I love the old pioneer saying,
"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without."
Some might call this attitude, "Provident Living", which is another way of saying "Making use of your resources". I was thinking about this recently as I attended a local "Quilt Shop Hop", where quilt shops had special sales, free patterns, drawings, giveaways, ideas, etc. I went to several of the local stores, and had a lot of fun looking at beautiful and cute fabrics, quilts, tools, etc. I find the quilt kits interesting. You can buy a stack of co-ordinated fabrics all from one line, designed to make a quilt. I think we have to be careful to remind ourselves that we don't have to buy a matching line of fabric to make a beautiful, warm quilt. Taking assorted scraps, cutting them, and stitching them together can make a quilt just as beautiful and warm, and it will be much more creative also. The challenge is in looking at the scrap quilt as something that is "handmade" (seen as valuable) rather than "homemade" (seen as not valuable). The big difference between the two is attitude. You can view your actions as worthwhile, or you can moan and groan and complain that you can't buy the matching line of fabric, and be dis-satisfied with anything else. It is a choice. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with buying the kit of matching fabrics and making a cute quilt from them. That is fine if that is in your budget and gives you the look you want. I am just saying that if you make a quilt from scraps, that is just as valuable, and maybe even more valuable.
My grandma was a quilter. She would take whatever was available and make it into a quilt. I remember her afghans that showed how frugal she was. She would take old men's wool suit coats, cut the fabric into squares, crochet around the edges, and sew the blocks together to make an afghan. Or she would take a torn sheet-blanket and do the same. Her afghans were warm and attractive, and used things that others might have thrown away. I don't think it ever crossed her mind to complain that she hadn't bought new fabrics; she was making good use of something that had worn out, and giving it a new life.
There are lots of ways of "making do". It is different for each person, since each person has different resources and different skills and talents. I have had some practice at making do as a stay-at-home mother, trying to raise a family on a limited budget. It has become even more necessary since my husband lost his job. I find the key is to focus on what you do have and what you can do, not on what you don't have or can't do. There is a difference between cheerfully making do, and feeling deprived. Let me give you a few examples.
Recently, I was part of a group in charge of providing food for a breakfast meeting. I didn't have the money to offer to provide juice, or a main dish, or anything I had to go to the store and buy. I did, however, have a good supply of baking ingredients in my pantry. I offered to make homemade cinnamon rolls. Nobody knew that it was an economy offering, they all enjoyed the rolls. Now, if I had made excuses, or complained about that being the only thing I could afford, it would have taken away some of their enjoyment, and it would have made me focus on a negative idea. But because I enjoyed offering the cinnamon rolls, I think that added to their enjoyment of them.
Another example: tonight I made a potato dish that my family enjoys. The original recipe calls for small red potatoes. There is a reason for this, because you boil the potatoes, then put them on a pan and slightly flatten them with a potato masher. Then they are brushed with olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and baked until golden brown. Red potatoes have a good texture for this recipe, and hold together well. I would think yukon gold potatoes would be really good for this as well. But where I live, red potatoes are generally much more expensive than russets, and yukon golds are even more expensive, so russets are what I have. Russets are what I usually use for this recipe. My family doesn't know the difference. Sometimes they have a potato that is kind of falling apart, but they don't care, because they enjoy the taste of these potatoes. If I was apologetic, or complained about not being able to afford red potatoes, it would take away their enjoyment, and mine as well. If I insisted on having red potatoes before I would make this recipe, we would all miss out. By making do with the russet potatoes, my family was excited to see a favorite dish on the table, and we all enjoyed our dinner.
There are thousands of ways to make do, and all depend on what resources you have. When I am invited to a baby shower, I look through my stash of fabric, and make a blanket and burp cloth, or an outfit, or a baby quilt. A friend of mine searches her shelves for food staples to use for wedding gifts. A bag of flour, one of sugar, a bottle of oil, a few other odds and ends, and she has a thoughtful wedding gift. The bride doesn't know that this was her gift because there was no money to buy a gift. Internet websites are a good source of recipes for homemade versions of convenience foods and seasoning mixes that put good food on the table for pennies. Putting a few seeds in the ground can yield fresh, flavorful vegetables for very little cost. Making needed repairs can teach you a whole new set of handy skills. Last week, someone complimented me on my dress, which I had bought 3 years ago at a thrift store for $1. We enjoy a movie at the local "dollar theater" just as much as the movies we pay full price to see. My vase full of apple tree prunings is just as attractive as the decorative sticks available at the craft store. You can have a very good life while making do.
Why would you want to make do if you can afford other options? Making do does save money, but there are other reasons to make do even if your budget is more plentiful than mine. Making do is very earth friendly. It focuses on conserving resources, minimizing waste, finding new uses for things. There is something satisfying to the soul when you make do. You learn, and grow, and become more creative. Life becomes fuller, richer, deeper. You are more connected with the process of living well, and come to realize what the important things in life are. It is like emotional exercise. Just like you feel your muscles and physical abilities grow when you exercise, when you make do, your abilities and talents grow. That is the kind of life I want, whether my budget requires it or not.
"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without."
Let's make this the motto for this century, too.