Sunday, July 12, 2009
Use It If You've Got It
We grew up in a household where the soapy dishwater was reused from dirty bowl to dirty pot until the suds were all gone. Our dad followed us around the house turning off lights, reminding us that "a penny saved is a penny earned." And my grandmother provided us with our own CSA, of sorts - acres of garden that produced vegetables, berries, herbs, and even popcorn all summer and fall. My mother (her daughter-in-law) never knew what would show up at our doorstep from week to week, but she knew that there would usually be a lot of it, and it was her job to use it to feed our family.
In that spirit, I bring you the first of many posts about using what we already have - in the kitchen, in the garage, in the playroom, or wherever you see fit.
My son is almost 18 months old. This means that he'll play with just about anything, and if it's "real," it's better. In other words, a real (old, used) cell phone is much better than the toy phone that we bought him, even though the toy phone speaks to him in three different languages and has many colors and shapes. Same goes for a real camera, remote control, or even play food. We have a little kitchen and shopping cart for him, but the real joys of playing kitchen or grocery store come with the used containers we've given him - emptied egg cartons, coffee cans, berry containers, and cereal boxes. My mom promises me that these games will become more sophisticated and ultimately last for years to come. My latest trick for places like church, boring waiting rooms, and long car trips comes in the form of an old wallet that was falling apart. I placed used-up gift cards, laminated coupons, etc. (something sturdier than paper, but nothing fancy - even old playing cards would do), and he loves to take them out and put them back. This can be a great counting game as he learns to count, and eventually he could learn to put playing cards in numeric order this way. The best part is that all of the toys are free, and would have been destined for the recycling bin or the garbage can had we not resurrected them.
Speaking of using things up, I should give a little update about our CSA (community-supported agriculture) experience. It is wonderful. We have so much enjoyed the fresh fruit and vegetables that we receive every week, and going to pick up the box from the designated neighborhood site is a little bit like a community-building event. This week, we've been blessed with another family's box - friends that are out of town on vacation. The same friends asked us to water their garden while they're away, and to harvest anything that's ready to eat. It's zucchini season, so between the garden and the CSA, we've had zucchini pasta, zucchini bread, and zucchini cake. I've enjoyed the challenge of using up the contents of an extra box, and everything has been delicious. We've acknowledged my husband's southern roots with some squash casserole and broccoli casserole, but we've also had our share of simply steamed or stir-fried vegetables as well. I haven't tasted green beans this good since my grandmother grew them. If I had to decide right now whether we would repeat the CSA experience, I would definitely sign us up again.
In planning for the church book sale, I've been reminded about the community resources provided by http://www.craigslist.org/ and http://www.freecycle.org/. Freecycle is only for free items - members post what they want, or what they have to give away, and a pick-up is arranged. We gave away a mattress using freecycle a few years ago, and we were amazed at the interest it generated. And Craig's List, as you undoubtedly know, is basically a local area-wide garage sale online, all the time. We're advertising our book sale on Craig's List, and I was surprised at how many free items are listed there as well. If I'm looking for a specific item (particularly a children's item), I'm much more likely to search for it on Craig's List or at a local consignment shop, rather than search garage sales for it.
So, go use what you've got! And if you can't use it, get rid of it to someone who can!