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What I Learned While Living With My In-laws…

April 9, 2011

I don’t think that anyone really wants to go and live with their in-laws. Not for the weekend. Not for the week. Not a month. We did it for 8 months while our house was being built. In fact, this is the second time we’ve done this. J and I lived with her parents 14 years ago while our first house was being built. J was preg, and I was in the 2nd year of my job. This time, we brought 5 children with us, and ton of boxes, furniture, etc. You’d think it would be horrible. But, it really wasn’t. I liked it. I was glad that our children had the chance to spend a lot of time with their grandparents. Plus, we were able to save a ton of money during our stay. And, I have really nice in-laws. Plus, my mother-in-law can cook like crazy. Between her and my sweetheart, I think I gained 7 pounds…

But I was also able to learn a thing of two about finances while we were there. At no point did my father-in-law sit me down and try to lecture me. It wasn’t anything like that. I just had the chance to watch some things they do fro close up and I think their attitude about finances rubbed off on me a bit.

My wife’s parents were born long enough ago that they remember working on farms, not having toilets in their homes, cooking things on real wood stoves, etc. They saw financially meager times, learned to work, learned to save, and learned to make do with what they had. Those traits continue. I think there are some traits, characteristics, and practices that we’ve lost in our fast-paced, economically  driven society. Here are a few (just a few) of the things I learned about my in-laws…

  1. They almost never throw food away. Any scrap of food not eat is put back into a bowl, covered, and used again the next day. They either re-warm it, or add it to something else. If it can’t be used, or went bad in the back of the refrigerator, it goes into the compost pile, not the garbage. Very little food is completely wasted. Also, they have an incredible food storage system.
  2. Gardening is very important to them. Although my father-in-law is over 80, he works in his garden almost every day, weather-permitting. This isn’t just a little herb garden. This is a producing garden where we harvested enough corn for almost three families to store corn for the entire year. Add to that: potatoes, carrots, radishes, lettuce, peas, squash, beans, zucchini, rhubarb, plus apples, plums and apricots. All of this is eaten, frozen, or bottled. We rarely had a meal that didn’t include something from the garden. I bet we didn’t have any meals without something from the garden. They have worked that garden so many times that they know exactly which vegetables work, when to plant everything, and how to space it out so that the harvest is long
  3. They buy quality “stuff” and take good care of it. My mother-in-law gave us an old vacuum. You can tell that it was a bit expensive when she bought it. But that was 200 years ago. It not only still works, but it has all of the parts and nothing is cracked, malfunctioning, or broken. My father-in-law still has the industrial-quality metal buckets he bought back in the 60’s. He uses them multiple times a week throughout the summer for a whole host of things. They buckets are still in great condition, as is his roto-tiller, shovels, mower, etc. They spend adequate money on quality products, then take good care of them. In this way, they only have to but some items once…
  4. In many cases, they just make do with what they have. Whenever my father-in-law has to tie a tree to a post to keep it upright, he goes into his shed and comes out with a piece of twine, wire, or string that he has salvaged from somewhere else. He never, NEVER, goes and buys new string or wire. Why waste the money? Our little crib broke while were were living their and before I could jump into my truck to go buy new screws, my FIL had me out in his garage, going through old cases of screws trying to find one that would work.
  5. They work. Though both of them have been retired since before I came into the family, both have continued to work every day. Never a day off. Always chores to do, work to be done, something to be planted, harvested, fixed, set-up, or taken down. When it comes to finances, there aren’t many things more important than effort, discipline, and elbow grease.

Well, there’s more, but I won’t go into it all. It was a great 8 months. But now that we’re into our own house, I’m pretty excited to find a good quality bucket and start tilling the garden. It was a little amazing to watch people from a different generation and how they are continuing to live principles that seem to be fading away. And maybe that is one of our current-day problems when it comes to the economy….

So, what are some things you’ve learned from people from older generations?

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