Buy it or build it?
People seem to fall into two camps when it comes to Stuff. Which tent are you in?
- When you need something for your house — end table, dog bed, curtains — do you pretty much go out and buy it?
- Or do you draw a quick sketch on a Post-It note, research other people’s attempts and designs, and then pull together some supplies and try to make it yourself?
The first way is quicker. The second method can get you into way more trouble. Which did you choose?
I’m noticing a trend toward the latter option, not just among my wackier friends, but in articles and projects posted on the Internet, in crafty blogs, frugality websites, and most importantly, in letters from readers.
This tendency toward creating stuff instead of buying it seems to be rooted in ennui born from the Too Much Crap syndrome. If you’ve ever shopped at Costco or Walmart, you’ll know what I mean. There’s just so much stuff and most of it comes from China. There’s nothing wrong with that, but these products have no meaning beyond their convenience and low price. No story. No connection. They’re just stuff that fills a requirement at a good price.
For a lot of people, that’s no longer good enough. It’s just more crap to manage, insure, maintain, clean and eventually put in garage sales (or as my husband calls them, ‘Crap Redistribution Centres’).
But if you build something yourself, you have an object with meaning and significance, and even if the thing is a butt-ugly disaster, you have a great icebreaker at parties.
Making stuff may not be an option for extremely busy people, but even busyness can be a symptom of the Too Much Crap syndrome. Who hasn’t lived through phases of endless busyness that make you feel cranky, anxious and impatient instead of nourished and fulfilled?
Here’s an example of hand-built satisfaction from a reader:
I read in the paper this week an article you wrote about what to use PVC for — other than plumbing. Well — I created a really great thing with ABS (the black cousin of PVC), to meet a very selfish need, and wanted to share.
My adult sons both have dogs — about 80 pounds of beautiful muscle and lovin’ — but when they visit? I do NOT like scouring my 1/2 acre for ‘poops,’ and even worse, resent even walking near or in one. Argghh....
So — I bought some black ABS piping and some plastic faux-chainlink and created a “dog pen” area, then trained them to go do their business in “the pen.” I’ve hung from the oak tree a pooper-scooper (hidden from patio view) and have a covered bin there to drop the doo-doo into (which I take to the dump when needed). So — there’s no poop in the yard, no smell, no bending even.
And — it truly looks like a section of chainlink fence (matching my other side of property fencing).
MJ Vaughan’s “dog pen” area. (Contributed)
It has no gates, because it’s meant to be an esthetically pleasing area that visually directs the visiting dogs to their “powder-room.” It’s about 15’ X 25.’ Plenty of room to sniff out the ‘best spot.’ lol It cost next to nothing. I used black zip-ties to attach the plastic link to the pipe, after cutting 4-foot lengths; used 90-degree elbows at edges and “T” connectors in between, and placed them over 4-foot long pieces of re-bar (to hold it sturdy) which go into the ground 2 feet and protrude above the ground 2 feet. I’ve had this 5 years, and believe me, I love it — no more “surprises” on my lawn ! And it looks great.
No concrete or sono-tubes, no costly metal, no wire-stretchers, screws, caps etc. All plastic. I’m attaching a pic to show you...
~ MJ Vaughan
Mag’s cat-flap insert. (Daniel Hunter photo)
Thanks MJ, you’re an inspiration. So, last weekend I built a cat-flap insert for a sliding door. It took a couple of hours and involved two band aids and a desperate search of the garage for spare scraps of screening. The cat thinks her new door is ridiculous and will only pass through it if there's bacon on the other side. See? I already have a story.