Lee and a curious calico crisscross the country in a RV, living simply and sustainably.

So many of my parent’s generation lived in or were affected by the Great Depression which ran from 1929-1939. And honestly, I thought the tendency to hoard was pathological. Keep. Every. Little. Thing.

When I see materials stockpiled, things I would consider trash like rusty old nails , bits of broken tools and stringy bits of twine, I’d think “Too much junk. Let’s clean it out and live more simply.” After all, there’s a Home Depot or Lowes or hardware store in most towns with floor to ceiling bins of brand new shiny, woody, plasticy things.  But then I’d think “Too much junk. Let’s not buy it and live more simply.” So where is healthy balance?

Lately, I find myself reducing what I have – I probably have given away or sold 50% of the household items that I had five years ago, things I once treasured or stocked up on because “they were a bargain”. The one thing I gave away then regretted and replaced was a crock pot.  I love potluck dinners, and a crock pot with an insulated carrying bag makes social gatherings delicious and easy.

These days I’m reusing items I previously would have quickly discarded,  finding clever ways to use them now or save them for some yet unknown project. Like replacing kitchen sponges with washable cotton dish cloths. And rescuing net bags that contained oranges, garlic and onions to crochet into pot scrubbers.  The softer netting that holds citrus fruit works best. You can also use “plarn” (strips of recycled PLastic bag yARN) to crochet nearly anything.  I just saw a plarn shopping bag outside a shop that features local, handmade projects.

Pot Scrubber Pattern

Use ¾” strips from 5 plastic bags or net bags looped together. Click here for quick how to video.

Size K crochet hook or larger.

Start: Ch 5, sl st to join.
1st rnd: 8 dc in ring. sl st to join.
2nd & 3rd rnds: Ch 3, 2 dc in each st from Round 1, sl st.
4th rnd: Ch 3, 2 dc in first st, 1 dc io next st, *2dc in next st, 1 dc in next st.

Attach an acrylic yarn remnant & sc around. Fasten off.

These days I’m rethinking how I think about most things – big paradigm shifting thoughts like creating my own garden vs. group gardening. My harvest has been greater in solo gardens than by sharing a huge field.

Creating my own work vs. traditional jobs. The ten years I spent as a small business owner brought more personal and spiritual growth than all the other jobs combined. But less income and no healthcare benefits.

Creating my own home vs. renting, developing the land and her offerings over time. One of my biggest heart breaks as a renter was losing my Mom’s Mom’s  Lily of the Valley transplants because I moved and the next renter tore them up.  I still have my Dad’s Mom’s spider plant descendants, and think of her every time I water them.

Guess I measure my life by how many living, growing things I can accumulate rather than rusty, stringy things. Yet I’m rethinking and reusing more oddball items all the time.

At the Farmers’ Market last week, I was in a panic because I thought my car’s transmission was broken. The gear shifter would NOT shift!  Arghh! After formulating a plan involving AAA, friends, and meager emergency funds, I tried shifting the car one more time and spied a shiny object underneath the flap of the steering column. Turns out a knob had flown out of the hand-me-down holder for my hand-me-down GPS, and landed in that slim space. Whew! No immediate car repair! The plastic part where the knob screwed in was stripped, so the GPS holder was pretty much unusable.

Just minutes before, my friend’s new market tent had started to collapse because two of the supports had lost their knobs. So I offered her the part I’d just fished out of the steering column, and a second one. Viola! Something new from something old.


Think:  Brainstorm.  Look around you for an item that is destined for the trash or recycle bin. Come up with 5 creative ways you could reuse it. Kids are naturals at this, and you are just an older kid!

Say:  Comment here and let us all know how you turned rust into gold.

Do:  Find the balance between hoarding and saving. Buying and preserving. Having and giving.

Comments on: "Reduce, Reuse, Rethink" (5)

  1. Really like the idea for the pot scrubber…might have to try this sometime. My parents (especially dad) both saved every little thing. My dad grew up incredibly poor and had grown incredibly resourceful from it. I try to only save things that I know how I’m going to reuse, but my boyfriend doesn’t see the philosophy of keeping /anything/. We just grew up differently and it’s always a battle.

    • Hi Linda,

      I hear you! I have friends that really try to avoid using paper goods. When we first met and I gave them my business card, they used their cellphone to capture a digital image and politely handed the card back to me. Now that’s rethinking…


      • Wow! Now that’s an idea. I’ve used my phone occasionally instead of writing things down on paper, but I never thought about it when it comes to business cards and stuff. Will have to keep this in mind.

  2. I’m always walking that tightrope between saving useful items and simplifying, decluttering. It’s a different path for everyone I guess, but our recent move clarified for me how much ‘usefulness’ was costing me! Thanks for this reminder Lisa. HOWEVER, now I have this urge to make plarn (thanks for the video link) thangs! Plarnit!

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