Way back when we started writing articles for this site we wrote quite a lot of money saving tips. One of those, written by Isabelle was on re-use.
I’m re-using it.
So, Isabelle originally started that article with the vivid memory of when she lost her job and how that made her worry about less money coming in…
… how at first, she thought we would be OK, because her husband (me) still worked.
Then she panicked, thinking the drop in monthly income would mean we couldn’t afford to have the same lifestyle, wouldn’t be able to feed our children as well as we had done and would generally have to tighten our belts – bear in mind that our children, being half French but in the UK were going to a French speaking school at the time, the only French speaking and French teaching school being a private one and fairly expensive.
One thing Isabelle started doing is questioning our habits around the house.
She became a bit of a tyrant for a while (her words lifted from that previous article, not mine), insisting that everyone ate everything on their plates and that we didn’t waste any food or drink. Our children had developed a habit of helping themselves to as much juice from the fridge as they liked and pouring what they couldn’t drink down the sink. We would often cook more than we needed (OK, mostly me guilty of that) and throw what we didn’t eat in the bin and worse than that, we would often have food which we didn’t use and we would throw out because it had passed it’s best before date.
So all of this had to change.
OK, you get the picture.
So in the next part of the article, Isabelle explains that she is no longer a tyrant (ha ha, her words, not mine), but just noticing our habits around the house and making much more sensible choices, not only saved us a great deal of money, but was (and still is) also much more satisfying.
As it turns out, Isabelle did overreact to our financial situation and things weren’t (and aren’t) that bad, but we soon became happy with our improved habits around the house which if not a direct result, were certainly influenced by Isabelle’s initial panic.
Not long after we moved to the countryside, so even less money coming in (at the time neither of us having a job) and that whole move was a project in itself we often refer to as our ‘Good Life‘ experiment, originally intended to be a year in the country before moving to France (which later evolved into where we are now but that’s a different story).
So, we started re-using things around the house. When it came to food and drink, we’d prepare just what we needed (as opposed to way too much) and, importantly, we’d remember to appreciate it. If there were any leftovers, we’d try and keep them to have later rather than throwing them out.
We still eat and drink that way, by the way.
We also mostly cook for ourselves rather than eating out or getting take-away, which has the added benefit of us being in control of the quality of our meals (meaning much better quality food for less money) as well as improving our ability to take care of ourselves (improved cooking skills).
This doesn’t just apply to food and drink, either. It applies to everything – clothes, toys, books… rather than just throwing stuff away, we started looking at how we can re-use things or at worst, would it be useful for someone else.
It’s now 5 years since we moved to the countryside, and these days we re-use things all the time mainly because it’s so much fun as opposed to any money-saving ideology. We have had so many cool projects playing around with stuff and re-using stuff to the extent of going out and finding things for these projects rather than just re-using what’s ling around at home.
Here are just some of the things we’ve made:
- re-use of food & drink as mentioned
- re-use of clothes for various projects (e.g. making book covers)
- Making really great covers for our kindles from clothes & leather samples
- The best ever Hen House you’ve ever seen made from sheets of (unwanted) plywood
- A log store made from a couple of pallets
- A sturdy coffee table made from old purlins discarded from a renovation we did
- re-use of food containers for storage (e.g. soup containers for storing nails & screws)
- re-use of off-cuts of wood to make a cupboard
- re-use of carpet underlay to make shoe insoles
- re-use of an old teapot as a cute garden planter
- re-using an old Singer sewing machine as a beautiful table base
- curtains for cushion or seat covers
- couple of old bed frames dismantled & re-made into a bunk-bed
- some old boards made into a ‘dolly’ for transporting heavy items
- nutella jars re-used as glasses
- various jars re-used when making our own jams, sauces etc
- particularly nice traditional bottle kept & re-used for table water
- an off-cut of wide oak flooring re-used as a chopping board
… there are probably quite a few more now that I’ve gotten started not to mention all of the bits of electrical stuff I’ve played around with and re-used over the last 5 years or giving stuff or receiving stuff for re-use via freecycle…
…but you get the idea.
We are not only more economical with the things we have, we appreciate and enjoy them more, we enjoy life more and … we save more money…
… but as I said, the main benefit from my point of view of this re-use idea is around the satisfaction and the fun. There’s also nothing to say that you can’t build really high quality stuff (you should see my coffee table made from purlins) re-using free things or what some may class as junk or waste.
On a final point, this is obviously good for the planet too as we’re keeping stuff out of landfill, we’re happier and healthier and we’re less likely to skip off to the shops to buy a mass produced, cheapo version of the awesome thing we just made/re-used.