Sunday, October 9, 2016

Poor and Pretty Living

Library of Congress: Baking bread using 1920 Potomac Electric Appliances

The lower my income gets, the harder I work to live on my reduced resources. It is a challenge to make home look pretty without any money. There is tremendous labor in preparing homemade food when you cannot afford the convenience or take - out version.

We can bring homemade touches to our humble homes. It is so nice to have a beautiful environment at home. It makes cooking and cleaning more pleasant.

I have a full length white curtain in one of my doorways.  It adds charm to a spot where there is no door in this old 1800's house.  When some of our shades, on a few of our windows, became unusable, we put up some panel curtains found in an old box. This was a way to give us some privacy in the evenings without spending any money.

Over the weekend, I visited one of my grown sons at his job. He works at a beautiful Vermont Inn and Restaurant. On his break, he walked the grounds with me.  He showed me beautiful varieties of roses growing by a large arbor.  They looked lovely on the Vermont landscape.  The owner suggested he cut some of the flowers for me. I was delighted.  I took home a pretty pink rose and a bright red one.  It was as if someone had given me a priceless treasure.  These now sit in a small white vase on my kitchen window sill.  It is a touch of class and beauty because of the story behind them.

I have often seen homes of the wealthy.  They have landscapers do marvelous things with their property.  There are often amazing designs and lush gardens.  I have also seen homes of the middle and lower classes who have beautiful flower gardens.  I have never had such things on my property because, frankly, I do not have the money for mulch, soil, plants or seeds.  A solution for the poor, I have found, is to enjoy wildflowers that cost nothing! (It is also possible to buy seeds for these on clearance at the end of the season for as little as a quarter. Using expired seeds the following spring often works just as well.)  This makes one's property look what is commonly called, "Shabby Chic."  The beauty is in the words and the attitude! This helps one to love what one has and to be content.

I have a few old aprons that have been worn down from years of use. I need to make a new one with some charming fabric I bought some time ago for a special occasion.  The work in making the apron provides me with a happy satisfaction.  Wearing a homemade, pretty apron is a lovely way to keep house.

With recent health trials, I have gotten out of the habit of wearing a nice necklace and doing a bit of dressing up as I do my homemaking duties.  As we face living in poverty, I want to do a better job of presenting my home with class and style using what I already have in my wardrobe. This reminds me of something I recently read about American patriotism in war time.  Many families of means did not buy new clothes even though they had plenty of money. They were told to save resources for the war effort by using what they already had or making things over with what was at home.  These mothers and girls were used to buying a new dress for every social event that came along. They would have a full season of invitations in society and had to dress the part.  How wonderful for them to take their current clothes and do a little sewing to remake them into something new without spending any money!

These days we can take the time to repair our clothes such a sewing up a little rip in a sleeve, or tightening a button on a sweater.  We can make our clothes stay pretty and nice with our own hands.  This costs nothing.

I have a lovely blue sofa in my parlour that needs recovering.  That is simply impossible. Instead, I have placed a beautiful delicate sheet, which I inherited from my mother, over it. It looks homey and sweet. This is part of living poor and pretty.

Setting an elegant table can be done by using regular place settings at the kitchen table, rather than having everyone eat at a coffee table in front of television.  If a formal style dinner can be done at least for the evening meal, it will boost morale among those families living in poverty and cheer them along.  These formal dinners can be simple foods like cornbread, fried potatoes and beans. It does not have to be fancy, but the setting of the table, and the use of dinner napkins, saying grace, and sitting all together is what makes it precious and special.

Many more people than we realize, these days, are living poor. We can make it pretty and almost fun with creativity in our days and the use of our time.

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

Please be one of these - A Wife Who Does Not Complain.

Have you Joined the Group? - Mother's Benevolent Society.

Happy Times - Walking the Gardens with Baby.

Mrs. White's special book for Homemakers - "Mother's Book of Home Economics."

- To find out more about this blog, or Mrs. White, please visit our About page. -


Theresa said...

What a beautiful post. I am a social worker and see poverty daily. It is so disheartening to see poor people living in squalor. They do not have to, they just seem to have given up on trying to maintain a clean home. One can be poor but still take pride in their surroundings.

Laura Jeanne said...

Mrs. White, I always enjoy your posts, but this one was especially enjoyable for me. Not only because I gleamed a few good ideas from it, but because it is comforting to know we are not the only ones living poor. We are committed to the idea of me staying home and homeschooling the children, but it is difficult indeed on one income, especially during times when my husband's hours are cut back at work.

I take comfort in knowing that although the way we live is not up to today's standards, it was quite common in almost every generation past. And I enjoy having to use my creativity to get by.

Regarding having a garden, may I suggest that next spring you have a look at the dollar store for seeds? My dollar store carries a variety of seeds for only 3/$1.00, and they are just as good as seeds from a fancier store. Once you grow the flowers once, you can save the seeds year after year. Marigolds and snap dragons are two examples that are so easy to grow and save seeds from. And, if you can make compost from kitchen scraps, you don't really need any other supplies to garden, except perhaps a watering can. Just a suggestion! I am a very enthusiastic gardener myself (vegetables, flowers, and medicinal herbs) and I am always trying to get other people to grow things too, as I get such joy from it. :)

Helene said...

I am composting this year and hope in the spring to spend as little as 20 dollars to have a box of flowers and herbs by our house. It feels great to do something economical and handy!

Elizabethd said...

Forward planning is often a help when living on one income. We plan our garden, and grow our own vegetables, and as your previous lady has said, seeds can be saved from one year to another. There is something very satisfying about picking a couple of zucchini or a tomato or two from one's own garden.
A few wild flowers, or even pretty leaves, make all the difference to a room.

Anonymous said...

Thank you , Mrs. White. This post is meaningful to me. I undersatnd not even having a few dollars for plants and mulch. Seeds can be purchased fairly inexpensive, but one must factor in watering. I take full advantage if any wildflowers and pinecones. I don't really "craft", but I set up simple centerpieces or a little something in the bathroom counter.. Our budget has just become much tighter on an already very humble income .

God bless you

Southern Ladye said...

I enjoyed this post very much! Our pastor just taught a series on finances God's way and he encouraged all of us to work on getting out of debt and living within our means, which has caused my family to tighten the financial belt and live by an old fashioned budget. New things are temporarily out of the question, so we must make do with what we have. Decorating for fall is a big deal at my house and I don't have a fall centerpiece for my table.... so I made one with a simple basket full of apples, sitting on top of a pretty white doily. It is very homey and fall, and didn't cost me anything. I am now looking for ways to decorate my tables for Thanksgiving this year without spending money for decorations.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. White,
This post was such a lift to my spirits today and I thank you for it. It seems no matter how hard we pinch and plan it is just plain hard to make the budget work. As of 2008 when we saw so many of our friends lose jobs and homes we have prayed that things will turn around for people. I thank God everyday that we have a roof, a car that runs and food in the house. We realize so many are hurting. I found out today that there are 400 children in two local schools in a back pack food program. Their only decent meal comes at the school lunch hour! Now, I had been whining to myself this past weekend about how middle class America is disintegrating and my family with it but when I heard about these hungry children I snapped right back to being grateful. We have our needs met, not our wants. I have to remember that when I gets a case of "the wants". Bless you for being such an encouraging writer. I look forward to all of your posts.
Mrs. L

Lisa said...

Thank you for this beautiful and incredibly inspiring post, Mrs. White. I am praying for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. White,
You essay was beautiful and exquisitely written, as always! The thought struck me that despite your financial circumstances, your spirit and light are miles above the poverty line. Your inner resources are much richer than many who might consider themselves "wealthy", despite your circumstance. Please keep your light burning and providing inspiration for many kindred souls.
With deep appreciation,
Mrs. Rose

Anonymous said...

P.S. The name of your blog post would make a wonderful book name! (Smiles)

living from glory to glory said...

I read such integrity and warmth in this post. You have written the very core of what makes a house a home. And you are helping us all to learn to appreciate all the things we do have. And we are wasting so much that it is a shame. I admire your outlook and determination to count your blessings and take care of what you have! Love, Roxy

Mrs. Laura Lane said...

Father God, I thank you for the influence of Mrs. White in my life. We have lived in reduced circumstances and American poverty, but you God always bring us through. Encourage us Lord and help us to do with what we've got. I ask financial blessings upon the White family. Father, please give them ideas and streams of income from many sources. Give them checks in the mail, gifts and surprises, finding money, bills paid, fuel for winter paid for electricity and water paid for in Jesus' Name! Amen

Hugs to you Mrs. White!
Mrs. Laura Lane
Harvest Lane Cottage

Anonymous said...

If you have not done so already you might ask around for snips and starts of plans others already have. So many plants , trees and bushes can be started this way for free. Also knowing they were first in a friends yard makes them even more special. Perhaps they can give you a piece of rosemary, mint or such too to aid in your cooking?
We were taught that being poor is one thing but looking disheveled another thing. There was no reason to act poor. Our school teachers took the girls aside and taught us to make sure our school clothes were washed , ironed and mended. There was nothing ever wrong with hand me downs. She also showed us how to use a pin at the shoulder seam in our dresses to catch our slip strap to keep it in place and many other feminine teachings. She also encouraged all of us to help at home.
I was raised poor and never have had much money but even though we went without or made or reused or bought used we always got the best of what we could afford. Why buy a used blouse for 25 cents that is faded when you can find one that looks new? And when that blouse is too hold to pass down and only good to use as a rag always save the buttons for another use. You know all of this already I am sure.
Many people are poor in spirit and that is a shame. Our homes poor or not are so much better than homes women have round the world. No matter how humble, our homes to them would be like a castle. I remember this when I am feeling a bit down. Yet I read of women all over the world that have only what would fit into a nap sack to make a home and do it with grace. Food , shelter and clothing {and God} are what we need in life...the rest is extras but appreciated by our souls as God made this world for us and all that is in it.
I pray you will have the things you and your family need and that your husband will get stronger and well. Sarah

Patty B said...

I loved this post! My husband and I have been living a "Depression Era lifestyle" for many years now because of our reduced income. We are both retired and living on a fixed income (and not much at that). My husband also has bone marrow cancer and even though he is in remission for the last couple years, the meds he must take to remain so cost thousands of dollars each month! In order to qualify for financial aid, we have to be at poverty level or below - definitely not a problem on our small fixed income!
Living poor can be a challenge at times, but not impossible. We also grow all our food, I save seeds (we only plant heirloom, non hybrid, open pollinated veggies, herbs and flowers), and we don't have all the latest gadgets and toys that society says we must have. I have found a lot of inspiration from reading homemaking articles from past decades on how to live cheaply. As Mrs. White says, it is a lot of work doing everything from scratch and the old way, but so satisfying! I have made lovely 1930's quilt patterns using little scraps of fabric, made homemade decorations from things I find in the woods (vines, bittersweet, pine cones), and cooked up satisfying but simple meals of bread and soup. We may be poor by today's standards, but we feel rich! It's amazing what a person can live without. We also barter goods and services from time to time, so no money is involved. And it is such a blessing when someone gives me something for free, or I find a real bargain at a thrift shop or yard sale. I once found a beautiful bathroom cabinet in a dumpster! The only thing wrong with it was that it needed a new knob.

Kristen said...

Beautiful and inspiring as always. You are my favorite spot in the Internet. I often come here and re read d posts on your blog when I am feeling discouraged And need a little motivation in my homemaking. Thank you for your lovely blog.

Stephanie said...

My sweet Mrs. White, your posts always bless and encourage me and this one has been an extra blessing. I agree with dear Roxy about there being a lot of integrity and warmth shared in this post.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart on this matter. Much love and swete hugs to you!

Tracey Cross said...

Some beautiful thoughts here and so much I can relate to as I try and create a lovely home on a tiny budget . Really enjoyed your ideas and perspective. Visiting from givinguponperfect Wednesday link up

Carol said...

This is a wonderful post. Lots of inspiration here in creatively leading a frugal life.

Anonymous said...

As usual you are so inspiring. I am blessed to live comfortably, but by no means rich. I enjoy trying not to run to the store all the time, and using what I have on hand. I have been saving to redo the floors in our home. Almost all the perennials in my yard have been given to me. If I see something I like in someone else's yard, I just ask them if I can have a few. They are always wanting to thin them out a little, or a lot! They are usually 6 to $14 a piece at the store. Coffee grounds and kitchen peelings mixed with grass clippings and leaves make a great compost pile. I know that taking care of Mister and your own health may make this difficult. There is something about a plain yard kept neat and clean that is so inviting as well. I have cut back on all the seasonal decorating that I used to do. I keep it simple, and I think it looks better, less cluttered. Blessings and thank you for all your inspiring posts. I have learned so much from you over the years. ~Diane

Deborah Montgomery said...

I also echo Roxy's comment. You are rich in wisdom, and patient and grace-filled in trouble. Blessings to you, Deborah

Jean | said...

Mrs White, whether one has a lot or a little in the way of money and things, they would do well to read this post. Just the matter in that paragraph close to the end would make the lives of so many families better. Sitting down at the table together, no television, no telephone, no electronic devices of any kind, and having conversation over the simplest meal is something that can change lives. Family members each retreating to a separate part of the house with a bag of takeout and a smartphone nourishes neither the body nor the soul.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post and thank you to all the writers who made comments. I am encouraged by all the writing in this post. You know those days when you throw up your hands and tell God that you are sick of feeling poor in spirit and checking account. Want to give up. And of course no one is going thru anything else like me. (Poor me :>). So I ask GOD to send me a sign and this is the post I ended up reading and then I decided to read the comments. Well I can see I am not alone. I am in good company of fellow homemakers, scratch cooks and seed collectors. I am refreshed. Many thanks to all.
Barb (not so anonymous)

Lori said...

I love the encouragement here. We don't have to spend a ton of money on decorating and I don't. I'd rather have something that was handed down to me or my father and husband makes me out of recycled wood. Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

Mrs. Laura Lane said...

Hello dear Mrs. White,

I just made a blog friend list on my sidebar, and you are on it!
Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

Deanna said...

Hello from the Kansas Prairie.
Always enjoy reading your blog.
May this phase pass quickly and there be relief in sight.
God bless,

Blessed Homemaking said...

What a helpful post, Mrs. White. I need ideas of living nicely while having very little. We have several blinds that are broken in many places--it looks so unsightly. How do you hang the panel curtains? I wish I had the time and money to sew some nice curtains for our home. Maybe some day. It is important that we learn to be thrifty while living on one income, and also to enjoy the beauty around us, such as the wildflowers you mentioned. We live in a desert, so it is hard and expensive to grow most flowers, but we do have some sweet wildflowers that pop up in our yard! I always tell people, "Don't pick the flowers!" :)

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog last year, and have been buying your books here and there as I can afford them. How refreshing it is to learn homemaking from a housewife in Vermont, who loves the Lord. So many books on the subject seem to be written by super women with unlimited means and very little Christian teaching. Please do keep writing, Mrs. White.

Mrs. A said...

You can create your own compost by saving your egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, banana peels, etc...non-meat items, and let them rot. And leaves--leaves are great!

I'd love to send you seeds and bulbs if possible. We are poor folks too, believe me...financially we are way way way below the poverty level..but God provides. We've been given things to transplant in, as well as purchased a starter here and there for herbs that have just exploded and been divided and given to others. We have many flowers, from mini roses to tiger lilies and irises and others that come at various times of season. I brought mints and other herbs with us when we moved here and they exploded. If you'd like, send me your address and I'd be glad to box up a bunch of things to share and add to your garden. :) abellaclan5 at

Row. said...

Such a lovely post, just reading this made me feel like I was in your home having a chat with a friend. I prefer cozy to fancy and this post made me feel so very cozy. and craving cornbread : )
I could read this post over and over and probably will. thanks for sharing.