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Old Wisdom for Modern Green and Frugal Living

The following post is from Emily of Live Renewed:


I love this saying, “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without”.  It pretty much sums up my philosophy for green and frugal living. It means being good stewards of the resources we already have at our disposal, and not giving into the pressure of always having to spend money on things.

And while it’s a catchy thing to say, it might be more of a challenge to think of ways to actually apply this to our lives in this materialistic, consumer, and disposable society we live in.

Here are some ways we can apply this wisdom from the past to our modern everyday lives.

Use it Up

The first thing I think of with this one is food.  Use up the food that you have, and don’t buy food if you’re not going to be able to use it or eat it before it goes bad.  Basically, don’t be wasteful. And this also applies to other consumable items like toiletries and cosmetics.

This is something that I am not usually very good at with food, and have tried to remedy on multiple occasions, unsuccessfully.  Using up leftovers is not our family’s strong suit, but I have been much better recently about not letting fresh produce go to waste. Using up food is definitely an area I need to work on.

It is important for us to remember to use what we have before we buy something new, and to make sure when we are purchasing things to not buy more than we need.

Wear it Out

In our disposable, and “next best thing” culture, we don’t really plan to use things until they wear out, do we? We need new clothes and accessories every year to keep up with the trends, new decorations for every season, and the brand new cell phones or other pieces of technology as soon as they become available.  But what if we shifted our mindset to purchasing things that will last?

What if instead of thinking about the next best thing, we thought about how long we could keep something – until it’s completely worn out?  Then we would learn to fix and repair things when they break or are no longer working correctly, before just running out and buying a replacement.  We would accept hand-me-down clothes for our kids, and pass our children’s outgrown clothes on to another family, instead of buying them brand new wardrobes.  We would strive to buy quality items that will stand the test of time, rather than lots of stuff that will just be junk in a few short years, or even months.

source: apartment therapy

Make it Do

How many alternate purposes can you come up with for things around your home? The reality is that the list is never ending. Making do means using what you have, and being creative with re-purposing and reusing items, to meet your needs.

So the next time you think, I need to buy this thing to use for this reason, stop and think if there is another way you can make what you already have work for you in that situation.  Sometimes sitting on an idea for a few days, instead of heading to the store and purchasing the easy solution, allows you to come up with an alternative that you may not have thought of otherwise.  If you run out of something in the kitchen, think about how you can make a homemade substitution or make something from scratch instead.

Another great way to make it do is to borrow things we might need for just a short time, and don’t really have the need to purchase for the long term. Whether that’s books, specific use kitchen appliances, or a pair of heels to wear to a wedding, we can probably find someone who is willing to let us borrow their things for a specific reason, especially if we then return the favor by lending our stuff out. We all probably have more than enough stuff around our homes that we can use to work for us, or can borrow from someone else to use, and in turn eliminate the need to keep purchasing more and more stuff.

Do Without

And this one flies in the face of everything we’re taught in this society, but if you’ve worked through the first three things and there’s still something that you feel like might be missing from your life, simply let it go and decide to do without it.

I am amazed at how often I will think that I need this or that, and I’ll write it on a list of things to buy. Then it usually sits for a while until I have time to run errands, or the extra money I need, to buy it, in the mean time trying to make do with what I have, and a month or more later if I still haven’t bought whatever it was I thought I needed so badly, I realize that I don’t really need it after all.

By figuring out ways we can implement this old wisdom into our everyday lives, we can live greener, and simpler, lifestyles, while also saving lots of money in the long run as we learn to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

How can you apply this simple saying to your current lifestyle to live a more green and frugal lifestyle?

Emily McClements strives to live with compassion and caring for creation in a way that will impact the world. She is a blessed wife and mama to three young children, and blogs about her family’s journey toward natural and simple living at Live Renewed.