Making Old Things New

PJ Sharon, here with another snowy morning in the Berkshires. December is right around the corner and it’s time to put on the studded snow tires, dig out the winter duds, and hunker down for the long winter ahead. Having grown up in New England and having spent most of my youth in freezing ice skating rinks, I kind of like the winters. Although as I get older, the cold seems to seep a little deeper into my bones—incentive to get off my writer’s butt and start kicking it into high gear with some activities to get the blood moving. Tae Bo snow-shoeing anyone?

Some of you that know me have often heard me report on the constant state of chilliness in my 1840’s humble abode. She’s a drafty old place and with my husband being a bit of a polar bear and the frugal sort, we tend to keep the house anywhere from 55-65 degrees through much of the winter months. Oh, I could crank up the pellet stove and turn on the oil heat, but I like the challenge of seeing if we can get through the winter on just a tankful of oil and a couple of tons of pellets. I’ve learned to layer up, wear warm socks, and if all else fails, I have my darling husband—who is “hot” in so many ways—to snuggle up to. I’m sure that is all part of his evil plot.

Lest you think him cruel or me crazy for living in these harsh conditions, I will gladly take the blame for my plight. You see, I’m all about conservation. I shudder when I see someone throw away something that could be recycled, re-used, or re-purposed. I’m forever shutting off lights and I even take a trash bag on my walks now and again to pick up discarded cans and bottles along the side of the road.
It has taken some time, but I’ve gotten my husband on the band wagon with me, and if something can be fixed rather than thrown out, he’s your man. You have to love engineers. I’ve learned so much from living with him that I think I’m beginning to think like him—as terrifying as that is to admit. So if that means re-using zip lock bags and aluminum foil or even re-working an old scene from an unpublished manuscript to fit a current WIP, I’m in!

To show you just how deep this renew/re-use/recycle thing goes, I mentioned on face book a few weeks ago that my hands get cold after I’ve been at the computer for a while. I had several helpful suggestions. More than one person mentioned that I should buy a pair of fingerless mittens or cut the fingers off a pair of old work gloves. I happened to be shopping in Great Barington this past weekend and saw some lovely—and VERY pricey—such gloves. They were cashmere and cost more than I would spend on a good pair of shoes, so it was a no brainer to walk away, but I must have had the idea rumbling around in my head, because when I wore out the heels of my favorite pair of Smart Wool socks and was just about to begrudgingly throw them out, a brilliant plan popped into my head. I stuck my fingers down into the uber warm sock and let my thumb pop out the hole in the heel. Aha! Then all I had to do was to cut the toes out and I had an awesome pair of “hand socks.”

So with Christmas coming, I’m putting on my thinking cap for ways to give “practical” gifts from the heart. I’m thinking Smart Wool socks for everyone…with instructions for re-purposing them when they wear out.

What about you, dear readers, have you had any ingenious uses for old stuff? How about re-crafting a scene that you’ve taken from an old manuscript?


23 thoughts on “Making Old Things New”

  1. I really enjoyed the post, PJ. I do recycle bits of previously written things into my stories.

    Upcycling is a labor of love all the way around, isn’t it? I once made a gift for my daughter that was very well-received. I took an envelope and carefully opened it flat, then used it as a template to make upcycled envelopes out of catalogs and magazine pictures. I bundled them with a strip of paper and the recycle symbol and included a sustainably harvested bamboo pen, a 100% post consumer waste tablet of paper, an “I save trees” stamp, and packaged it all in an upcycled cigar box covered with cancellation stamps from all over the world (found online in image searches). She uses it too. 🙂 My pinterest boads have more upcycling ideas if you’re interested.

    1. That is so cool, Rose. I love the idea! I will definitely follow your Pinterest board. Thanks for stopping in and sharing it with us!

  2. Paula, good for you for being so crafty. You sound like a missionary. When in foreign lands, with very little funds, they have to reuse everything. I am big on saving and reusing. I found someone who wears the same size shoe as me, and gave her a bag full yesterday. We were both thrilled. I enjoyed the picture of you with those handmade hand socks on. We have a wood stove that gives us the best heat in the world. The stove is similar to the old cast iron radiators that we didn’t appreciate when we had them. Thanks for a wonderful, informative post.

    1. Thanks Gail. I’m not usually crafty at all. I don’t knit, crochet, sew, or quilt. I’ve never been an arts and crafts kind of girl. The hand socks came out of inspiration…you know…desperation is the mother of invention. Something like that.

  3. Love both your’s and Rose’s ideas! I recycle my cans, bottles and paper. I donate to and use the local thrift store.

    Another use for old socks: A long time ago money was tight, winter was upon us and like you our house was drafty. I took a pair of worn knee high socks, cut the foot out of them and sewed the two together. Then sewed one end, stuffed it with other old socks and closed up the other end. Voila – a draft stopper for the bottom of my door. I still use it.

    Packing material: My eggs come in styrofoam cartons which I hate throwing away because they don’t break down in the landfill. So I’ve save them and use the cartons (whole and the section where the eggs sit) as packing material. It’s great. You line the bottom, sides and anywhere else it will fit. Makes it real cushy and since I’ve been doing this (I’ve sent pottery, glass and multiple presents in one box) nothing has ever broken when mailed.

    Thanks for the great post.

    1. Awesome use of egg cartons, Donna! And i love the door cozy idea. I have to see what I’ve got for old socks around. Thanks for sharing with us!

  4. You are awesome, you upcycler, you. Way to keep those hands toasty. Love ’em! Good research for your dystopian story too 🙂

    1. I grew up with a lot of hand-me-downs, so this is not a new concept for me, but I agree, as I get older, I have so much more appreciation for conservation-minded living. It helps me to feel like I’m doing my small part in saving the planet:-)

  5. PJ, you’re so cute with your hand socks! I reuse and recycle, but not quite to that extent. I could not survive in your house. When we used propane for heat, we kept the house at 68 and I was still wearing long johns, (top and bottom), sweatshirt, wool socks and slippers, blanket, plus electric heater blowing on my legs. No exaggeration. My awesome hubby modified our furnace to accommodate an outdoor woodburner, and now I can keep the the house at a comfy 72-73. Still wear two layers up top, but no more long johns, slippers, blanket, or electric heater. 🙂

      1. Thanks for chiming in Stacey. I dress in multiple layers and go from hot to cold ten times a day between the chilly air and the hot flashes…er…power surges I experience frequently these days.

        We, too have a “rag bag” for old hand towels, tee shirts and such–great for furniture polish–or gun cleaning:-)

  6. Lovely post. As I class myself as “old stuff” I am always on the lookout for ways of rejuvenating myself. That’s much preferred to recycling myself, which sounds altogether too painful. 😀

  7. I had to laugh at your SmartWool sock upcycling. As I type right now, I have a pair of my son’s old sweat socks on my hands with holes cut out for fingers! And to think I thought I was the only person who hated to turn the heat up!

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