Above is a picture I snapped in between Lunchables and math work at the local laundromat this morning. For the last year and a half, we've done our wash in between cleaning up kids' rooms and getting dinner ready, but yesterday, I discovered a literal pool of water drenching our hallway carpet. Thank goodness we didn't throw in the load and leave, as is so often the case. Our washing machine went kaput, and unfortunately, at the end of the week, we're all nearing the no-man's-land of an empty underwear drawer, so off to the laundromat we went this morning!
Make Do and Mend is one of my favorite phrases, because it has meant a lot to me over the last 9 years of being married and going through financial stress at times during that near-decade. Honestly, we have done so well for getting married extremely early in life (19 and barely 20!), having kids very soon after, buying and selling a house, managing a rental property, moving across the country, and numerous job changes and a managing a significant health issue.
Writing that out is proof we've really been blessed by God with provision, peace, and perseverance.
I love knowing that the idea of Make Do and Mend came from this historical document, in the midst of WWII. From the article, "Readers were advised to create pretty "decorative patches" to cover holes in warn garments; unpick old jumpers to re-knit chic alternatives; turn men's clothes into women's..." The reason I have such affection for this phrase is because it assumes one can't be bothered to wallow in the stress and lack of poverty, rations of the time, or a season of less, but instead learn resourcefulness, thriftiness, and creativity within the boundaries that have been forced upon.
What does this look like in now, though, in 2014?
So many of those basic skills have been lost to the majority of our culture because, oh, we have a hole in our sock? Throw it out, get a new 10-pair pack at Walmart for $5.99. Shirt have a small stain on the front? Donate pile is to pile high, get it out of the house, make room for the Cheap Newer, Trendy Now, This Season things. When I realized our family has a real need for mending, and making do (i.e. "deal with it, you're not getting a new one", ahem), I realized how satisfying it can be to be to fix instead, and not to have to spend hard-earned money, throwing something still useful, away. USA Today says that 11.1 million tons of clothing goes into landfills every year. That, alone, is conviction to me.
We have very small wardrobes. You've probably heard that most of us wear 20% of our clothing, 80% of the time. Our family is slightly different simply because we have less space for more clothing. My kids share an underwear + sock drawer, and have one drawer to themselves for their clothes. My husband has a couple drawers for all his clothes and since I hang up most of my clothes (hello, dresses every day), I get the closet. I could fit all of my clothes into one Rubbermaid tub, and that's all season, minus our winter jackets, mittens, and hats. Small space living means honing in on that 20%, and making sure that every item that comes in is truly worn, making the 20%, the 100%.
Here are a few of our practical, easy-to-adapt ways our family practices Making Do and Mend now:
- Blown out holes or elbows: fabric patches sewn on. (if you don't sew, you can iron them on, but they may fray over time). Look up darning or mending on youtube. Get a needle and some matching thread. We're talking under $5 for possible a year or more of use. I've even repaired Victoria's Secret bras with a needle and thread. No way am I paying $50 for another new one.
- Sell good but unused clothing on ebay. "Trade" for name brands. Too much work to upload to ebay? Consign at a local boutique.
- Scour your local thrift stores. Gems, people! Hem inside arms, length of body, and/or waistline. You would not believe how many awesome shirts Stefan has found at the thrift store for dollars, and a few minutes of me cutting, pinning, and re-stitching.
- Shop ebay, and lower your expectations on color or newness for pieces that don't hold priority, but are necessities. I have bought brand-new Keens, Athleta dresses still with tags, etc. on ebay for 50% or more off of the store prices. Do kids need to have a specific color of their choice on shoes? Um. Not unless they're paying for them!
- Barter work, food, or a service for something you want, locally. We have a great bartering relationship and friendship with a family here in Blaine. We use their extra car when we need it, and we take care of their dogs when they need us. We save tons of money by not having to rent a car, they save tons of money by not having to kennel them for long periods of time. Service and time, for a needed item! Perfect.
- Fix broken toys. Wood glue, gorilla glue, or a needle and thread for that hole in Barbie's dress. Toys are cheap (and yes, you can find BAGS of Barbie clothes at thrift stores, too) and more than likely most of them will break over their lifetime. Don't throw them out because of one broken piece. Take 15 minutes, access the problem, and fix it. We have an ongoing 'fix it' basket on our desk.
- Edit to add: Get books for free or very cheap by scouring the thrift stores (you would not believe how many great books, bestsellers even, I find at thrift stores. The second thing is we are heavy users of PaperBackSwap. You send books to others for the cost of shipping--usually around $2.50, you get books sent to you for free. There is also a CD & DVD wing to this organization, but I haven't used it.
- Edit to add: Try to fix broken appliances yourself via youtube first before calling someone. By posting our problem on facebook, and sending out a quick 'mass email', we got a local repairman's number now for future reference, and someone who had the same problem (Thanks, Opa!) tell us to google + youtube it, probably an easy fix. Stefan saved us a LOT of money by fixing our washing machine after a google search and a youtube video, and a bit of time. Awesome.
What are some of the ways your family tries to pinch pennies by getting creative? I would love to hear how you "Make Do and Mend" in this day and age!