Who amongst us is not vulnerable to the constant radio and TV advertising campaigns which urge us to buy new products and services. The word “upgrade” seems to be a rather recent linguistic invention but it is one that appears in virtually every avenue of life and inspires everyone to be a consummate consumer and a “have” rather than a “have not.” Consequently, it is difficult to avoid falling into the trap of impulse buying. Some folks even consider this “shopping therapy” and give it a kind of legitimization, all of which fuels an ever-increasing need to “keep up with the Joneses” and buy the latest and the greatest that are out there. I confess that I am guilty of playing this game. I drive a 2002 Toyota Corolla with 110,000 miles on it but constantly feel the urge to get something newer and better. My anxiety is fueled by well-meaning friends’ commentaries that “maybe it is time to buy another car.” I’ve been stuck in a place where it seems that whatever I have is simply not enough.
Enter the words of a wise friend who has been kind enough to share some nuggets of wisdom: “Stop buying, you have enough. Make do with what you have. Repair, repurpose and reconstitute your things.” Along with that followed the old axiom “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Admittedly, there is power in those words, particularly when measured against the loss of two jobs in our home. Money is no longer plentiful. In the past several weeks I have taken my friend’s advice and changed my focus to one of “making do” – instead of going out for a Japanese lunch, I opt for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home. Instead of going to see a film at the theater, I head over to the library and grab some movies. Although I’d love to take a vacation, I’m now in budget mode and opt to do free stuff: walk to the local museum, arboretum or attend a no-cost lecture or concert in town.
The idea of “making do” is multifactorial, or, panoramic, if you will. It can be adapted to all kinds of circumstances. Essentially the idea is to use what one has on hand and live within your means. No matter how much you want to see the musical “Hamilton,” if you can’t afford to readily let go of the $500.00 necessary to purchase a ticket, you shift your intellectual gears into finding an entertainment that doesn’t exact a costly price – perhaps borrowing a video from a friend or checking out a free sporting event. For example, since I am an ardent theater buff, live theater is an important part of my emotional diet so I usher for local productions and in exchange get to see shows at no cost.
My idea of “making do” continually expands and at its heart it includes the idea of minimalism – a theory which has as one of its goals the notion of living with less. I rarely go to shopping malls because I know I might be tempted to indulge in a bout of impulse buying for something I probably don’t desperately need. Instead I borrow or trade items and services as much as possible. Rather than buy a game of Scrabble, I ask a friend if he or she would lend it to me. I make do with what opportunities I am presented and give a silent “thank you” to the universe at large. I feel grateful to finally get rid of so many things which are, in truth, superfluous and my heart and soul feel lighter.
My current methodology seems to be working. I reuse and recycle. When my clothes are torn, I repair a seam, replace a button or sew up a small hole. I cook with what I have in my house and frequent food pantries when times are especially lean. I barter, rely on old appliances and use cameras that are old but still work. If I need an article of clothing, I go to a thrift store. I arrange furniture or change a color scheme, rather than make a purchase.
The truth is that making do does not equate with doing without. It is a paradigm shift in thinking, however, that more is not necessarily better and realizing that living more simply has innumerable benefits including less clutter. Being grateful for the things I do have has made me happier and much less susceptible to the advertising schemes and frenzy that it is otherwise so easy to fall victim to. In short, “making do” gets me through and I imagine my carbon footprint on the planet is also lighter. “Making do” can work for you, too.