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Thrifty
Some people are thrifty by nature. But Clarence Wong is learning the habit.

By Clarence Wong

Thrift is an old fashioned virtue. I think of grandmothers, meatloaf and crocheted rugs made from rags.
 
My partner, Jerry, is thrifty. He can't bear to throw things away, not even food past its sell-by date. Last summer, while traveling in Europe, he saved a half-eaten piece of baguette, carried it with him on the plane and toasted it for breakfast two days later. It was delicious.
 
Jerry saves paper clips, plastic forks and last year's Christmas cards. I make fun of him, of course, particularly when we're watching the TV show "Hoarders," but when I need something, he's my go-to guy.
 
Thrift can result in terrific art. I remember visiting an exhibit called "The Quilts of Gee's Bend," a collection of 19th Century quilts made by African-American women living in rural Alabama. These women lived in unheated shacks with no running water, electricity or telephones. To keep themselves and their children warm, the women made quilts from old jeans and discarded overalls. Using strips of faded denim and frayed corduroy, they created designs that had the power and inventiveness of abstract paintings.  
 
Today, with the prolonged recession and general belt-tightening, thrift is making a comeback. Also, there's a growing chorus exhorting us to compost and recycle.  Throwing away something means adding to the acres of garbage festering in landfills and oceans.  
 
Never one to miss out on a trend, I too have jumped on the thrift bandwagon. I specialize in reusing glass jars to store candy, nuts and dried fruit. Once I started, I couldn't stop. There's a population of jars spilling out of a shelf in my kitchen. I have jars of every shape and size and six of every one, you know, just in case.
 
A family in England has made it their mission to generate no more than one small pail of garbage each week. Everything else is reused, recycled or composted.
 
Thrift may be old fashioned, but, like the Beatles and Beethoven, it's a classic.
 
With a Perspective, I'm Clarence Wong.

Clarence Wong lives in San Francisco and works at a community health center in Oakland Chinatown.

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