Making do is a deeply pragmatic philosophy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Making do is a deeply pragmatic philosophy. One that our ancestors, and many not even that far removed, definitely had.

It means asking of our things the only question we should ever ask of them: “Can you fulfill your intended use for me?” The answer – if we can be honest, and resist a moment of discomfort, inconvenience or boredom – is, extraordinarily often, yes.

Making do is about taming the reflex to discard, replace or upgrade; it’s about using things well, and using them until they are used up. Taken literally, it simply means making something perform – making it do what it ought to do.

That is one part of the making do philosophy, the other part is reusing things and repurposing them, including items that are otherwise considered waste, and that is something has been done by our ancestors, and that not all that long ago. Every glass jar was put to use as a storage container, for instance, and many an empty tin can also was reused for something or reworked into something else.

It is very much the philosophy that I grew up with as a child. To some degree that was due to the fact that we had very little in material wealth and income and we just had to make do, whether it was hand-me down clothes or toys, or making our own toys, games and also other things. This attitude has stayed with me till this very day, now being almost sixty years old. In fact I take great pleasure out of the ability to make things from what others consider waste and to reuse whatever comes along.

But it also goes for things that may have been bought. Trying the very best to make them last for as long as at all possible and perform. Where everyone else, it seems, is replacing their cellphone every six months or so because they get an upgrade from their service provider and then toss the “old” one even though that is still working perfectly, or simply buying a new one (I'd love to have that kind of money to waste) simply because a newer version, with more “bells and whistles”, has come out and, again, tossing the old one even though it still works perfectly.

I can also never pass up the chance to rescue things that other people have thrown and try to make those things either work again for their intended purposes or repurpose them for other uses. This includes bicycles that have been abandoned or thrown away, often with more or less nothing (much) wrong with them and I have a collection of bicycles that have come that way or been rebuilt and built with the parts of others that have been “thrown”. Those that cannot be rebuilt are cannibalized for spares that can then be used for the other bikes, and that what is left over and cannot be made use of goes to the scrap yard.

The biggest problem with that mentality (of mine), though, is that one needs a barn or two to store all the things one comes across that “might come in handy” for this or that project or repair of this or that item, or simply in the future because this “rescuing of things that others have thrown away” also extends to furniture, wooden pallets, and what have you.

The pallets are used for many things, including building fences in the garden, as well as making (small) items of furniture for the home, and also for sale. I hate those things to go to waste and nowadays the great majority of them are single-use items in that if you receive something on a pallet you have to dispose off it. They can no longer – in general – be returned to the supplier. The great majority of them are also, when the go to the waste dumps, recycled but simply get landfilled. At least if they would be burned for energy and heat they would have some end use. Hence I try to take as many as possible out of the waste stream and make new products out of them. But where to store them all?

So, the mindset can also harbor its own problems.

© 2019