Posts Tagged ‘Consumption’

On my to-do-list since we bought our house six years ago has been to get a new entry door to our mud room. The current door, and unfortunately the one we use most often, is a horrible beaten slab of wood, shedding handfuls of paint at the slightest provocation.

I’ve spent a little time poking around for a used replacement door, but I didn’t want to invest a lot of time looking and I was having trouble finding one that was the right size. My carpenter, however, knew I was door-hunting and last week he called to say he’d caught one.

He was renovating another house and was taking a door to the landfill when he realized it was a perfect fit for our mud porch. It was a good steel door: exterior grade, with a glass panel, in great condition. And, it was free.

This may seem like a stroke of good luck, but there’s another force at work here and it goes simply by the name of patience. I’ve known I needed another door for years. Instead of going to the store and buying one, I talked to a few people, looked around a bit, and then I waited.

Unless I’m in desperate need (or getting new plants for my garden–an activity from which nothing can stop me) this is my preferred method for acquiring stuff. The benefits to waiting are many. For one, things that turn up on your doorstep are often free. They are also frequently more interesting and of better quality than the things you might pick up new.

For the last 15 years, we’ve covered our bed with an old green blanket that my mother salvaged from the dregs left behind by a departing neighbor. It was a fairly hideous item; however, it was also the right size and weight. Figuring something would eventually turn up to replace it, I waited.

Last month I was poking around in my dad’s apartment when I came across a glorious patchwork quilt, of just the right size and weight, tucked away in a drawer. I remember my parents picking it out from a sale of Sioux Indian artwork on a trip to the Dakotas when we were children.

My father was thrilled that we had a use for it, and now it lights up our bedroom every day. I’m happy that I never found another quilt; I don’t have to be torn about which to use, or which to keep stored in a drawer. It’s oddly pleasant to have waited into my mid-40’s for this quilt.

Then there was the case of my grandmother’s rolling pin. I’m not much of a baker but I do occasionally like to make my grandmother’s Danish pastry recipe. At the point where one is supposed to roll out the dough with a rolling pin, I’d use a wine bottle instead. I did think it would be nice to have a real rolling pin, especially when the dough would stick to the glass, but it seemed silly to buy one just to use twice a year.

When my grandmother passed away in Denmark, a box of somewhat random keepsakes was packed up and sent to the family in America. Out of this box came, of all the curious items, her old heavy, worn wooden rolling pin, smelling faintly of almond extract. I can picture my aunts, who all no doubt had rolling pins of their own, packing up this box and hoping that somehow one of us might need this intimate piece of my grandmother’s daily life.

When we opened the package, my sister, who knew I was stubbornly refusing to buy a rolling pin, simply laughed; then she handed me the smooth wooden cylinder. I’m sure that this wonderful tool found its way to me because I waited for it. I love that I use it to make the same pastries that my grandmother made.

It always seems like an amazing coincidence to find exactly what I’m looking for without a lot of effort or expense, but really it’s just a side effect of the intense volume of consumer goods in which we are constantly awash. With the same patience required of anyone who has ever gone out fishing, you just stick your finger into the flood and eventually you can catch whatever you need.

Nowadays, a number of websites, such as Craig’s List and Freecycle, make it easy to find local people who want what you have or have what you want. The process is less magical than calmly waiting to see what turns up, but it’s also a lot more efficient.

Last summer my neighbor asked me to help her find a home for a mattress that was headed to the dump the next day. I posted it on Freecycle and it was picked up within hours by a woman who commented how nice it would be not to sleep on the floor anymore. My neighbor’s family was saved a trip to the dump as well as the mattress drop-off fee.

As we gobble up the earth’s resources at an alarming rate, spewing pollution out at every step, at least we should make good use of the stuff we’ve already made. And, in a culture that revels in instant gratification, I’ve found there is also pleasure to be had in pausing for a while to see what shows up on the doorstep. Now if I could just find a chicken coop…

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