Using materials at hand to make something we need. Those materials can be reclaimed, recycled, or simply something we already own that were originally for another use. Examples: I once watched my husband fix a speaker in his car with a twig and a twist tie. I also saw him cut down a large tree using only a garden hose and a 16-inch handsaw (because that’s what we had). Our chicken coop and compost bin were made with almost entirely salvaged materials.
makeshift- “something one turns to in the absence of the usual means or source of supply”
|Little Sister painting the makeshift chicken coop|
Challenging our consumer culture. American consumer culture dictates that if we want something we should have it. And that we can (indeed, we should) go into debt getting it. No waiting. No careful consideration of our actual needs. Our consumer culture even tells us that we deserve it. When we stop thinking about material goods as things we deserve, things we need (when we truly don’t), things we can’t live without, we can really break free. When we start making shift we don’t have to run out to the store and pay full price for the next thing we need. We can use something we already have, or borrow it from a friend, or trade for it, or put it on a list of what to look for at the thrift store, a garage sale, or the curb. Example: I want to raise some chickens for meat this spring and I need a second coop. I decided to build a hoop house made of PVC pipe. There was no way I was going to go out and buy new PVC pipe. So I put PVC pipe on my mental scavenging list and found a bunch in the trash across from my children’s preschool just a couple of days later.
Resourcefulness- “able to meet situations: capable of devising ways and means”
Turning the household unit into a productive unit (instead of a strictly consumptive unit). I have no illusions about making my household into a completely self-sufficient island. My personal goal is not self-sufficiency. But it feels good to make more of what we need. I think that as humans we are wired to create things- physical, tangible things- but often our daily lives do not include such production. In our homes, in our homemaking and husbandry, we can enjoy the act of creating useful, tangible goods for our own consumption. Creating a more productive household can be as simple as cooking a homemade meal or as complicated as raising pigs for meat. Making homemade greeting cards, baking bread, and keeping a vegetable garden are all small ways to produce things we need.
Make- “to cause to happen”, “to cause to exist, occur, or appear”
|Homegrown carrots from our backyard garden|
Letting go of how we think things should look or be. This would include things like not keeping up with the Joneses. It also includes letting go of things our society considers to be “truths” but are really just cultural norms. For example, if you live in the United States and you have a yard, our culture dictates that it should have a grass lawn. Americans really believe in that grass lawn. But what if you tore out all the ornamental plants and killed your grass to make room for something like this front yard over at Food Renegade?
Maybe murdering the front lawn seems like a big step. There are many ways we can give up preconceived notions of how things should be. When we had our first baby we thought that we needed a crib. A nursery always has a crib, right? Our daughter hated the crib and we struggled to figure out sleeping arrangements. It took us until we had our third baby to realize that a mattress on the floor worked far better for us and for the baby. I had to let go of how things should be before I could figure out what would actually work best for us.
Shift- “to change direction”, “to assume responsibility”, “a change in emphasis, judgment, or attitude”
When we find ourselves engaged in any of these activities on a regular basis, then we are making shift. Making shift is low-consumption. I think that when we make shift we give ourselves opportunities to be creative and productive and resourceful. It can even open us up to a more intentional way of living.