About Me

Life is learning. Life is change. Life is good. Life doesn't have to cost a lot. I want to make my life greener, healthier, and thriftier. And I want to enjoy doing it!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Things I Learned The Hard Way Part Three: Making Something From (Almost) Nothing

How do you define creativity?  Apart from things like composing music, creating works of art, writing ... I mean creativity in everyday life, creativity that adds something to your life.  There are creative cooks, gardeners, home decorators; there are people who can host a perfect party, or trim a perfect Christmas tree, or accessorize everything they wear with unique flair.

And then there are people like me.  People who can take something old, something worn out, something discarded, and turn it into something attractive or useful or practical.  People who don't have any money but somehow always manage to find or produce what they need.  And most of those people, like me, had to master the fine art of squeezing a loonie until the bird laid eggs.  People who've figured out, of necessity, how to turn that sow's ear into a silk purse, or a pair of slippers, or an Easter basket for a child.

When I was at my most impoverished  -  suddenly divorced, with a two-year-old  -  I discovered ways to turn other people's trash into our personal treasures.  A broken umbrella picked up from the side of the road became a colourful kite for trips to the park.  A discarded roller skate, a slightly bent freezer basket, and a couple of wire hangers combined to make a doll carriage.  A huge garbage bag of old jeans and shirts hauled home for a dollar from a yard sale?  All those clothes were carefully picked apart at the seams, and the fabric became overalls, shirts, and dresses for my daughter.  The pieces that didn't metamorphose into child or doll wardrobes went into a quilt for her bed (stuffed with clean, shredded old socks and pantyhose), stuffed fabric holiday ornaments, quilted potholders, patchwork cushion covers, stuffed toys ... not a scrap was wasted.  Zippers and buttons were traded to a seamstress friend for spools of thread; even thread trimmings all went into stuffing.  Odd half-skeins of yarn from freebie boxes at yard sales went through my corking spool to become braided bath and kitchen mats  -  unless the yarn was cotton; then it was knitted into dishcloths.  Frayed bath towels were quartered and hemmed to become kitchen towels or facecloths, and when they wore too thin to use they were shredded for toy or cushion stuffing, or layered and quilted for hot mats, oven mitts, and potholders.

Tuna cans were carefully bent and shaped into cookie cutters, or used as individual muffin or meat loaf pans  -  the perfect serving size for a small child!  The skeleton of that aforementioned broken umbrella made a great hanging drying racks for socks and other small items.  A yard-sale laundry hamper became a patchwork-covered toy box.  The lids from two large cookie tins were used for baking sheets; the bottoms made good casserole pans.

We'd make a game of it, sometimes.  What do we need?  What do we have that we could adapt or re-work into what we need?  What can we find that could turn into a good whatever-it-is?  What is this, or what was it, and what can we make with it?  A stack of outdated swatch books found next to an upholstery shop's dumpster  -  bonanza!  Tapestry shopping bags, silk patchwork pillowcases, satin Christmas ornaments and velvet stockings, a colourful harlequin costume for Hallowe'en!

The point  -  and it took me a long time to realize this  -  is that being cash-poor doesn't have to make you feel poor; penny-pinching doesn't have to feel like a chore.  There can be a lot of fun in being creative with whatever resources you have.

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