Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Make Do or Do Without

by Chiot's Run

I have always loved this quote:

What fabulous rules to live by. If you follow this advice you'll save tons of money and not end up with a house full of stuff you don't need. Mr Chiots and I try to live by this rule. When we first got married we didn't have a dining room table for several years, we simply ate on the sofa or floor. We had hand-me down furniture and a really old TV someone gave us. We have replaced most of these items over the course of the 12 years we've been married, but we've always waited until things have died before replacing them. Using things up can be difficult in our society that emphasizes hip, shiny, new and trendy. We look at magazines and watch TV shows and then notice that our old hand-me down sofa looks dated, old and doesn't match the curtains. We start to feel inadequate because our stuff looks shabby. I'll admit, we went through a phase where we bought some shiny new items, but that phase is over. Now when we think we need something we usually try to figure out something we have that will do the job. If we can't do that we try to find it secondhand or used. We only purchase new as a last resort (except in certain areas, like cordless tools, certain appliances and some business equipment).

We've saved a lot of money in our garden by using native rocks gathered from the woods surrounding our property to build our retaining walls, edge our flowerbeds and to use as stepping stones. Since we live on a very sloped lot, we need small retaining walls to help with erosion (don't want to lose all that hard work amending the soil). We could have easily bought stepping stones and retaining wall stones, but that would have cost us a small fortune. We invested some sweat equity gathering all these rocks (Mr Chiots bearing the brunt of that work). I think these look much better than the ones make of man-made stones. They're beautiful and FREE!

Using items you already have, instead of purchasing is kind of like a scavenger hunt. It's fun trying to think of things in a less conventional way to fulfill a need that you have. I have to laugh every time I make tea because we don't have a proper teapot, even though we've avid tea drinkers. Our teapot is a 2-cup pyrex measuring cup that gets used for cooking and as a teapot several times a day.

There are times when making do is a little more work than buying new. When we built and installed our rain barrel system we wanted it to be high so we'd have some water pressure and so we could store things underneath the barrels. We didn't want to go out and buy wood for the platform, so we tore out half of our deck and used that lumber. We didn't like the dimensions of our deck anyways and it wasn't build very well, so we killed two birds with one stone so to speak. Sure it took a lot longer and was a lot more work than a trip to the lumber yard, but we ended up with a studier smaller deck and a free rain barrel platform.

Wear it out - gardeners know about this rule. The garden is usually the final stop for those clothes that are no longer fit to be seen in public. Do I really need to say anything about these? This photo was take a year and half ago and these jeans are still in service, but barely. I'm sure they'll end up as something else in their second life after they can no longer be worn.

Do you have any great examples of living by this quote?


Amy said...

I too live by this quote and am pleased that I like living this way. I am freed from all sorts of stresses~ such as the idea of having to keep up with the "jones.'" We try and be self reliant in many ways. We grow most all of our own food. We heat with wood. We use passive solar and we buy all of our furniture, linens, clothes, fixtures, kitchen items etc... from places such as yard sales, Good Will, Consignment shops and Craigslist. We restored our 200 year old home with materials scavenged off Craigslist and yard sales. Even our clothes washer is a Craigslist item that we paid 25.00 for. We had bought 2 washers new in the past 6 years and they lasted no time at all. It was a waste of money. I guess you could say we recycle about everything. I wish I could say this has always been our choice but oftentimes it has been out of necessity. I like to think though that we will always choose to live this way. Please explain to me your water barrel situation. I am always trying to find a better way. Sorry for such a long reply. I'll get down off my soap box now. I appreciate all of your insights. Amy

Leann said...

I was just looking for this quote! LOL I love this post so much... it is RIGHT where we are living right now. We are trying to pay down our debt and be debt free by the time our oldest goes to college in a few years.

We have been married for 20+ years and still have lots of hand-me-down furniture in our home from our early marriage. We have very little in our home that was actually bought new. We are content with this lifestyle and even when we are debt free I don't see us living differently. Contentment is the key for us. :)

Thanks so much for sharing this!

Discs said...

It's true that it's so very hard to live by this mantra when every single day we are bombarded by advertising which try and entice us to buy the latest gadget.
It can seem very overwhelming trying to change everything all at once, so I feel very proud of myself when I do infact achieve some of those goals!Things such as redecorating a wardrobe destined for the tip or refashioning a pair of jeans into a skirt and deciding to add solar panels and the list goes on.
I am curious though, can you explain a little more about the rain water barrels and how you have put them together that you have in your yard?
Thankyou so much for sharing.

Fleecenik Farm said...

I think that you could take the zipper out of those pants and any rivets and use them as mulch for the paths between your garden beds. Sorta like hardware cloth but cloth that was worn hard:)

Rachel B. said...

I love books and usually will shop online through second hand sites or look in local thift shops. The cheap I've gotten books were used paperbacks 3 for $1 and the proceeds went to the historical soceity.
Today I installed a new switch in my broken lamp for $2. Beats buying a new lamp and keeps things out of the land fill. It was a five minute fix.
My computer is five years old and runs okay. I only recently had to buy a new keyboard for it because I fried the keyboard.
However I'm ashamed to say in the past few years I've bought four cell phones only to realize I missed the first one.
Within the past year, my spending habits have really changed. My values have changed. I'm buying less stuff from big box stores and more from thift stores and local places.
Oh, a great idea to get 'new' stuff is to swap with friends.

Goddert said...

Nice rocks. Unfortunately they are not as "free" as you suggest. The costs of their removal from the forest are likely include: lost shelter and breeding places for a range of vertebrates and in vertebrates; lost heat sinks where reptiles and amphibians bask to raise their metabolisms so they can get on with the business of life; lost habitat for lichens; lost protection from runoff and raindrop erosion; lost naturalness of the areas from which they are taken - to name just a few that spring to mind.
I'm disappointed that a blog that promotes sustainability would give the impressiont that it is OK to remove rocks from natural areas.

Joyful said...

Your post reminds me of how I have long made do even though it bugged others. For example, I never owned a proper toaster for many years. I didn't see the need for one as I made my toast in the oven on the rack and watched it to turn it over (that as in the days before I realized how much energy an oven uses). I also made do by boiling water in a saucepan for tea, rather than in a kettle. A friend bought me a kettle because he couldn't stand my "make do" idea, lol. That kettle lasted me about 17 years before it gave out. My towels have been used til they have too many holes and then I use them for rags for various things. My linens are the same. I also go long periods without replacing things as I look for sales prices and often end up buying nothing at all as there is often a greater need for the funds than what I want. Shopping at the thrift store is great too. I've found many items there that I can use. I haven't yet had any success finding things I need on Craigslist or freecycle though I check in there each time I need something.

Green Gal said...

GREAT post! I love it and thank you for the reminder :-)

Alex said...

I applaud your attitude and admire your determination to reuse and make do but I am upset to think this post may encourage people to take rocks from the countryside in the mistaken belief that there is no harm in it and that they are free. It may cost nothing to the collector but as Goddart has pointed out there is a price to pay. It's a cheap way of landscaping one's garden but not sustainable - imagine if everyone lifted rocks from nature or a rocky beach! I urge you to rethink this practice.
I am not posting this in a malicious way but out of genuine concern. Everything else you post about is great and truly inspirational.
Kind regards.

Ryan said...

Living in a rental house I got permission to remove a dog run and use the lumber make a garden. And now in the basement I am building my model railroad out of free materials since I know I will be tearing it apart when I move out.

My wife did not have enough flour for pastys so she made them with corn meal.

Ruth said...

I have this quote in my home management notebook. Today I was out and got a compliment on one of the two purses I own and realized that I've had it since I was a teenager (I'm in my thirties now). I just polish out any scuffs about once a year. My other purse is from a thrift store. The jacket I was wearing is a $1 yard sale find. Only in the last few years have I thought about how frugality usually = being more green, too. Last week I was planning to buy a couple of plastic laundry baskets that were on sale because mine are cracked around the handles. I cringed at the thought of the old ones going into a landfill. I ended up going home and fixing them with some duct tape. They are just for laundry, anyway, so who cares? It feels kind of liberating, actually :)

Kate said...

Goddert, is there any metal in your life? It was removed from a natural area. Any glass? It was made with materials taken from a natural area. Any wood or paper? Those trees were either taken from a natural area, or raised in a previously natural area now farmed for timber. And guess what? Trees provide habitat for moss, lichen, birds, insects, mammals and reptiles. If there's no stone, metal, glass, wood, or paper in your life, please point us to your blog where you illuminate us benighted masses about how you live your superior lifestyle.

Or was your comment merely parody?

Tree Huggin Momma said...

I wish I had access to rocks to build with. I would use them to build my raised beds, but alas I do not. I have searched and searched for a solution to my need for raised beds and the only one I can come up with is to buy new (but blemished - I will be buying seconds).
I have to clear my clutter, but I do love to keep things so I can use them again.

Hathor's Bath said...

Another possibility: get thee hence to a building site or salvage yard and stock up on bricks and stones which tend to be sold as recycled. I've managed to find some real bargains there in the past - ceramic tiles, massive old porcelain farm sinks, oak barn doors and suchlike.

While it is true that something always comes from somewhere, and the very act of living on the planet meant that someone else had to get out of the way for you to stake claim to your own bit, I also think it's worth thinking sometimes of ways to recycle what has already been taken out of the ground first, if possible, and reuse it, before being the first to disturb a permaculture. However, with that said, we all have the opportunity to live and learn, to teach and grow, and I would HOPE we could do so without being accusatory and pointing fingers at where one fails, but perhaps point out ways one could better succeed.
My tuppence in your own personal blogspace.

Jean said...

I love the idea of making do and doing without! I have done so for years in some ways simply because I haven't had the money to purchase new. I have grown up being looked down on because we did't have all the newest stuff. I'm excited that making do and doing without is becoming the new "normal". It should not be normal to rely on a retail chain for everything you need to survive. It should not be normal to be helpless without the power grid. True freedom is not having to live your life by the rules set by some marketing executive in a faraway city.

Chookie said...

There is no need to be rude to Goddert, Kate -- we all know that metal and so on came from areas that were once woods or whatever. However, they aren't woods NOW, and that's the difference. Bush rock removal is counted as a 'threatening process' in my state for the same reasons Goddert states. Rocks should be obtained from quarries or building sites, not pinched from bushland.

With that one exception, I think the Chiots are doing a great job at living modestly. I'm remembering when I married (16 years ago), when our furniture consisted of one bed, one two-seater lounge, one table and a fridge. Until we bought chairs (we bought new and cheap -- a mistake...) we ate dinner off a cardboard box. And we still have those original items, except for the fridge.