“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”- Thoughts on “Making it Work”

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I lost a button off of my favorite jean shorts while filling our bird feeder last week. Luckily, my husband came to the rescue and found my button (he’s like a magpie- he can find anything!).  I’ve been busy with visiting company and teaching camp so it wasn’t until this morning that I had the chance to sew the button back on. This got me thinking of a favorite phrase from my Grandparent’s generation: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” For people growing up in the Depression this was a way of life. After the Depression came World War II and rationing so people continued to “make it work.”



 Somewhere along the way our culture lost this “make it do” attitude. Today we seem to see things as much more disposable. Skills our grandparents had have been lost to our youngest generation. Most schools no longer offer home economics type classes. I’m definitely not an expert seamstress- I don’t even have a sewing machine (I do want to learn!)- but I can sew on a button and mend things when needed. 

It’s not just with our clothing that we have a disposable mindset. We live in a society where we can eat off of paper plates, use plastic utensils, drink out of plastic cups, cook in disposable aluminum bakeware, wipe with paper napkins, and clean up the kitchen with a Chlorox wipe. I’m not saying these things are evil or not useful- think picnics or parties- but for many people this is the everyday norm. We don’t evenexpect our appliances to last

When my husband and I were first married he walked in on my darning the small holes in the toes of some of my socks. He got a worried look on his face and asked if I needed money. I laughed and said “no!” He was horrified thinking his wife couldn’t afford socks- I could easily buy new socks but knew these were still good and didn’t want to waste them. To me, mending, darning, using cloth napkins, and “real” dishes isn’t about cost. Sure, it saves money, but it’s about not creating waste. I also think that when I spend time to make things last that I appreciate them more. The care I give to my things makes me feel connected to not only my “stuff” but the generations of women who came before me. When I sew a button I think of my mother teaching me to sew. When I launder cloth menstrual pads I think of my great grandmother and am appreciative of the modern conveniences I have. 

I worry about the disconnect we feel as much as the waste and lack of frugality. I don’t want to become a person who mindlessly accumulates stuff. Lord knows I already have enough stuff. Taking care to mend a pair of shorts or darn a holey sock reminds me that I already have what I need and should wear it out. Then, when I really need something replaced, I can shop for the perfect replacement guilt free.


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1 Comment

  1. jennifer v.
    July 23, 2013 / 3:58 pm

    Great thought…unfortunately i am one who has fallen into the category of carefree using. I dont use paper plates and stuff everyday but when we eat outside i do use them so I don't break my dishes. I definitely don't know how to sew and will toss things with holes in it. I think that it would be great to have your mindset and be as thrifty as you.