What causes our collective obsession with all things free? Despite the age-old adage that you get what you pay for, we clamber, especially us Americans, for anything given gratis.

As I have pared down my worldly possessions and moved into a space about the size of a Belltown studio apartment, I now avoid the free stuff. My freedom depends upon it.

Case in point: Fedora Day at the Mariners. I do not generally have a head for hats. No matter the type or style, I tend to end up looking like a chemotherapy patient. While my friend Su looked smashing in her free blue Fedora at the game, I was all ears and chin. In the restroom I met a young woman working at the game, who lamented that employees were not eligible for the giveaway. I took the hat from my head and handed it to her, and she was overjoyed.

After I gave my hat away ...

After I gave my hat away …

Su seemed surprised by my actions, but I explained, there is no room in my microcosm of a world for free stuff – especially free stuff that does not suit me. Nevertheless, in the old days, before moving into Nellie, I would have held onto that hat for years, uncovering it a decade or so later in the back of the closet during a Spring cleaning.

Last week I was shopping for groceries at Fred Meyer when it was announced over the PA system that a free giveaway was occurring in the furniture section. The Great Exodus from the produce department occurred before my eyes. It was as if Moses himself was leading the charge for the no-charge. Note, it was not specified what the freebie was; it did not matter. Free is free. I gleefully skipped through the produce section all by myself, gathering up my asparagus and cherries, unmolested and undisturbed.

Last weekend I attended a wedding, where the wedding favors were adorable little wood bird houses, all individually decorated and hand-painted. “What a sweet little memento for my little home,” I thought momentarily, until it dawned on me that the memories of the wedding were all I needed, or wanted.

At times I find it hard enough to control the things I purchase. I won’t add to my burden by piling on the free stuff too.