Make It Do, or Do Without

2 min
at 11:43 PM

Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without.

That quaint saying dates back to the Depression. I learned it from an elderly lady I'll call Gladys. Gladys recited this rhyme to illustrate a point. Growing up amid two world wars, she told me, everyone understood frugality.

Her wartime days of rationing and margarine coupons are long over. But, like many who lived through wars and the depression, she still has trouble throwing away something serviceable. That vase started out as a wine bottle. Bread is stored in a tin box cookies came in years ago. She repairs her clothes, sewing rips, replacing buttons. She still wears shoes she bought in the 60’s, and has clothes in her closet older than I am.

"Why would I buy a new coat? This one is fine."

Shopping for jeans the other day, I thought of Gladys, as I passed shops filled with "fast fashion" - inexpensive, stylish clothes bought to be worn for one season - heck, for one night sometimes. Every shopping center sports these flashy chain stores, filled with the latest looks and pounding music. Somehow, I didn't think it occurred to those hip young shoppers at the mall buying the trendiest new fashions, to mentally inventory their closets, and "make it do or do without."

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And it's not only clothes. I watched as two teenage girls threw some fast food in the trash, screaming, "Gross!", after a single bite. Fast food, like fast fashion, is disposable. Gladys, who carefully eats every last scrap of food, never wastes a drop of milk, would be appalled.

I'm not sure I agree with Gladys on everything. She needs some new towels, though she can't bring herself to discard her old ones. But Gladys' Depression mindset has made an impression on me. In a throwaway culture and an increasingly plundered planet, Gladys has me rethinking what I buy and what I toss.

That saying may be old, but my day at the mall, it seemed as new as any jeans I saw in stores.

Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without.

And I decided my old jeans are just fine.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

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Richard Swerdlow is a teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District.

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