completely normal. Something no longer needed? No need to keep it.

Such a basic concept. But not a basic concept for one coming out of years of cult-imposed poverty and scarcity.

This is not to cast aside all frugality. In the cult, we had very few personal belongings. I lived out of a suitcase, and I learned to improvise. Economizing, saving, and avoiding unnecessary waste are still worthy qualities. But no more unwittingly clinging to over-the-top parsimony and being weighed down with unneeded stuff.

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