Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recycling on Steroids Inspires A Very Confused Rant

On occasion, I have shared some of my sewing and craft projects on this blog.  This is usually because I've neglected blogging for some period of time, and want to demonstrate that I haven't been doing nothing.  I don't mind being thought of as tacky or untalented, but it would torture my soul if anyone thought I was lazy.

Who can forget my adorable/dreaded decorated wire hanger project?   (Who, indeed.) Certainly no one who received a set of these in your favorite team colors, right? This was just one of my ideas for "upcycling" stuff around the house that made me question my penchant for saving junk (Here is a link to that blog about hoarding.)
My idea of sharing a project or a recipe has always been to present the finished product.  If I remember to take a picture of something I've made, it's generally terribly staged, poorly lighted and shows off the amateurishness of my photography skills as well as my crafting or cooking abilities.  I thought the online tutorial was pretty much the province of Martha Stewart and Better Homes & Gardens.  Little did I know that tutorials by DIYers and bloggers are HUGE. There are beautifully photographed, easy step-by-step how-tos on every subject under the sun, a few keystrokes and mouse-clicks away. I can personally vouch for the fact that it is possible to go without food, drink or sleep for 9 hours, while only viewing how-to pages on the Interwebs.

At one time I must have "liked" something on Facebook (or is it facebook?) that resulted in me getting frequent updates from some DIY site.  I rarely look at the links, because I don't need anymore unstarted/unfinished projects at this point in time, and it is questionable whether I ever will need more projects since I have about 10 lifetimes of crap in my "project corner" of the basement.  So the question is: why did I click on this one?

Yes, I have spent most of the last 48 hours reading nearly all of the 101 Green Handmade Gift Tutorials.  All I can say is...why aren't this bright, creative, frugal, resourceful people running our country? You won't believe the ideas people come up with to save money, prevent waste and encourage re-use. My feelings bounced back and forth between "why didn't I think of that?" to "I'm starting Christmas presents today" to "time to put the kids to work," but never once did I think "why bother?"  Everything I looked at seemed to have some value, even it if was for cats, and I don't even have cats.

You will have to look at the list yourself to see which of the 101 ideas you care to explore, but I'm going to list, from memory, some of the materials that I currently have in bumper-crop quantities, that brilliant people created easily-doable projects for:

wine corks, wine bottles, glass jars, old sheets and pillowcases, t-shirts, buttons, candle stubs, vinyl record albums, lace, nice scrap paper and key rings.

Now besides the fact that the previous paragraph is poorly worded and structured, I'm not going to bother editing it, because I have to rush off and do some projects soon.

But back to my main point:  why aren't these resourceful people, with their collective understanding of budgeting, cost control and material management, snatched up from the obscurity of their DIY blogs and websites and elevated to some post where they can do some good, like the Treasury Department or Chair(wo)man of the Federal Reserve? 

Because the other thing I've been doing instead of blogging is reading.  I've been reading political articles and studies and books until my head wants to explode. I've watched debates and studied transcripts of speeches.  I've researched bills and statutes.  I've nearly driven myself insane with information.

And I've composed blog entries so crazed with frustration and vehemence that I can't even bring myself to share them.  The controversies arising from the presidential primaries both fascinate me and enrage me.  I want to discuss issues like the Affordable Care Act, troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the paradox of concurrent epidemics in obesity and hunger, the true meaning of separation between church and state, and energy independence.

But, Lord have mercy, has anyone looked at what passes for budgeting and monetary policy in Washington? You can see the actual budget and an explanation of what it is supposed to accomplish here.  What a bleeping joke! Our country is bleeding out like someone whose jugular has been slashed, and the best we can hope for is a cap on spending growth?  Economic recovery is underway because of GDP growth, but inflation figures don't factor in the cost of food or energy...what kind of measure is that?

  The unemployment rate is being cited as going down, which is accomplished in part by not counting a chunk of non-working folks who simply stopped looking for work. And unemployment measures what happened, not what is happening; hence, it's a 
"lagging indicator," not of good predictive value. 

And in this uncertain economic climate, individual savings is on the rise for the first time in ages.  More people who never saved a dime in their life have begun to tuck away for a possible emergency.  So what does our government advise?  Well, since consumer confidence rose by a fraction (partially measured by the sale of durable goods, like cheap flatscreen TVs the week before the Superbowl), we are being encouraged to start spending again.  

Clearly, Washington needs more stern mommies on the payroll, yelling "Save your allowance!" and giving out demerits for bad budgetary behavior. Better yet, we need some Great Depression survivors to lecture us, the consumers, and the government on our crazy ways.  We need Home Economics and Shop teachers to re-educate us on stretching our budgets and re-using our waste and cast-offs.  And these DIYers, scratch gourmets and upcyclers seem to be the modern equivalent of the inventive, thrifty teachers of bygone days.  They may not be able to fix the country, but they have inspired me to stay out of the stores and go shopping in my own closet, pantry, freezer, junk drawer and basement.

I want to be the anti-waste housewife. I'm retraining myself to use the word "waste" as profanity.  As in, "Son of a waste, I just spilled the juice!" or "This wasting song has too many wasting cuss words." Yeah, I know, it doesn't have the zing or punch of a few other words I might choose, but the first way to change behavior is to change the language of behavior, so I have to start somewhere.

After weeks of studying issues to feel like an informed voter, I know one thing for sure.  Other than voting, there is almost nothing I can do to change the direction of this country.  I can't escape regulations which have the force of law, or stop my elected leaders from voting for budgets and entitlements that are antithetical to my country's founding principles and are sounding the death knell of many freedoms I took for granted.  I can't argue with the correlation between out-of-wedlock births and government program dependence, but I don't believe free contraceptives will fix either problem.

I'm beginning to believe that I can only fix my own immediate problems.  My house payment, gasoline usage, grocery management, family planning - these are the problems I can actually work on.  I must use only what I have and recycle, donate or sell what I don't use; save the money I make instead of spending it and don't borrow to do any of the above. I need to do more with less. And if the person in line next to me at the grocery store has all convenience and junk food and spends 3 times what I do, that is their business, not mine.  I have to focus on doing my job extremely well, instead of worrying about how others are doing theirs. (This picture is reportedly Kourtney Kardashian's baby surrounded by her food choices, but I'm not judging.)

The GOP candidates cannot solve my problems in a debate, and President Obama has only succeeded in adding to my family's challenges the three years he's served.  I'm going to try to ignore the whole process until my voting day (Tuesday, May 8) and focus on getting my own house in better order.

Because all the information I've digested in recent weeks has only left me more disillusioned, suspicious and downright worried about the state of this country. I only wish we had some of the innovators and problem-solvers who create and post on time-sucking websites, like Etsy, Pinterest and Facebook, working on these bigger problems in Washington, D.C.

Who would have thought an article about cheap gift-making would inspire such a rant? 


  1. Generally an optimist and positive thinker, I am not so about the future of the United States. History shows that once a decline is well underway, well, it isn't pretty. Surely do hope I'm wrong.

  2. And here's me thinking I want to retire for part of the year to the USA. Let's hope in 4.5 years time things will be better both in the USA and UK.