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Use What You Have


As we’ve been getting settled in this new house, there’s a voice in my head that keeps repeating this sage, money-saving advice: use what you have. It can be so tempting to discover a want or a need, and then jump on Amazon or run to Target to get it. That voice can be a real buzz-kill sometimes, but man it helps cut costs.

Again and again these past few weeks I’m reminded: use what you have. Buying new things is not always the answer.

So I didn’t buy new, matching drawer organizers for our dressers. Instead I’m using shoe boxes and mismatched storage containers that work great. And I didn’t go all Pinterest-perfect to decorate some new built-ins in our family room. Instead I’ve sifted through the excessive amount of home decor items I already own. It doesn’t take splurges to make a house feel like home.

Using What We Have Even When It’s Urgent

Sometimes the things I want to buy aren’t frivolous. The lingering smoke from these wildfires has me wishing we had air purifiers. But I saw a hack where you put a furnace filter behind a box fan. We’ve put one in our family room and kitchen area since Sunday, and it’s made a huge difference. (Plus look how dirty it is. Gross.)

Use What You Have

Using What We Have to Set Up School

Our three kids started distance-learning school this week, and we’ll be doing school from home until at least November (but probably for much, much longer). We needed three work stations, but we only have one desk. I didn’t want them sitting at the kitchen table where distractions abound and the daily supplies might runneth over.

The word on the street was parents like us cleaned out IKEA of all its small desks wand many were building desks for their children. I considered these options until that voice said, “Girl, just use what you have!”

I realized we had a narrow fold-up table AND a small play table available. Then I walked around the house gathering jars and containers. We didn’t even need to buy many school supplies. It’s amazing how many crayons, erasers, glue sticks, and pencils we already had. (I did splurge on some new markers and shiny new notebooks, because I’m only human.) I even found some cute signs and ABC cards from years ago that I plan to hang up.

So now our fifth grader is at the desk, our third grader is using the fold-up table, and our Kindergartener is using the play table. They all have an iPad or Chromebook checked out from the school, and they’re using headphones we’ve had for a long time.

Using What You Have

Of course there are things we just have to end up buying. If possible, I try to check thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist first. And of course I still end up giving Target my money sometimes, but hey, at least I tried.

How do you make do with what you have? Do you have to remind yourself to use what you have?



Sorry for the late post. Usually I’m a few weeks ahead but we’ve been traveling and in the process, unplugging for a bit.  I had trouble logging into the blog and it felt a bit like the universe was telling me to rest.  Recover.

We’ve been on the road for more than a month now.  We made it to South Dakota. We stayed in beautiful solitude. We watched quiet sunsets. We fished. We took long hikes and didn’t see a single person. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath for the last six months searching for the feeling of normalcy. I struggle with anxiety. I struggle with depression. As I pushed through the quarantine, I tried to hold on. I failed.

It was like breathing.  Deep gulps of fresh air.

We finally ran out of food and needed to take a trip to the grocery store. We searched frantically for our masks. We went so long without seeing another soul that we lost our masks. Oh Lord it was wonderful!  It was the emotional fix I needed to get me through another six months…or twelve?

Financially, it was a bigger hit than expected. We found bubbles on the trailer tires three days before we left and had to spend $500 replacing them. We also realized our T-Mobile phones are paperweights in South Dakota. We had to get a Verizon phone to get any service at all. Fortunately we reserved cheaper sites at campgrounds next year because I wanted to keep a good buffer. I tried to keep the “I told you so’s” to a minimum when talking to my husband.

We left for Montana last week. South Dakota was breathtaking and refreshing but the WiFi problem made work a bit more stressful. We’re trying Montana for a few weeks or months. We’re going to be bouncing around for a while…in the middle of nowhere. Breathing.