Make it Do or Do Without

Minimalism isn’t necessarily about stuff…except when it is.

There are a lot of opinions out there on stuff, especially in the minimalist community. For some, the ultimate goal of minimalism is to own less stuff. For others, it’s all about owning the right stuff. And still others say minimalism isn’t about stuff at all. No matter what camp you fall into, one thing is certain – you probably own some stuff.

We have stuff too – not nearly as much as we once did but definitely more than enough, in my opinion. Some of our stuff is second-hand. Some of it was purchased new. And some of it, a lot of folks might consider to be downright OLD.

Our dinner plates were a gift from my grandmother in 1991. She got them back when grocery stores used to let you collect points to purchase things like dinnerware. My mom bought the quilt on our bed from a quilt shop in the Smoky Mountains sometime around 1996. I’ve resewed the seams at least a dozen times. But the oldest item in our home is also the one that we use most – our flatware was a gift given by First & People’s Bank to folks making regular deposits to their savings accounts in 1969! For the longest time, my mom kept the 32-piece set in a drawer in the China cabinet, still in the original boxes. When she gifted it to us in 2015, we put it right to good use.

But, before you think I’m only talking about our heirloom stuff…

The one television in our home is a 32″ RCA that turns 10 next month. My favorite winter boots – they just turned 10 last month.

Across the room, I can see the heating pad that Angie uses all the time. It’s covered in electrical tape and probably should have been discarded years ago. Then there’s the curtain that we turned sideways to give it a new look.  And the thing that started this whole train of thought in the first place – our vacuum cleaner. It’s the only one that Angie and I have ever owned.

Yesterday, as I was changing the belt on the vacuum cleaner, I started thinking about how often things are discarded rather than repaired these days. That led me down the rabbit hole of thinking about how often perfectly good things are discarded because they are no longer in style (or their technology is out-dated). Take that TV in our living room. It is heavier than a brick, can’t be mounted on a wall, has older-LCD technology, and is considered “small” by today’s standards. We probably should have upgraded it already. Except…it still works.

Same for that quilt. I mean, who in their right mind sits atop their bed and uses a headlamp to see how to hand sew all those tiny little seams that keep coming apart in the washer. Me. That’s who.

Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without is something our grandparents used to say. Basically, it was their mantra for saving money, because let’s face it…it isn’t ever really about the stuff, it’s about the money. Every thing that we own costs money. When we are constantly upgrading our stuff to keep current with trends or technology, what we’re really doing is running on a never-ending treadmill. We trade our time to a job to earn the money that it takes to trade for the stuff that we think that we need, and around and around we go. By learning to be content with what we already have – to make it do, or do without – we can step off the treadmill.

Yes, there will be times when we need to replace something we own. One day, I will have to break down and buy a new computer, but right now, I’m okay with one that’s only slightly faster than a turtle. It gets the job done, and in the end, that’s all I care about.

As a minimalist, I’m building a life that isn’t based on the amount of stuff I own (however large or small that amount might be). It’s based on how I get to spend my time. If I can lessen the amount of time that I have to spend chasing money simply by choosing to Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without, then I’m going to fix the vacuum, sew the quilt, and put another piece of tape on that heating pad. Every. Single. Time.

12 thoughts on “Make it Do or Do Without

  1. Great post, I hope more and more people adopt this mindset. The biggest reason for our environmental crisis is overconsumption and waste, if we can curb these habits that will make a huge difference. Most people need a little extra encouragement to change their habits though. Saving money is a good way to appeal to people to encourage change.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! Oh, I like you! I am so glad Essie decided to share your blog on FB. I had stopped looking at minimalism blogs because they had all…well, I’m just glad I found you.

    As for old stuff, I’ve gotten a knife, a spatula, some bowls and some other stuff that my parents owned when I was a child. My oldest laptop is 14. This laptop (my internet comp) is 6 I think. It is so nice to meet someone else who uses the stuff that they have. Thank you for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! We as a society have bought into this consumerism. Funny thing is those that make the least spend the most trying to keep up with what society says they need to have. We like looking around at our tiny home, our shrinking inventory of stuff and yes…treasuring the items we mended or fixed instead of replacing. Thanks for sharing. 🙏🏼❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right – the lowest wage earners do spend the most money on consumer goods (not including cars and housing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). I just finished reading a book called Broke, USA about the poverty industry. I had heard the term before but I guess I didn’t think about the fact that there’s a whole business sector set up to sell various products to those who can least afford to buy them, from cars to TVs to various services that are 100% rip-offs from the get-go. It’s sad that we’ve become such a consumerist society that such industries can exist…and thrive! Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally get the “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without” idea.

    I wouldn’t say we are minimalist by any stretch of the imagination BUT we do try to limit random, unnecessary purchases. We are trying to cut back so we can save for retirement and “practice” living on the lower income while saving the excess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, come on! You’ve decluttered like half a million possessions since we first started following each other. You have to be minimalists by now 🙂

      Seriously though, the idea to “practice living” for retirement is a great one. It helped us tremendously to prepare for whatever this thing is that we’re doing now (downshifting? early retirement? self-employment? unemployment? I’m not sure what to call it.) Whatever it is, I’m glad we practiced living with less while we still had more coming in. It really does pay off in the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m very much in the same camp. I think I’ve grown to actually enjoy “making do” with either the thing I already have, or making use of second-hand stuff. I think it comes about from deciding if I want to buy something, like tech or thing, that I don’t really ‘need’ based on how many hours I would have to work to pay for it, and then considering if I think it’s worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said! If more people thought about their purchases in terms of the actual number of hours they would have to exchange for this thing they think they want, there might be a lot more “making do or doing without”. Since I started thinking this way, there hasn’t been a new gadget yet that’s made it past the math. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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