Make Do and Cherish

I recently wrote an instagram post on mending two holes in one of my crochet blankets, and it resonated with quite a lot of folks – I’m still receiving messages about the sentiment, so I thought I’d expand my thoughts into a longer post here.

I’ve never been into shopping as a hobby. I love the ‘spark joy’ concept from the KonMari tidying method – that’s the thrill I get from charity shop finds, and from making good hats, and from buying ridiculous clothes. Reading about it again recently – and watching the Netflix programme – has reminded me of the joy of stuff, and that far too often I shove things in corners and behind doors and onto the tops of cabinets so that I don’t have to deal with them, when instead I should be celebrating them. I know there’s criticism of her approach – how much joy does your mixer give you, or your toothbrush, or your mop? Well, quite a bit, I’d say – if you find the tool that works well for you, and you actually enjoy using it (even though the task you’re using it for might not be your favourite), then it sparks joy. It’s an approach not just to tidying and to unflattering your space by finding homes for your objects (and it’s certainly not about getting rid of things and living a minimalist life, unless that’s what brings you joy), but it’s very much an approach for letting new things into your life, too.

Like most of the insta community I follow we were fortunate to receive far more Christmas presents than we need – joyful things that we’ll treasure for years, such as a lovely print from a friend, long-awaited books from family, and a taxidermy bat from Seamus. Personally I find giving gifts as joyful as receiving them, or maybe more – I love thinking about what the recipient might enjoy. Indeed, my gift-selecting mantra is ‘spark joy’ – will this gift tickle them, will they enjoy it, will it make them smile? Even if it is something practical I try to select the nicest possible version of the thing – not necessarily the most expensive one, but the one that is best suited to their interests and tastes. It’s all about the whimsy for me – the spatula with the vampire face that groans when you press a button; the Cliff Richard calendar that’s been a staple for the last 15 years; the cassette tape of Seamus singing (when we already have the CD). It’s the whimsy that gives me joy when I choose and wrap the present, and I hope that’s what the recipients feel, too, when they unwrap it. This year we wrote little notes with our gifts explaining why we’d chosen things, and I think they were well-received.

So, whimsy and joy. But how do you preserve that feeling when you’ve had your things for a long time, and everyone else seems to have nice new (to them, or actually new) things, and their houses are immaculate? Well, that’s where ‘make do and cherish’ comes in. We use our heirlooms. Granny’s crochet blankets are all in rotation, rather than packed away safely. We use the fancy wineglasses that spent 70 years carefully cleaned and displayed but never used. We’ve broken one, but the enjoyment we get from actually using them – and remembering their previous owners and their stories while we do so – makes that ok. We don’t throw things out when they’re old/unfashionable/a bit broken – we mend, and darn, and repurpose. Our old Ikea bookcases are now raised beds in the garden, and I love seeing them because they weren’t purpose-built.

So here’s to a year of cherishing: of enjoying those old, tired, and slightly manky things and breathing new life into them. To mending our holey clothes and our chipped mugs. To using our heirlooms and to only buying things that bring joy.

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