We talk a lot about what we need to acquire and purchase as people who live the various lifestyles of prepping, homesteading, and the combination of the two. We talk about what we shouldn't buy as frugal people and sustainability learners. Somewhere in the middle though, we need to understand that we need to get back the phrase that most of us should live by.
"Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without."
That phrase hangs on the wall of my office in the form of a printable. I look at it almost every day and sometimes I still forget to apply it. However, the kids were gone for two and a half weeks on vacation with their father's side of the family this summer. I found myself unconsciously living that phrase.
I only bought groceries once while they were gone. I went back to the store the day they came back. Otherwise, I was going through our food stores and seeing what needed to be eaten. I would set those items on the kitchen counter in an effort to remember to make them my supper. I always have plenty of food in the house so going to the grocery store wasn't a problem. Plus, the garden was producing a lot of strawberries and radishes which supplemented a lot of meals.
However, I have been trying to take this saying a step further. We are incredibly wasteful as people nowadays. We think we need a lot of things. Sometimes I fool myself into believing that I don't have a lot of stuff until I don't have to do laundry for two weeks. I have plenty of clothes and I purge them regularly. I donate to our local thrift store who has so many clothes now that they run a 'buy one get one free' every Wednesday and usually 1-2 weeks before they switch clothing for a new season. This speaks of the excess we all have in our homes and lives that we can purge that many clothes and still have plenty to wear. Yet, I think I need a few more summer shirts because I know I am hard on my clothes (or forget to change them when I get home). I become unsatisfied with my wardrobe and want something new (to me) and fresh. The reality is though I don't need it.
We tend to buy a lot of things in order to be prepared or to have just in case. While there is nothing wrong with having things on hand to be prepared, it can be taken too far. For some people, shopping is therapy or a way to deal with stress. We get our paychecks and think we need to spend it, but we justify the spending on purchasing things we think we need for ourselves or our homes. We don't always make thoughtful purchases but buy a lot of cheap junk. We think we need to own items instead of borrowing or renting them. This is the case whether you are a prepper, homesteader, or just a regular person. We think we need things, but we don't consider the purchase thoughtfully or carefully.
In case you think I am pointing fingers, I am pointing them at myself too. I get caught up at the $1.00 bin just as easy as anyone. I see a clearance and think I need to check it out. I researched carpet cleaners this last weekend and just about made a 45-minute trip (one way) to buy one before I remembered that our local grocery store rents them out for far less than I would have spent in time, gas, and a new carpet cleaner.
The mindset I need to get back to is one of an intensely frugal person. When money was extremely tight for me, I didn't spend a dime without sweating over the consequences. My budget was tight, narrow, and had no wiggle room. This really forced me to use up things, make do with what I had and do without a lot of unnecessary items. It forced to bring my skills to the forefront and learn how to do a lot for myself. My cooking from scratch skills really became honed during this time. I mended or got my mom to mend a lot of clothes for me. I found out that my kids' paternal grandmother was an excellent patcher and could fix a lot of woven items.
The issue with that mindset, however, is that it is born of necessity and often circumstance. A lot of people can do it, but it takes some doing. Living this way requires self-discipline, skills, and some determination. We need to learn to make do with what we have or do without. Honestly, I think this is the only way we will survive in the future. We have lost a lot of skills or haven't been taught skills that would have been second nature to a few generations past.
A time could be coming in your life (or already has) where you will need to learn to make do and use your skills. Now is the time to learn them. You need to learn to make do and learn skills now because learning them on the fly when you are going through a hard time is difficult. You are better off learning and practicing skills during the good times because you have the wiggle room for mistakes. You won't take a financial hit as bad now as when money gets tight if you make a mistake. You won't be scrambling for supper when your experimental supper didn't work out.
The real key to the 'make do or do without' mindset is the daily decisions you make every minute of every day. The conscious decision to make toast instead of buying a donut. To make coffee or tea before you leave for work. Using up a brand of coffee or tea you don't like instead of throwing it away and wasting it. Learning how to cook cheaper, tougher cuts of meat instead of buying a steak. Sewing the hole in the seam of your shirt instead of running out to buy a new shirt. Planting some lettuce in a planter instead of spending money on the stuff from the store.
Your daily decisions make all the difference in your mindset. Your creativity comes into a close second place. You need to be a thinker and look at all possibilities to solve a problem. You will need to be creative in order to fix things or make do. Recipe substitutions come to my mind. Another is using alternative materials to make a cage or a coop for animals. Using 10# cans to make a rocket stove. Using a sturdy stick to make a new handle for a rake. Making a shelter with items from your vehicle or the surrounding area.
People do really struggle with the 'make do or do without' mindset. Mainly because this mindset is not for the lazy or undisciplined. You have to be willing to put in the work to make this work. Unfortunately, most people don't understand that until it is too late and they are forced to. Like I said, a lot of skills are lost to our generation and younger generations.
Eighty-five years ago, during the Great Depression, people already had a lot of the necessary skills to live and make do. They weren't too far removed from the days of no electricity (If they had it then. Not all did.). There was no technology like we have now. They used their time more creatively and were used to working harder. We have become soft, lazy, and too used to having information and entertainment right at our fingertips.
With the technology we have now, there is so much information on the internet about how to do anything and everything. We have so many tools to show us how to learn so many skills, but we still don't unless we have to learn them. There is no excuse to not learn any skill you need or want, but you should learn them now before access to this information is restricted or even gone. We are being increasingly censored and given only the information the powers that be want us to see. You want this information in your head and hands now.
The 'make do or do without' mindset can be hard, but with some time and practice, you will feel it become second nature to you. You will just naturally look for solutions that do not involve spending money or purchasing unnecessary items. You will just use your creativity and skills to solve your problems instead of running for a new thing or throwing away a perfectly good item. You may also learn to be content with what you have. All of this will lead to living a simpler life.
And you may need all of this down the road someday. We never know what is coming.
Thanks for reading,
You Have Lessons To Learn From Those That Survived The Great Depression
"We Just Did"