Thursday, May 7, 2009
The Teva sandal made its debut right around the time I entered junior high. Of course everyone who was cool had a pair. And naturally my parents weren’t the type to buy a sandal just for the sake of my popularity. So I was out of luck. Of course there were some available knock-offs at the stores, mainly in solid black. Which was okay, I guess, but they lacked the tell-tale colorful stitching of the originals.
So what did I do? I bought a pair, and using some embroidery thread, I hand-stitched my own pattern onto my generic sandals. True, they weren’t exactly the real thing, and I doubt I was fooling anyone. But I wore them to school every day in the spring with a certain pride that is very difficult to find in junior high.
A Habit is Born
Why do I share this story? Because thinking outside of the box is a Recessionista habit I’ve come to love. A habit that I started practicing back in junior high just to fit in with the cool kids.
Thinking outside of the box (aka creative resourcefulness) is the ability to look at something old or generic in a new and fresh way. And it can be applied in almost infinite situations. Like turning a handful of leftover ingredients lingering in the fridge into a new entree that is surprisingly good. Or covering old cereal boxes in decorative paper to use for storage. Or re-imagining a pile of scrap wood as canvases for art.
Practice Makes Perfect
Probably the best opportunities for out-of-the-box brilliance come from repurposing what you already have, but seeing old things in a new light can be difficult at times. It is easier to glimpse the potential in something when it is packaged and labeled. Practice can go a long way to unveil hidden potential, though. For instance:
* taking an inventory of what you already own may reveal some pleasant surprises. I wrote about this recently during my spring cleaning bout. It is very easy for me to forget about the stuff I already own, but uncovering it from the backs of my closets or under the bed can give me a jolt of inspiration.
* getting into the habit of asking “what else can I use this for?” can go a long way. Can the decorative cup holding your toothbrush be used as a small vase? Would your old sweater make a nice pillow? Can you grow strawberries out of that rusted watering can? Even if you would never turn your CD’s into a shiny hanging mobile (please, please don’t!), it still helps get the creative juices flowing to think about it.
Why the Trouble?
Why go to all this trouble? Well, the benefits seem fairly obvious to me. You can continue to adorn your home and wardrobe without spending a ton of money. You are practicing one of the three R's of conservation: re-using. You are practicing innovative thinking, which leads to invention and breakthrough. And--last but certainly not least--you are giving yourself a chance to be friends with the cool kids.
What is your best thinking-outside-of-the-box story? Share by posting your comment below!
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