I think this is an important topic more people should speak up about, because I’m tired of seeing my alleyways filling with furniture people could’ve reinvented with five bucks and a little imagination.
For about $110, I’m completely reinventing my living area. That includes building a new pantry for storage with MDF shelving, a gallon of primer, a gallon of paint, and some paper filing boxes. I’m also using leftover paint from last year.
I have a few pieces of furniture I’ve reused several times. My kitchen table has gone from glass-topped and clear pine to fake stained glass and white wood, after having been green for a while. My filing cabinets got some fancy brown kraft-type paper slapped on them with collage glue slathered over it for effect, and in the end now look just like leather. Mirrors have been painted several times, as have a few other pieces of furniture, always resulting in a bigger change impact than I’d have suspected. New drawer pulls and a two-tone paintjob turned a 35-year-old side table of my mother’s into a beautiful accent piece, and it cost less than $10 to do.
This isn’t just about being cheap and practical, it’s about changing the way you view your place, and your accountability, within the world, by making practical at-home decisions with greater impact than you can realize — that is, until you stand back and imagine what an impact 6 billion people making similar decisions would have upon this ball in space.
Sure, you can donate old furnishings to charity and it will, in theory, be used by someone else, and this is better than the alternative, but that still means you’re buying something, that you’re contributing to this endless cycle of production in industry today.
Becoming environmentally-friendly means not just disposing of what you have in a responsible manner, and buying less, but also buying less often, or not at all, when possible. Everything we buy takes energy to get to us; it takes fossil fuels to transport, electricity to create, raw materials to make.
It’s this cycle of more-more-more that needs to change for us as a society before we can get to a safer ecological standing.
Turning your light off and chucking cans into the recycle bin are a great start. But it’s just a start.
Now you have to stop replacing your toys with every new version release, switch to rechargeable batteries, buy products with less packaging, try to reinvent your furnishings before resorting to replacing them, and a whole lot of other little things one can do to help the planet.
When I had to get rid of a couch last year because I’d bought one that was cheaply made as a temporary fix, it was an eye-opening experience for me. I’d contributed this massive, horribly made, useless to anyone, bad-ass no-support sofa to a landfill, and it was going to be a part of the problem for years to come. When I purchased my new sofa, I decided to go into debt and buy something very expensive, leather, with a lifetime warranty. Now I can rest assured my purchasing decision will be solid for at least 20 years, whether I keep it or sell it down the line. Now that’s a happy landfill!
In the next week or two, I’ll be done with my home fixes, and I’ll have some great photographs to share with you from the process.
And when I do, you’ll be boggled by just what $110 can accomplish in the modern home. Cosmetic fixes that you, and Mother Earth, can love, on the cheap. It’s a beautiful thing.
*No, I’m not turning this into a Martha Stewart column. If you want to know how to repaint furniture, fuckin’ Google it, honey!