The Queen of Re-Use: not just hand me downs



The Queen of Re-Use: not just hand me downs

If I gave my family questionable marks on its efforts to reduce, I admit that when it comes to re-using I am the Queen. When I was a teenager there was a song, ‘I was country, when country wasn’t cool.’ Well, I was re-using back when it was called hand-me-downs and everyone looked down on you for wearing them. Honestly though, I can remember being about five and having a distant second cousin visit. She had brought a bag of clothes that had been her daughter’s, who had died. That may sound morbid, but I think my smiles and thanks for the ‘new’ clothes may have helped to let go of not only the clothes, but a bit of her grief as well.

If you were to look in my three year old’s playroom, most of the toys you would see have been given to her second-hand from friends, purchased at charity shops or even salvaged from the bin…including her wonderful Little Tikes kitchen centre.

But my re-using does not stop there, if you open my kitchen cabinets you will see stacks of old containers that once held spread, cottage cheese or something else. With the exception of the air-tight sealing bowls that my husband uses to transport his food to work each day, we do not purchase or use Tupperware, Serv-rite or any other type of plastic wear. And those plastic containers that once housed my produce such as strawberries, blueberries and peaches are now being re-used as pots for my spring seedlings. I also have a cabinet full of sauce jars that I am looking for ideas on how best to re-use. I have already filled several with nuts, bolts, nails and the like. But even after getting organised myself, I just can’t bring myself to throw these into the recycle bag when I know that they are perfectly re-usable as they are. As I mentioned yesterday, I re-use the few plastic bags we get from quick trips to the corner store for bin liners in the bathrooms.

I have even taken to re-using my daughter’s Fruit Shoot bottles by refilling them with concentrate fruit and water. Of course, a tad of a warning on this one: do not freeze plastic bottles as it can cause a cancer causing chemical to leach into the drinks. So I always replace the bottles after a few uses just to be safe. But then they can go into the recycle bag (but that is tomorrow’s topic).

Even dinner last night was re-used food; better known as left-overs. Anyone that reads my blog knows I have dozens (hundreds?) of ideas for re-using food as soups, smoothies, casseroles, stir-fries or just re-heated and served. I call this creative cooking and make it a staple of not only our family’s diet, but of my blog as well: offering recipes to my readers.

I think one of the most beautiful examples of re-using is the folk-art form of quilting. Not only can worn-out old clothes be turned into colourful quilts, but they can tell a story: our history. I have also heard of people braiding old cloth to make rugs as well. Last year at the Green Show, I bought my daughter the cutest little purse made from old plastic juice boxes by a women’s cooperative in the developing world.

Thinking back to my own childhood and the used toys and clothes that I was blessed to enjoy, I am glad that it has become the ‘cool’ thing to re-use. Not only do these items still have good life left in them, but they remind us that we, ourselves, re-use life’s lessons to improve our world. So next time before you toss that item into the bin or even the recycle bag, stop and ask yourself could it be re-used instead: perhaps that wine bottle would look nice on a table with a candle or a few flowers or could that old t-shirt be cut into squares and used instead of paper towels or how about making puppets with old and mismatched socks. The ideas are limitless…I hope you will share your favourites with me as well.

Terri O’Neale is the mother of six; ranging in age from 3 to 22. She has been both a working and stay-at-home mother at various times in her life. She was also a single mother for almost five years, before re-marrying the love of her life at the age of forty. Obviously, she has a life-time of training in raising a family on a tight budget. In addition to these real life experiences, she possesses a bachelors degree in health education and a minored in environmental management in her masters programme.

Terri feels strongly that this is one of the most challenging times in history for the family, but she also believes that families with the will and resolve to address the pressing issues of saving money, becoming greener, leading healthier lifestyles and spending more time with one another can endure these challenging times and come out victorious in the end.

Through Frugal Family articles, blogs, videos and social networking, she helps modern families rediscover some lost art forms such as cooking, sewing, and gardening. The goal is not to go back in time or become fanatical, but to help all families find simple and effective ways that fit into their lifestyle to make moderate changes with huge impacts. For more information, check out her blog http://frugalfam.wordpress.com/.


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