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.