Recently I received a second chance to “work with” my late mother’s stamps, not a rare stamp collection but two 3×5 plastic photobooks holding my mother’s “organized” stamps of various denominations. They were left in her desk, ostensibly to be thrown away after her death.
Frugal Farmer Gayle wasn’t going to discard perfectly good stamps that could be used to mail letters. I love mailing letters. Her stamps and I are a perfect match. I tucked them away in my hutch for future use.
Years later, opening a drawer, searching for a fingernail file, I stumble upon the two plastic photobooks, again. Oh yeah, I say to myself. These are a bunch of unused stamps. Let me resolve this task once and for all.
I remove the stamps from the books and sort them into piles by value: 1¢, 2¢, 3¢, 4¢, up to a $4 stamp. Now I wonder, why? What did a $4 stamp mail way back when? What does it mail today?
Today, a postcard costs 44¢ to mail; a letter costs 66¢.
(BTW, are you as thrilled as me the USPS created Forever stamps in 2007? At that time, a first-class letter cost 41¢ to mail, less than a postcard today.)
Preparing to mail a postcard, I search for stamps adding up to the exact 44 cents. In my search I notice that some, in fact many, of these stamps have already been used. They were once stuck onto envelopes, and those envelopes were mailed to my parents’ house, but the stamps looked completely fine and unused, so my mother took each one off its envelope and saved them to use again.
Oy vey! My mother saved stamps that were in “reusable condition” in her stamp stash!
My body begins to contort with energy and warmth that leads to my brain saying, WTF? Why? Why, why, why save 1¢, 2¢, 3¢ stamps? This is the definition of a crazy $ move.
And yet, in this moment, I am guided to pause and reflect. The cool part about our crazy moves is that they guide us to important insights and healing.
I mean, clearly, crazy stamp organization was not my only **reason for opening that drawer and finding those stamps. Given the intensity of my reaction, I have a rip to mend.
My breath softens and I slow down.
I become more curious about these stamps.
My mother’s face comes into my mind.
A visual of her at a desk appears: my mother sorting documents, reusing paperclips, saving scrap paper for notes. All “do not waste” actions.
Ah. There it is. No wonder I am sorting stamps and not wasting perfectly good stamps, even though my time and energy are worth far more than these tiny colorful squares with different pictures and numbers and values.
My mother grew up during the Depression. I wonder if her mother, my Nanny, also saved usable used stamps?
A quick review of this lineage and behavior might label it as “scarcity mentality.”
At first sight of it, and how crazy it looks, we might shake our head with an OMG or get a life. See my WTF above.
But when we settle in and look again, a bit deeper, we see more and feel more.
The story opens and humanity kicks in.
We notice, we embrace, and we accept that our lives are never the same, and we can’t view others or other situations solely from our own vantage point without getting much of what we see wrong.
I am not 100% confident about my view of my mother’s stamp stash practice. It might have been a form of scarcity mentality, born from the deprivation of the Depression. Maybe not. I don’t know for sure. Without further research I cannot name my grandmother’s situation either.
But today, with this wider awareness, I can lean into my actions and choices.
I can look closer at the stamps, used and unused.
I can choose to throw away the single digit used stamps and feel okay.
I can choose to use the remaining stamps of various values for letter writing… and perhaps include a funny line or two about the weird stamps that sent the letter.
I can choose to learn about frugality in a new way.
I can choose to love and appreciate my own crazy $ moves (not crazy, not really).
With reflection, acceptance, and deeper experience today, I strengthen my money move muscles so that when my next crazy $ move arrives, I am well equipped to respond, this is not so crazy!In fact, it is damn right loveable!
One more thing I celebrate today: I’m a total raving fan of Forever stamps!