Frugal Style – Free Stuff

face1The New York Times ran a great article recently on the joys of being frugal. This quote from it – ‘The gleefully frugal happily seek new ways to economize and take pride in outsaving the Joneses. The mantra is cut, cut, cut — magazine and cable subscriptions, credit cards, fancy coffee drinks and your own hair. ‘

I’m not averse to spending money for pleasure, but  real joy comes in getting something really special and unique for nothing. The perfect Scrounge. 


When I look around the house nearly all my favourite things are pavement specials, other peoples cast-offs. The most recent treasure is a  sign I am having block mounted. Every second shop in Abu Dhabi is a barber shop, they’re all called salons (oftentimes saloons!). We could see one from our flat window that I particularly loved – Stars Gate Salon. When Gavin saw them replacing the sign with a new one, he rescued the old one from the dumpster. It’s vinyl, huge, and really beyond fabulous with a great pic of a younger, prettier Brad Pitt. Instant Pop Art.


Prettier Brad

Prettier Brad

 My tea chest table was rescued from a dustbin on rubbish day. A clean out, a coat of varnish and suddenly everyone wants it.


It pays to find free stuff.

It pays to find free stuff.

My herb garden is watered with a perfectly good watering can that was left on a building site, and the basil grows under the watchful eye of a plaster of paris face that was left on a side-walk. He’s weathered from gun-metal grey spray paint to pure white over the years (pic at top of page).

Cadbury clock

Cadbury clock


We had a book shop in Joburg and every day I told the time using the clock from the cafe over the road. When the elderly Greek owner closed up shop he gave us that clock and it’s one of my all time favourite things. I never look at it without thinking of him, or chocolate – a cool memory combination.


 Chickenman Mkhize was an eccentric artist and performer in Pietermaritzburg. He used discarded materials to create road chicken-man1signs, puppets and animals on wheels – and has become very collectable. Someone dumped this sign on a Joburg pavement when they moved from Afro-chic to minimalism and it’s now found a home in Sedgefield.

These things can’t just be bought. They all have a personal provenance, a story attached. It’s not just stuff, it’s a found object archive of our lives thus far.



2 Responses to “Frugal Style – Free Stuff”

  1. 1 shoreacres April 26, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I have a friend who “re-decorates” her home every year or so. She’s gone through Southwestern, urban retro, French Provincial, American-Gothic-meets-Earth-Child. You get the picture. Every time there’s a change, what’s there is gone, and what’s “in” takes up residence.

    Only problem is, her home says nothing about her. It only speaks of the design-flavor of the month. It’s lovely, in a Better Homes and Gardens sort of way, but sterile as can be.

    She’ll come into my little place, look around and say (lovingly, mind you, as you speak to a rather slow child), “You know, this place would look a lot better if you got rid of some of this stuff.” This “stuff” of which she speaks? Oil paintings by a friend now gone, framed in baroque gesso frames. Braided rugs from The Cabin, unfortunately also gone. Tribal masks from Liberia. Antique chamber set pieces. A soapstone carving of pigs from a Louisiana folk artist.

    She’s right that none of it “goes together”, but taken together, it’s my life. I rather like living in the midst of it, just as I suspect you take pleasure living in the midst of your found treasures.

    Yip, sounds as if the people having the real fun in your friend’s house are the decor designers coming up with the themes and ideas! I have a picture in my mind of your house – and it looks great.

  2. 2 May 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Love the Brad sign. Hold on to it. Might be worth a mint on ebay in 30 years time.
    Could be, Peter! I love those salons in AD, they’re barber shops straight out of another era – I’d really love to get a couple of those fab, big, red leather, reclining chairs they all use. I saw a few for sale at second hand shops, but the logistics of shipping. . .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 23 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 112,911 hits




%d bloggers like this: