Monday, January 31, 2011

Oh, the Treaures! The Joy in Hand-Me-Downs.

The support I've received from this blog is overwhelming and so encouraging! It's an excellent exercise in writing and also in creating a focused project--two skills I've let rust away for far too long. Thank you, everyone, for your positive feedback! That adorable creature below, affectionately known as Stinkpants to me, suggested that I give some thoughts on hand-me-downs. What a great idea! Of course, I had to snap a photo of her looking beautiful in the vintage mini-dress I handed down to her as a going-off-to-college gift. What a babe!
Katie Stinkpants in her new apartment and my old dress, looking precious as always

Oh, the Joy!
That dress up there is real cute, right? If you can squeeze into it, chances are you're looking cute too. I could squeeze into it, and sure! it was cute. But again I'll whine about my long torso and my odd proportions when I say that this dress just wasn't perfect for me. Despite my love for its geometric colors and flattering cut, I knew I wasn't doing it justice...but I knew someone who could. Gifting something loved to someone loved is so rewarding, seeing the item succeed in their closet or in their home. This dress is fulfilling its destiny on Stinky in a way that it could never on me, no matter how much I might will it. With any luck, your hand-me-down recipient will still make sure you get the respect you deserve for your treasure. "Like my dress? Broke gave it to me!" Remember, all precious heirlooms first began as hand-me-downs!

Oh, the Excess!
It'd be a great exaggeration to call myself a hoarder, but I will admit to some pretty serious pack-rat tendencies. Most of my clutter is accumulated based on either an item's potential (i.e. craft supplies), or sentimental value. I'm still struggling with my craft supply piles, but I've discovered that by handing down (as opposed to tossing or donating) excess items that are sentimental, the pain of separation is eased. I've given away all of the unnecessaries in my apartment, and finally know where to find that one thing I've been looking for forever and could probably do a roundhouse kick in all my extra space if I had any idea how to actually do one.

Oh, the Agony!
Saying goodbye is hard to do. Take a picture of it. Gift it to someone you see often, who will put the item in their clothing rotation or grant you visitation rights. Months ago, I knew it was time to get rid of a green and black striped sweater I was fond of. Situating it on my dress form and snapping its portrait made me see what I never saw in the mirror--that thing was hideous and unflattering! And now it's good riddance, green-and-black-striped-sweater!

Oh, the Savings!
I don't exaggerate when I say that at least 70% of my apartment is furnished with thrifted or handed-down items. The couch I sit on as I type was dropped off on my porch one day by a co-worker. The television and the chest it rests on were originally in my great aunt's home, as were my sewing table and collection of tiny flamingo figurines. Maybe I haven't earned a spot on apartment therapy yet, but I'll excuse humility for a moment to say that I've done quite well designing my rental space. The table needed a snazzy cloth to cover and the chest needed a couple coats of paint, but the point remains the same: hand-me-downs, paired with a little creativity, are entirely economically responsible.

Oh, What a World!
You know what I love? What I write about ad nauseum? REDUCING WASTE! Giving away your old dress or unloved coffee table keeps it from going into a landfill, and is just one less new dress or coffee table that has to be produced in a factory somewhere. Righteous! Donating your stuff also makes you a real do-gooder, helping a friend with a slim checking account or a non-profit and its patrons (like Goodwill, Salvation Army, DVIP, etc). I'd like to urge you to do your best to first and foremost gift items directly to a person who will use it, and donate it to an organization secondly (things that don't sell in thrift stores often make their way to landfills or developing countries through sketchy practices). Mmm! Social and ecological politeness. Doesn't that feel nice?

Oh! And while we're busy being good people, let's talk about pet hand-me-downs. Jake took in two kitties from a friend who was moving and could not bring them along. Not only is Jake now a total Weird Cat Dad, but the cats were kept out of the shelter, off of the streets, and thus away from drugs, street gangs, and harlot kitties. Their previous mom had the comfort of knowing her babies were going to be well loved and cared for. Pet success!
Weird Cat Dad proof: Jake bought his second-hand cat a pair of infant-sized overalls. This is Emme escaping them.
Oh, the Imperfection!
Sometimes things are handed down to you not for their perfection but for their potential. Don't be discouraged if your new skirt or book shelf isn't perfect. Surfaces can be painted. Loose parts can be nailed or glued. Holes can be mended. Stains can be disguised. Fit can be altered. Recently, Carissa gifted me a lime green skirt whose color and silhouette both screamed, "BROKE!" As "me" as it was, the fit was a little loose and billowy, and the waist bagged. After a little pinning and a swing through the sewing machine (as well as some jazzy applique), the skirt and I have really been able to build a life together.

If you've been gifted something that needs a little spicin', get at me! I have a team of professionals (read: artsy friends) oozing with brilliant ideas and the abilities to execute them. And get 'ta flexing those hand-me-down muscles! Not sure where to start? Attend--or organize--a clothing swap!

For the record, neither Katie nor her pants are-- in any way-- actually stinky.

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