My grandma lived through the great depression. She was one of the most resourceful people I have ever met. She reused and recycled everything. She would put her ziploc bags through the dish washer. She was hard core…and I used to think a tad extremist.
Here in Uganda I see a similar type of resourcefulness. I have watched things break and typically when we (westerners) would jump in the car and run out to Target or Home Depot…my Ugandan friends…re-use, recycle, and repair the problem.
Living five hours from a legit grocery store…there is no quick trip to Walmart, therefore we have had to become quite thrifty…and I am better for it. It all started back in Kampala when I saw Godffrey fixing his red rake that had broken in 1/2. Instead of running in to the store for a new one…a well deserved new one…as he rakes the lawn every day with a very questionable and rickety rake; on that beautiful spring day I found him cutting piping to put his rake back together.
This inspired me and I wondered about the broom (the 2nd broom) that my children had broken. Had they stood on the head of the broom, danced with it, used it as a sword or weapon? Probably. Whatever the issue…my broom was broken. I had a new one on my grocery list and though they cost a whopping 12,000ugs about $6usd…it was $6 more dollars I didn’t want to spend on my 2nd broken broom. So I asked Godffrey if he thought he might be able to cut some piping for me? He did, and this was the end result…
And guess what? It works GREAT.
Here are a few other items that we have used from around the house to make life work…
Dog toys are difficult to find and so we have used household items to make chew toys. A water bottle covered with a t-shirt, and a braided rag toy. Toliet paper rolls have become a chewing favorite.
|Grandma would be so proud…ziplocs hold great value in Africa!|
Shoe hangers are on every door. Holding toiletries or homeschool supplies…we don’t have counter or closet space so we make use of these handy things and avoid a junk drawer!
This is my pantry. Bricks and boards. Just like in college.
One of my favorites is our trash cans. Originally large water bottles, we cut off the neck and now have converted to a tough plastic bin. (It doubles nicely as a shoe holder or lego bin!)
Clearly we are not keeping up with the Joneses and are not trying to win any awards for decorators of the year. We know our lives are focussed on function not feng shui. Yet each time I have “needed” something I have had to fight the immediate natural thought, “oh great, we live SO far away from a store–when we will ever get to Kampala to buy X,Y, or Z?? It is a very normal response to something I did every day of my life in the states. It is deep in the DNA.
But all of this necessary creativity and resourcefulness have made their mark. I don’t want to ever go back to a life when my broom breaks and I rush off to Target to buy the newest model. My dog doesn’t need a bunch of squeaky plush toys from petsmart to be complete. Recycling, reusing and repairing make sense to me.
Here’s the deal. It was the girl holding the baby in Fort Portal on the back of the boda. The one with her bra straps tied together to hold everything up. It was the man walking down the street with the top of his shoes flopping because the sole had come undone but he clearly had no other shoes to wear. Those images and many more have ruined me. My experiences have asked me to stop looking at my world through my western lens, thinking I am entitled to the next, newest, and nicest. I don’t need nice new things to make me happy or complete…nor do you.
I can’t change the world or the injustices of poverty. But I can do little things each day to not over-consume. I can re-think the way I view broken items in my home. I can be creative with the food in the fridge and eat a less than perfect gourmet meal…because I mean, I have food in the fridge! I can look at my closet and be content with the 10 pairs of shoes I already own. I can look at the life of material abundance and say…TOO MUCH.
We make a mess when we constantly demand more. We send messages to our children. We instill values in their little lives by our actions. We turn wants in to needs. Living a life with less has been a discipline and something I did not originally set out or choose intentionally. But it has ruined me for the better–and may you not have to move to Africa to learn the lesson…may you just take your cue from me.
Our lives are short. No one that I know would honestly say that they live their lives to make money…or that money is the key to happiness. They do not teach their children that “things” will be what ultimately satisfies. Yet our actions say something different. Today my encouragement is to do one thing. Purge the excess in the garage or closet. Live with less. Reuse the lunchbox from last year. Drive your 1997 Honda with pride–rust, dents and all. Reheat the leftovers and eat them instead of going out after church. Find an old game, book or movie from last Christmas and enjoy it. Wash your plastic bags or straws…be kind to the planet. We have one world and one life and there are a lot of people on this planet making due with a LOT less. Maybe today we could borrow that attitude and forego the trip to the mall. Today we could stop and say enough IS simply enough. Our life is about relationship…not accumulating stuff. Today…may we do one thing that honors and appreciates what we have…while teaching our children that contentment may just be the key to happiness.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Live with Less,