I was raised with the mantra: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I recently learned that this phrase was coined by the War Advertising Council during World War II. It was created to help promote the need to conserve scarce resources and keep prices down by not generating excess demand. Sadly, today we live in a world of consumerism and excessive waste. Even though I was raised in a fiscally conservative family, I sometimes find myself buying things I really don’t need.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
The coveted jeans
I remember when I was in 5th grade, all I wanted was a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of money (I come from a large family). I recall sitting on the swings at recess next to one of my friends swinging next to me. She was wearing a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. As she pumped her legs into the sky, taking the swing higher, I noticed her jeans had strawberry patches at the knees (presumably to cover holes). As I continued staring at her jeans, my friend began to tell me that she was getting a new pair.
“Wow!” I said. “You’ll then have two pairs of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. You’re so lucky!” In that moment, my friend must have felt bad for me because she replied “You know, I don’t think I’ll be keeping the old pair once I get the new ones. Would you want these old ones?” At hearing her offer, my heart began to race. Would I really be getting a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans? Somebody pinch me!
The following week, she presented me with her old jeans—complete with strawberry patches at the knees. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I can’t recall how long I wore them, but I remember feeling like I was finally one of the cool kids. And, I was doing my part to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!”
Fast forward 40 years, and I’m still living the mantra. Most of the furniture in my house is second hand, I still love consignment shops, and I’m always trying to make everything go a little further. Interestingly enough, even though I’m older and can now afford to be less thrifty, I still find it hard to pay full price for anything.
Which is why #26 on my List of 50 Things was so hard: “Splurge on something extravagant.” The opposite of extravagant is thrifty. I’m pretty sure that when you look in the dictionary under “thrifty,” my name is also there. After all, I even had my mother make my wedding dress. How would I ever get up the nerve to splurge on something extravagant?
Well, after months of contemplating how I might accomplish #26, I finally had the perfect thing in mind. While it may not feel extravagant to some, it felt very extravagant to me. I would finally repair and professionally recover my antique chair.
Discovering the chair
Nearly 25 years ago, while living in Pennsylvania, I came across a beautiful chair at an estate sale on the Main Line. It was in excellent condition. There was even a matching chair next to it with a broken arm. I was offered $15 for the chair in excellent condition and $5 for the broken one. Since we didn’t have a lot of extra money, I decided to purchase the $15 chair. Over the years that followed, this chair sat in our living room—both in Pennsylvania and later in Utah. I often received compliments on the chair because it was so unique and beautiful.
Eventually, the silk upholstery began to tear. And, it wasn’t until we had to move to a rental nearly eight years ago, that I realized how badly our cat had destroyed the back side of the chair. While I was unhappy with this discovery, I figured it could have been worse.
Well, I didn’t realize how true those words would be until my niece sat on the chair a few years later, and the legs buckled and broke. I was so sad and tried not to let it show. However, I didn’t want to get rid of this chair—no matter how broken and old it now was.
One day, when my parents were in town for a visit, my mother decided to make some phone calls to see how much it would cost to repair. It was not cheap. In fact, repairing the chair would cost more than any other piece of furniture currently in the house (minus the piano). How could I possibly justify the spend? So, the chair sat in the garage gathering dust and looking pitiful.
Then last year, I decided that maybe this would be my splurge on something extravagant. The definition of extravagant is “lacking in moderation, balance, and restraint.” Could I let myself be a little skiwampus and unrestrained for once? Maybe I could. After all, this was my year to be brave and throw caution to the wind.
Making the decision
So, after continued encouragement from my mother, I finally mustered the courage to take the chair to a local furniture repair shop, Craftsman Upholstery. Craftsman Upholstery has been in business for over 50 years and does beautiful work. I was hopeful that they would be worth it. Although I was told it could take up to six months for the chair to be finished, it only took a couple of months. And as you can see from the photos, they did a beautiful job. It doesn’t even look like the same chair.
My antique chair now sits in my bedroom across from my bed and is a constant reminder of why it’s important to embrace the skiwampus in your life. Instead of gathering dust in the garage, this chair now delights me. I can’t believe I put it off for so long. If it weren’t for the List, I might not have gone through with it. And now, I have a lovely chair I can continue to use up and wear out!