“Do Without” by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.–October 2017

In our last blog, we looked at the first part of the Depression Era slogan which holds such relevance today– Make it do: Do without: Use it up: and Wear it out.  As stated, we are going to examine each part of those life-saving catchwords and see how, in today’s economy, we can employ that phrase to our advantage.  During the Great Depression, people worldwide learned smart budgeting by following each of those four shibboleths; and with a bit of insight and self-discipline on our part,  we too can learn to DO WITHOUT.


In High School,  I was just an average C grade gal, but during my Junior year, I found a book which taught me how to study and it changed my grades and goals.  The title of that book escapes me, but it held five key concepts  to better studying and learning (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review)  which I believe can apply to doing without.  So for this article, we will examine doing without by using SURVEY, QUESTION, RELEASE, REARRANGE, and BE RICHER  because as Warren Buffet says, “If you buy things you don’t need, you will soon sell things you {do} need.”  And just as I improved my grades, you too can apply SQRRR to get you through the rough times and help build your savings.


To define “SURVEY,” the dictionary states, “To take a general or comprehensive view of.”  One could also say, “To get a feel for what you really own, have, and need.”   When I would survey my reading/studying assignments in high school, I would go through all of the pages to get a general count and notice what questions had to be answered. I’d look at how difficult the reading was, the black print, and  the paragraphing.   Just an overview: That was all.   The same principle applies to surveying your possessions and home. Walk through your bedroom, kitchen, pantry, and any area where items flow in and out.  Now make a mental or paper note of what you are lacking.  Likewise see what an abundance you do have and consider this SQRRR assignment as an excellent Catholic journey in living without.   And as you do survey your possessions, give thanks for many live with nearly nothing.


In my SQRRR study pattern,  the “Q” stood for “QUESTION“, and to question was simply that.  “Why is this assignment so long?”  “What is that dumb looking picture in there  for?”  “Gee that fellow is handsome.  Wonder what country he is from?”  Responses like that.  Here are a few questions you might ask:

Your Closet–Why is my closet so stuffed?  Do I really need all those shoes?  Which ones don’t I wear?  Gee, my husbands underwear seems full of holes.  Wonder if I should buy him some more at Costco?

Your Food Locker–Now switch to the pantry, and ask yourself similar thoughts.  How old are those spices?  Ugg!  Time to let that five-year expired parsley go.  Wonder if I could use those sardines in some kind of crock pot casserole?  Now which cookbook would have a sardine casserole in it?

Your Collections–We all have them be they the dusty bucket of yellow softballs in the garage corner, or the cow, rabbit, and bluebird of happiness collection scattered around the house or nesting in a glass-front cabinet.  The same questions remain.  Must I keep these?  Do these things bring me pleasure?  Could they better benefit someone or something else?  Could I let them go?


Our first “R” in the original SQRRR study method stood for “READ” (Gotta read something to understand it!); but in our SQRRR model, RELEASE is the third step in doing without.   Yes, by letting some of  your possessions go (after you have questioned their usage), you become keenly aware of what remains–food, clothes, and all of our other scarlet-stuffs.

Start by doing a forced releasePick ten garments and ten cans of food,  and  give them to charity.  By doing so, it becomes even clearer what you need and want.  So put first things first and release what you can.  Personally, I’ve also found that by releasing, it helps me strengthen the things that remain as Revelation 3:2 states (NRSVCE), “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.”


Our second “R” in the original SQRRR study method stood for “RECITE.” That meant to close my study book and verbalize out loud what I had learned.  In the same fashion, you will want to take what remains in your home, closet, and pantry and “REARRANGE” it differently.   For example, I have found that with only half of the clothes I used to have (RELEASED), I have more clothing choices and I’m  using what is left with more imagination.  I’ve even started asking my husband to pick out what he wants me to wear and have discovered different combinations.  Michael has put together scarves, shoes, tops, and bottoms I didn’t even remember I had.  I’ve acquired a definite rearrangement without spending a penny.

With your household goods and furniture, try putting them in new places.  Just make sure to point out to your significant other that you’ve “rearranged” so he or she doesn’t sit down where no chair exists anymore.  By releasing then rearranging you will feel empowered to DO WITHOUT.

  Be Richer                                              

The  fifth and final “R” in the SQRRR study method stood for “REVIEW”; in our plan, it stands for “BE RICHER.”  How can giving your stuff away increase your riches?  What I have discovered by interviewing many frugal millionaires is that “being richer” doesn’t have anything to do with what you spend; it’s all about what you save and already have so that you are living UNDER your means, not above them.   Yes,  Saint Paul likewise had the right formula when he said in Philippians 4:11-13,   “11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. “

So give part two, DO WITHOUT,  a try.   It is astounding  what doing without will do for your faith.  For by doing without, you give God a chance to show His provisions.

Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author

The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less