Do It Yourself: Not a modern day invention

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

do-it-yourself3 Most people today think that they belong to the era of do it yourself. They seem to think that the modern generation has, in fact, invented it. But that is in no way so and the same is true for reuse and upcycling, though the latter work is new.

This misconception about do it yourself being a modern day phenomenon is due to the fact that the great majority of people today are so unconscious of their past, of our past.

For thousands of years, until the arrival of mass production and especially super-cheap imports and, it would appear, people having money to burn, everybody was almost entirely do it yourself, except for the few very rich who were served with excellent work by top craftsmen.

But for the rest, everybody got by with do it yourself and a little help from the blacksmith and the cobbler. Those were the two craftsmen that existed in almost every village. It had to be a very small hamlet that did not have those two in their midst.

In the days before mass production almost everything on the farm, the homestead, every home in the countryside, bar the big houses, and even in many homes elsewhere, was a case of do it yourself and reuse and upcycling.

Despite the fact that do it yourself is believed by many to be a rather new invention many don't practice it anyway. They must have the proverbial money to burn.

Today many people will throw an empty tin can, which they often have even cleaned before, into the recycling bin and then go out and buy themselves a pencil bin, from recycled steel, mind you, for a good deal of money.

In those days gone by, and still some folks, like myself, do it today, such a tin can would have been upcycled into just such a receptacle for pencils and pens, and many other things to boot. People did not buy scoops for their chicken feed; they would use an empty tin can cleaned up instead.

No one, in those old days, would have even considered throwing away – and recycling bins did not even exist back then – a glass jar or two and then going out and buying glass storage jars. As many as such jars as possible were reused for that purpose.

We have really gotten out of the habit of proper do it yourself today and so much so that even in rural areas this old kind of do it yourself is getting rather rare and very hard to find indeed.

While some folks go to all manner of lengths in do it yourself as regards to home repairs, often things which were better done by experts, such as wiring and plumbing, the small things no one, or very few, do anymore.

That old kind of do it yourself, of making things that we want and need, for available natural materials and trash is, however, something that we really should and must get back to. It helps the Planet and our pocketbooks.

If I can reuse, repurpose, upcycle or otherwise can make something from almost “nothing” that, in my view, is a great service to the Planet and to my bank balance.

And, in our present time of economic and ecological crisis, this ticks all the right boxes aside from that box our governments would like it to tick, namely for us to go and spend our way out of the economic doldrums. Not that that works anyway. It did not work in the 1930s and it won't work now.

What I do not have to buy I do not have to buy is my belief and I take even so far – I am a cyclist and don't drive – that I salvage any manner of abandoned bicycles and create new ones from their reusable parts. And, all the other items that can be salvaged and which I do not immediately need are kept for spares.

I also make my own notebooks from “waste” paper; my own index cards (yes, I still use those things) from packaging card stock; my own business cards from the same material and a rubber stamp (I did not make the stamp myself though); and pages for my Filofax (Oh dear! I am old-fashioned) from “waste” paper also.

The old kind of do it yourself sure is alive and well with me, and my little list given above is but a small selection of how I think about it and what I do.

It is an old way of doing things that we all must return to and I should think that in the current climate – no pun intended – it is something that would be of great benefit to each one of us, and to the Planet.

Another part of the old style do it yourself was and is growing your own food, at least some of it, and that predominately in the form of vegetables and fruit.

This, today, is also once again important as regards to health and also and especially with regards to food security not only for ourselves and our families – though that goes without saying – but food security of our nations. For, the more we can grow ourselves in our own backyards, on allotments, on community garden projects, etc., the less we, as individuals and families have to buy and the less has to be imported into our countries from abroad.

While this approach may hurt the importers and big stores and big agri-business it will help us and the Planet and it is that, I would say, which counts.

So, what's keeping you from this real do it yourself?

© 2012