Amy Sedaris: The New Face of Frugal Living


Amy Sedaris has a style all her own. She’s starred as a middle-aged high school student with a drug problem on Strangers With Candy, authored the ultimate guide to throwing an awkward party and has a habit of appearing on talk shows wearing some very bold swing dresses.

In her newest book, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, which comes out Tuesday, Sedaris gets in touch with her inner frugalista and offers an absurdist how-to guide for living the DIY lifestyle. She explains how to make jewelry out of coconut shells and how to use pine cones as ribbons for packaging gifts. But don’t ever ask Sedaris to make you one herself.

“Every project I take on turns out to be a disaster,” she tells MainStreet. “I always need help and a lot of it.”

While Simple Times is an over-the-top work of comedy, Sedaris may strike a chord with the many Americans who are trying to find creative ways to get by with limited resources. In fact, as she notes half-jokingly in the book, the one benefit of living with less is that you do have “a fortunate opportunity for creative resourcefulness.”

Sedaris spoke with MainStreet about the inspiration for her new book, the cupcake business she used to run part-time and what she would do if she had to live on just $1 a day.

MainStreet: Your previous book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, focused on tips for throwing a memorable party. What motivated you to switch from that to writing about crafts for poor people?

Sedaris: I have a small craft section in I Like You and I wanted to expand on that so I thought I would do a whole craft book and since I used inexpensive supplies I thought it would be good for the poor. The entire  book is just one big trigger idea so I hope people get inspired to create their own crafts and ideas.

MS: With that in mind, I’m going to say an item that many Americans probably have too much of, and you tell me what, if anything, one could try to make with it. Let’s start with peanut shells.

Sedaris: Use the peanut shells for fingernails. Place the open ended shell over a finger, use a red marker and color on a red nail.

MS: Okay, next: foreclosure notices.

Sedaris: Paper airplanes, stationery, or put them through a shredder and use it to line a cage.

MS: Last one: answering machine tapes filled with angry voice mails from debt collectors.

Sedaris: I would practice my hammering on these.

MS: Now, if you could only spend $1 a day, what would you buy?

Sedaris: Stamps, so I could write people and ask them to send money.

MS: I’ve heard that you used to run your own cupcake business on the side. Why did you decide to start it and what did you learn about running your own company?

Sedaris: I'm always trying to sell something. I stopped selling my cupcakes because cupcakes are everywhere now and the price of butter and milk are too high. If you are going to run your own company out of your home I say "no repeat business" "cash only," "don't call me, and don't expect anything." You have to run it like a dealer would.

MS: Finally, I realize this is a serious question to end with, but I’m curious if you feel like America’s sense of humor changed at all during the recession, and if so, how?

Sedaris: I don't know the answer to this, but my sense of humor hasn't changed and it seems to me that people want to laugh more now than they ever did.

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