Sunday, April 19, 2009

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, Or Do Without

Image Credit: Debbie Mumm

Remember the old saying?

It seems so fitting for today's struggling economy, doesn't it? For me, personally, I try my best to live by that saying....I use the things I have at hand, wear them out as long as I possibly can, make do with what I have or I just do without.

It's really not that hard to adapt once you realize that pretty much everything you have in your house has more than just one use. It's fun for me, exploring and researching and finding new uses for an item which otherwise I would have just thrown out.

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I guess I could attribute this love for the simple things, to my love for anything from days gone by. The pioneer days, the time when they struggled to make a living with what they grew in their gardens, with the tools they had nearby and so many times cooking by candle light.

Their wagons tightly packed with all their belongings....cast iron skillets, you want an idea of what you may have found in one of their Conestoga wagons?

Bedding And Tent Supplies

Blankets, feather beds, ground cloths, pillows, tent, poles, stakes, ropes.


Rifle, pistol, knife, hatchet, gunpowder, lead, bullet mold, powder horn, bullet pouch, holster.


Flour, bacon, coffee, baking soda, corn meal, hardtack, dried beans, dried beef, dried fruit, molasses, vinegar, pepper, eggs, salt, sugar, rice, tea.

Cooking Utensils

Dutch oven, kettle, skillet, reflector oven, coffee grinder, coffee pot, teapot, butcher knife, ladle, tin tableware, water keg, matches

Miscellaneous Items

Surgical instruments, liniments, bandages, campstool, chamber pot, washbowl, lanterns, candle molds, tallow, spyglasses, scissors, needles, pins, thread.


Wool sack coats, rubber coats, cotton dresses, wool pantaloons, buckskin pants, duck trousers, cotton shirts, flannel shirts, cotton socks, brogans, boots, felt hats, Palm-leaf sun hats, green goggles, sunbonnets.

Tools And Extra Equipment

Set of augers, gimlet, ax, hammer, hoe, plow, shovel, spade, whetstone, oxbows, axels, kingbolts, linchpins, ox shoes, spokes, wagon tongue, heavy ropes, chains.


Canned foods, plant cuttings, schoolbooks, musical instruments, dolls, family albums, jewelry, china, silverware, fine linens, iron stoves, furniture.

Something I learned through all my reading, is that what we usually see in the movies, you know, the family in the wagon travelling through the rough terrain on their way to a new homestead, is not exactly how things would have been.

The wagons were so small that unless you were injured or very ill, you walked....imagine if you will, walking around 2000 miles to your new home?

Nowadays we complain if we have to walk from the parking lot to the door of the store, we fight for that spot RIGHT in front because really, if it were up to us and it was socially acceptable, we would just drive our vehicles right inside and travel down the aisles shopping.

When God made man,
He seemed to think it best
To make him in the East,
And let him travel west.

One of the places I get my inspiration from are books and Amazon has this wonderful series called Historic Communities. With titles like A Child's Day, Games from Long Ago and Old Time Toys.

While browsing through Amazon, I realized I had a $20 gift card to use, so I picked up 3 books.

The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life: How to Sew a Sampler Quilt & 49 Other Pioneer Projects for the Modern Girl

Frontier fun meets a home-spun touch in this heart-warming mixture of pioneer projects and wistful nostalgia. Jennifer Worick teaches readers how to sew a quilt, master the art of bread-and-butter pickles, speak old-time slang, and much much more. This is for the legions of Laura Ingalls Wilder fans who have dreamed of what a pioneer life out on the prairie would be like. Combining step-by-step how-to on crafts, with tongue-in-cheek instructions on prairie slang, winning a spelling bee, and singing a lullaby, The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life allows fans to finally act out their childhood dreams or to simply enjoy the vicarious thrill of reading about it one more time. This is a book that will pull at the heart strings of every childhood Laura and also teach us a few prairie-time crafts along the way.

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A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840

There are instructions for simple, fun activities such as growing a potato plant, dyeing fabric using an onion, or making a cardboard jumping jack; pioneer games that will even entertain today's children for hours such as shadow shapes or knucklebones; and recipes that are easy for children.

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Secrets of the Great Old-Timey Cooks: Historic Recipes, Lore & Wisdom

Reminisce about a simpler time as four 20th century mountain pioneer women share their cooking secraets. These great old-timey cooks stir in their own wisdom and tales of growing up on rural farms, where they prepared delicious melas by lantern light on wood cookstoves. Included are heirloom recipes, proverbs, folk remedies, 80 vintage photos, 19th century autograph rhymes and lots of stories. 72 pages.

So I leave you with a question? Are you trying to live simpler times? Are you also using it up, wearing it out, making it do or doing without? And if so, why don't you share with us what you've been doing.


  1. oh yes! Simpler times...although I have found I'm not a pioneer girl at heart at all :( My husband resigned his Army commission to go into ministry 4 years ago (almost 5!). We together make (salary-wise) less than half of what he made by himself in the YES, simplify, simplify, simplify has been our theme. We cut off our cable TV for a year and a half - and found we didn't miss it (we did get it back for this year's St. Louis Cards baseball season)...and we miss the commissary but have learned to shop at places like Aldi's or what we call the "damaged can store", a surplus warehouse where cans/items with damaged labels or dents are sold at a discount. I am learning to cook more from scratch & we're eating out less. I love living-simply ideas - because I really am naturally not frugal. I guess I was a little spoiled before without realizing it!

  2. Sandra - have you seen the PBS series Frontier House? If not, definitely get it from the library or add it to your next Amazon order. It's right up your alley and it's family-friendly. I watch it several times a year. My hubby prefers Colonial House but we both really enjoy Frontier House too. They even had a mini wagon train out to the location of the homesteads.

    That said - yes, we live pretty simply compared to most folks. Not for financial reasons, though that had some impact at the beginning. More just because my hubby and I are both thrifty and neither of us likes shopping unless we have a specific need or a very specific want for something. That means we don't have the newest gadgets or gobs of belongings, but what we do have is either very useful or has a lot of meaning. Hopefully in the coming years there will be more handicrafts and self-sufficiency skills learned as well.

  3. I would like to say in the spirit of your post that I am "making do with what I have" but I just went to Amazon to look for these great book recommendations and found a couple more that sounded good. Thank goodness it is almost reading season.

    from Roberta Anne = The Raggedy Girl

  4. First I'm glad hyour back feeling better. And second all I have to say about the pioneers is they were one rugged bunch of people!! I don't think I could have survived what they did...

  5. I absolutely love all things pioneer also, Sandra!!! The top book Pioneer Girl's guide is so neat...I got it via the library a while back! I'll have to check out those other too...I really enjoyed this post! So interesting...crazy what little they really carried in those wagons compared to what we think we "need" today to live...yikes!

    Thanks again!

  6. I didn't answer your questions...LOL!
    Yes, we try to live making our own bread, gardening, buying generic & bulk, homemade babywipes reality though, we are far farm TRUE homesteading as we rely too much on stores like Walmart! :P LOL! My dh and I have been talking more about this and trying to find ways to go without the big chain stores...we have been getting stuff from the Amish and want to get chickens again (we took a break from them due to critters eating them all the time! HEEHEE!) but truly one would have to like barter or trade from others/make soap, candles, etc from their own animals, ashes etc...whew! We aren't there yet! It would be so cool though! I would miss my dishwasher though! :P

    Those are some of the ideas we have thought about...

    Fun topic as I said before!

  7. I love the pioneer days idea in theory but in reality I think I would have croaked being born in those times. I'm a little too accustomed to wash machines, electric stoves and vacuum cleaners. The thought of all the back breaking work those women did, well, I just stand and applaud them, for sure. And I'm very thankful God knew what He was doing and allowed me to be born in this generation! :v)

  8. Hi Sandra, I've still been reading, but not comenting. So glad you are feeling better.

    I'm with Susanne on this one, I totally applaud what those women did...watching a woman use a Victorian 'dolly' to do the laundry (one hour of dollying is back breaking to do one load of laundry!! And after you've done that there's another ton to follow with mangling and whathaveyou) made me realise how much I love my washing machine!!! :) I reckon that the pioneer women wouldn't have done a lot of the backbreaking work out of choice but necessity.

    Having said that we can learn an awful lot from ladies of yore, many of the home arts have been lost in this technological age...but then again I do love my techie stuff! :)

    I love your new header BTW.

    Love and hugs

    Sarah xxxxxx

  9. We try to live simply. I always say I was born 100 years too late! We definitely try to use things up & wear them out.

    I am not totally against buying gadgets but I always tell my husband to think about how much we'll REALLY use something. We have a great group of friends with whom we do a lot of sharing - things like saws, drill, etc. We all share so none of us buys something we'll only use once every now and then.

    Thanks for sharing the books,too. I will check the library for them. :)

  10. I love this post. I can completely relate. My hubby and I are working to align our family with the "Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, Or Do Without" motto.

    I make most of our food from scratch, purchase produce from a CSA, always check the thrift store first, and am always looking to make due with what we have. I do coupon shop so it's cheaper to coupon for toothpaste and shampoo than make my own! :) I do work full time out of the house so I can't keep up with 100% self contained household. I LOVE my HE washer (quick, sanitizes in cold, and uses 1/4 water of a regular). I would love to live in a more rural place where houses don't back up to one another, a place where land is aplenty and we could raise our own food 100%.

    Soap from animal ashes? that's a new one!


  11. About three months ago, I picked up a book titled "Made From Scratch" by Jenna Woodenrich (sp?) and loved it. She is only in her mid 20's and fell in love with the homesteader lifestyle (while working full time as a web designer). She keeps a blog, too. It is ColdAntlerFarm.blogspot

    After reading her book, I decided to try a few of her ideas... and found out I was already doing quite a bit of "Simple living" myself.
    I think you would enjoy her book, as well as her blog.
    Thought I would share this jem of a woman with you!

    I am going to see if my library has any of these books. They look SO fun!


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