As we are experiencing yet another “snowpocalypse” I had the rare opportunity to stay home and watch some morning TV and see what was going on in the world. For some reason local Boston TV stations tend to carry the coverage all freakin’ day long, advising us over and over that SHRIEK there is snow (!) and yes, traffic is SNARLED, and OMG - TRUCKS ARE NEEDED TO PLOW THIS SUBSTANCE, and SHOCK AND AWE schools are CLOSED (!) (BTW, it’s 10:30 AM on January 27th and while we’re all pretty much aware of how this stuff rolls, that does not stop them – evidently what passes for urgent news these days continues to be the appearance of this mysterious white substance that threatens our very existence.)
I flipped over to a channel with a show about home decorating on a budget. I have learned it is all the rage to go to thrift shops and buy junk, spray it with high gloss black paint and call it innovative design. Excuse me? This is a new concept? I’ve been doing this since I left home after high school. Back then we called it “getting stuff for the apartment.” We shopped the thrift stores because we HAD to, not because it was vogue and innovative. We bought everything there – apartment stuff, clothing, and fake plastic gladioli. (Long story – we needed tacky corsages for a party.) We just called it “used” and we were fine with that.
For a long time I lived with 3 other women who were roughly the same size and height as I was.
(The important word here being “WAS.” ) Consequently we traded a lot of clothes, enabling us to expand our wardrobes without expanding our spending. Two items were heavily traded, a dress nicknamed Eleanor and a skirt we referred to as THE SKIRT. Eleanor was a lovely blue print dress that had an encased, drawstring waist that enabled the wearer to cinch it in and create a nice blouson effect. Once you untied the drawstring the dress dropped waaay down low, and you looked like a circa 1939 Eleanor Roosevelt (hence the nickname of the dress.) “I need Eleanor on Friday” and “Who has THE SKIRT?” were frequently heard during the early morning scrambles to get ready for work. (PS – no disrespect to Eleanor Roosevelt, she was brilliant.)
In some ways I’m delighted that many are discovering the joys of taking (I can’t bring myself to say “re-purposing” ) old objects and finding new uses for them. It is not only good for the environment but it proves that older things are frequently better made than new stuff. They also have more character and generally endure longer. What saddens me is how many people overlook what they already have – or what their parents or grandparents have. One woman in today’s show spent $30 on china plates to arrange as a grouping on the dining room wall. Nice idea – I did it about 20 years ago (seriously) to our dining room wall. The difference was I used china that belonged to Joe’s mother. (She had a bit of a dish fetish so there were plenty to choose from.) The ones I put up were from a set she bought to celebrate my husband’s baptism. They were never used again, but have beautifully adorned the walls of our dining room for all these many years. I am happy that not only are they beautiful to look at, but they have such a special meaning for both of us. That is important to me. I want everything in my home to have that kind of attachment or significance.
That, to me, is the best part of using old things. Before you go out to find some innovative design objects, (see, I can spew that BS too) take a look around your own home, a parent or a relative’s house. The older we get the more stuff we need to weed out or give it to someone, find it a new home or new use. Arranging 15 pieces of plain white china with a gold rim on a wall isn’t near as satisfying (or beautiful) as using the ones that belonged to your mother, grandmother or aunt. Recovering chair cushions with vintage fabric purchased at exorbitant prices doesn’t look half as cool as cutting up those funky 60′s curtains of your cousin’s and doing the same. It will look beautiful, cost you next to nothing, you will think of them every time you see it, and hopefully smile with good memories.