Long before the “buzzwords” were invented our ancestors were already doing these activities. The disposable society only began a few years ago and before that everything was reused many times over. The three R’s really did mean reading, writing and ‘rithmetic not reduce, reuse and recycle like they do now. There was no big box store to purchase a new whatever although the Eaton’s catalogue provided what you needed if the money was available. But money was usually tight and you just made do.
Any farm girl worth her salt could mend a pair bluejeans, whether she liked to sew or not. I wasn’t any type of seamstress but I liked the challenge of mending more than I liked to create new items back then. I have spent a lot of time over the decades doing just that and it seems my men think I can fix anything like zippers or mending tough spots. My daughter thinks any type of horse blanket is fair game for my machine. For many millennium dresses and shirts became smaller dresses and shirts for kids and eventually became pieces of quilts. There was no such thing as a “stash” of fabric that you might like to someday make something with. There was left over bits of items you had made that you repurposed. There is, interestingly enough, a move back to this type of quilting by some people.
I often wonder about the history of these fabrics in the piece below. It was made for my mom by her mother in 1930 or 1931. The seams don’t match up perfectly and nothing is quite square but she was hand cutting used clothing and sewing by coal oil light. The rest of the gift was a cradle made from an apple box. The small doll would have been the only item purchased.
Our house is the ultimate 3R’s project when you think about it. It was slated for demolition if no one bought it. We spent less money than if we had set out to build a quality house like this. Our rock wall is another example of using what is at hand rather than manufactured stone or expensive concrete. Our tractor shed is a perfect example of a little bit of time and cash having a positive impact on the environment versus buying all new supplies. Our evergreen trees are a prime example of saving something that was slated for its end. I am also not too proud to say that I shop regularly at quality second hand stores for clothes; really it’s the same thing as hand me downs that children wear except that you don’t know the previous owner. I love the thrill of finding that perfect piece of clothing and giving it a new home. So if you are working on de-cluttering or spring cleaning or down sizing think about giving new life to old items by donating them or reusing them or finding someone who will reuse them. It’s not easy being green Kermit said but it’s worth it.