The Art of Making Do

This article will explore the careful assessment of minor disasters in order to cut costs and clutter.

How many times has something you own broken?  Hundreds of times?  Thousands?  I wonder what it would look like if we could follow the pathways of all of these broken toys, clothes, tools, and utilities.  What percent do you think were fixed, and what percent ended up in the trash?  I’d bet that in the vast majority of each of our experiences broken items end up relegated to the realm of garbage to be swiftly replaced.  I’m here to advocate something different and it starts with one important thing: patience.

Cultivating patience is hard.  In our society it is so easy to find whatever you need on a whim without any further thought or contemplation.  Patience requires mindfulness, and mindfulness in all things is difficult.  Being present and putting thought into our predicaments, however small, will eventually bring us more peace and wellbeing than giving in to our every fleeting desire.  If we approach these situations with patience, we can teach ourselves a few lessons:

First, we will increasingly value what was broken.  When my iPod recently broke, I missed the presence of portable music in my life dearly.  I spent a week missing my favorite tunes in the shower and found my morning routine to be missing its jubilant soundtrack.  I spent time on the bus staring out the window missing the ability to actually listen to the song that was bouncing around in my head.  Luckily my dad doesn’t often use his so he let me borrow it for a couple of months until I get an iPhone for my birthday.

Second, we will assess the impact of discarding the item on ourselves and the environment.  Mending clothes, fixing broken electronics, and generally favoring “reusing” instead of “replacing” is healthier for the environment on two ends.  Materials are not being harvested to make whatever will be replacing the broken item and the broken item will not take up space in a landfill and (in the case of some electronics) poisoning the environment as it does so.

Third, we will have an opportunity to ask for help.  Asking for help is so underrated.  When you ask for help, you bind yourself with whomever you are asking.  It can make you very thankful for their generosity and give you something important to share with that person.  Asking to borrow something frequently unused will often be met with generosity.  A good friend posted on Facebook this fall that her apartment was freezing so I gladly offered up a spare space heater.  Sure there are times I would have liked to use it this winter but knowing it was keeping her warm in her drafty apartment more than made up for the loss.

Fourth, you’ll find ways to purge your life of unneeded things.  When I had an iPad, iPod, smart phone, and computer I would sometime pile them on top of each other and feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of electronic internet-accessing devices that I owned.  Since I sold my iPad and my iPod broke, I’ll have the opportunity to simplify my life into having one computer and one phone/music player.

Fifth, it will give you time to shop around and make the best financial decision to remedy your situation.  I have become much pickier as to what items I am interested in purchasing in the last year.  I once would buy clothes or other goods because they were the only things available.  When you are able to be mindfully patient, you can wait until you find the perfect fit for your needs, meaning that there will likely be less waste and less clutter in the end.

And sixth, it will allow you to develop skills in fixing broken things.  Self-efficacy is wonderful and learning how to fix and mend things make you feel more efficacious and capable.  The only thing better than figuring out how to fix something on your own is inviting over a knowledgeable friend who can teach you while socializing and drinking beer.

The next time a button pops off of a favored shirt, your lampshade gets a tear, or any number of breakages happen in your life, take a moment to reflect mindfully and cultivate some patience.  Even if you do go out and buy a new ice cream scoop right away, at least you’ll have concluded that the absence of an ice cream scoop from your life was too big a loss to bear.  Then the next time you’re scooping some Oreo ice cream, you’ll be grateful.

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