“These days, social platforms celebrate repurposing as a novel and trendy idea. That’s fine, in my mind, as long as the concept is getting good press. However, let’s remember that while repurposing isn’t always Instagram-worthy, it’s still worth doing.”
Part 4 in a 5 part series. Start the series with Part I, Refuse.
My Aunt Dode has been a green hero to me since I was a child. Her home was magical. There was the chicken coop, where I could tiptoe in and gently slide my hand under a warm, softly clucking chicken and withdraw a warm, beautifully brown or greenish blue egg. I wandered up and down long rows of her immense garden, marveling at vegetables I’d never seen, dahlias bigger than my head, or pausing to pluck an impossibly large and sweet marionberry off a vine. One of my favorite things were surprise objects all over her property — old leather work boots with succulents playfully spilling out; tires splayed open and brightly painted as pots for massive tomatoes; and colorful kitchen rugs that looked suspiciously like braided and crocheted plastic shopping bags from the local grocer. There were wind chimes made from antique blue glass bottles, cast iron feet from an old chair now holding up an ottoman, and my Uncle Elliott would be in the backyard taking worn out metal lawn chairs and weaving new bright nylon seats and backs on them and giving them a fresh coat of matching paint.
While all of this was new to me, it was old hat to Aunt Dode and Uncle Elliott. They’d been children during the Great Depression, and resourcefulness and the ability to find two, three, even four uses for a single object increased not only their survival, but also their ability to enjoy life. As a child, Dode had lived for a while in an abandoned train car. Grandma had papered the inside with cheerful newspaper pasted on with flour-and-water glue, so it was brighter inside.
These days, this type of resourcefulness is a trend. I hate to tell you, Pinterest, but people have been planting hen and chicks (succulents) in all sorts of unusual objects for decades. Our generation might call what Uncle Elliott was doing with the chairs “upcycling,” but people have been taking worn out objects and giving them creative new lives for centuries. At least, until the last generation or two.
The second half of the 20th century brought an unprecedented prosperity to America. People started tossing objects aside the moment they showed wear. Why take an hour to sew on a patch or lower the hem on a pair of jeans when you could buy a new pair while you were in town getting a burger? Manufacturers stopped designing objects to be easily repairable, and they used less durable materials. Increasingly, products became designed for niche uses. We had gadgets for every task, beauty serums for every part of our body. It became less expensive to buy a new item than to pay the local repair shop to fix the broken one. Some old timers abandoned their resourcefulness for convenience. Most people born during these decades didn’t realize there were alternatives.
These days, social platforms celebrate repurposing as a novel and trendy idea. That’s fine, in my mind, as long as the concept is getting good press. However, let’s remember that while repurposing isn’t always Instagram-worthy, it’s still worth doing.
As I’ve done in the other posts in this series, let’s take a look at some practical ways you can implement repurposing in your home:
At this point, you might be saying, sure, but what if I have zero creative ability and crafting is NOT going to happen? No worries, I’ve got you, my friend:
None of these things require a lot of thought or time to make happen, and are frequently fun! Also, you’ll find that as you find new purposes for things you already have, you don’t have to buy new items to do the same job. That extra money can help you with paying off debt, or taking a vacation. Best of all, every time you repurpose something, you prevent another new object from being produced and eventually tossed aside. The planet thanks you.