Wherein SustainaMom gives thanks for other people's cast-offs...
The last four years have been tough. My husband started his own business just before the economy tanked — and just after we bought our home. When we moved in, we bought blinds for the windows and put off all other purchases indefinitely. It seemed rather bare for a while, but we decided it was fun to have more room for playing chase with our then one-year-old child.
Around the same time, I started reading green blogs. I realized that living frugally was also eco-friendly — and just plain smart. And so we flew our non-consumerist flag unabashedly.
A funny thing happened: our friends and family became comfortable asking if we wanted something they no longer needed.
It started with bookshelves, when our friends were doing away with their office in order to make separate bedrooms for their kids.
My in-laws gave us an old loveseat for the playroom.
My cousin offered an armoire that had housed a television in her home. Luckily it was too heavy to get up the stairs where I had imagined it in my bedroom. After I walked around it in the garage for three months, it occurred to me that it would make a great storage cabinet for my office.
Our status as hand-me-down recipients is helped by the fact that my husband has a truck. For an hour spent helping a friend pick up a new grill, we got the old grill.
We got an old — OLD — sofa the same way. I’m not sure it was such a great gift, but my husband insists he needs a sofa in the basement; and it does make a great place to wait out the occasional tornado watch.
Then the grill-giver friend asked if we wanted his fiancée’s patio furniture when they combined households and didn’t need two sets. Once I get a fresh coat of paint on it, it will be a great place to sit and watch our son and his friends play in the yard.
A few months later, the newly married couple started planning their nursery and we got a dresser and a nightstand. We are now planning our son’s “big boy room” with the new furniture.
We started housekeeping, as my grandmother would say, with an antique dresser, an old sewing machine cabinet converted to a table, and an old kitchen table and chairs (that my mom helped me refinish). All were hand-me-downs from our parents. In 9 years of marriage, we’ve only purchased a few big furnishings new: a master bedroom suite, a guestroom box spring and mattress, a good quality sofa and oversized chair that need to be re-upholstered but should last all our lives, and a crib and dresser for our son’s nursery.
As I snapped these pictures of the hand-me-downs that have furnished the rest of our home, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family. I was planning a garage sale in order to fund the "big boy room." But now that our friends have given us the big items for the kiddo's room, I'm looking to pay it forward with a few thoughtfully given hand-me-downs of my own.
I also want to make a strong push for teaching my son to "pay it forward." After we unwrap his birthday presents (including a few hand-me-downs from his cousin!) next month, I plan to talk about how much he's been given and how we should give to others who don't have so much. Any advice for convincing a 5-year-old that he really doesn't need two Little People barns, even if they were hand-me-downs that didn't cost us anything?!