Creativity — Give it Some Time and Thought

by Katy on September 9, 2011 · 16 comments

I have found that the sooner I make a decision, the less inventive my solutions tend to be.

A good example of this is my patio umbrella. Although I love my patio, it’s really not private enough from the neighbors. (Specifically a rental house that has a second story deck that looks right down over our yard. They seem to be perfectly nice people, but that doesn’t mean I groove on them staring down at us.) We could put up a big fence, but that would be super spendy at a time when we’re trying to put money aside, or we could extend the arborvitae along the border, but again — spendy. But then I came to the realization that a properly placed patio umbrella would shield us from prying eyes. However, a decent quality patio umbrella isn’t cheap, so I decided to start keeping an eye out for one.

And guess what I recently found in a free pile?

A perfectly good (and perfectly functional) patio umbrella! The only thing missing was the base. Loathe to ruin a free find, I placed a request on Freecycle for a replacement umbrella base.

And waited . . . And waited . . . .

But then I got the idea to use my large terra cotta pot filled with gravel as the base. I will place attractive polished black rocks leftover from my backyard project to top it off, thus giving it a a very, well . . . polished look.

What’s my point here?

If I hadn’t given myself the time to ruminate over this dilemma, I never would have come up with such a unique and ultimately quite stylish solution. When we don’t give ourselves the time to think through our decisions, we lose the opportunity for creativity.

I do still need the gravel to make my patio umbrella stand, but I know that in time, I’ll come across some.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jinger September 9, 2011 at 10:36 am

Sounds like the perfect solution…I find my most creative moments come when I am swimming laps outdoors under the blue sky…an idea will come to me out of the blue…random creativity. I like it!


Megg September 9, 2011 at 10:56 am

Good idea!
Also, people are often giving away free gravel (or fill dirt) on craigslist.


emmer September 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm

just in case the gravel isn’t heavy enough, maybe a little cement? or scrap metal? or one of the above with dirt and short plants in the top section. pretty and useful and unique.


Katy September 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I do believe there will be some trial and error.



Steady Plodder September 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Can’t wait to see a picture of the final product!


Jennifer September 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm

This sounds very much like my recent curtain rod ordeal. I thought I’d go price curtain rods for a 130+ inch window. Wowsa….you want $50 – 70 for a damn curtain rod?? Seriously??? So we got some flower pot hanging hooks and cut a long skinny sapling and used that as a rod. It looks amazing and I know that it’s definely one of a kind. It took much longer to get the curtains hung than if I’d bought the rod, but I’m MUCH happier with the end result!! And it saved us at least $35!!


kari September 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I love the idea of a sapling… but I have gone to Home Depot and bought CLOSET RODS to use for curtain rods! They are long, and strong and you can paint them or stain them or leave neutral!


HeatherS September 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm

We used a large pot for our umbrella also. We put a piece of PVC pipe in the middle and then filled around that with cement. The umbrella fits right into the PVC pipe and the cement makes it heavy enough to hold the umbrella in place even in windy situations. I put dirt over the cement and plant some shallow rooting plants (usually impatiens) in there every summer and it’s quite pretty.


Katy September 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm

That is awesome!



Lucy September 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Adding water after filling with gravel would give more stabilty without additional cost!


Jo September 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I so agree with your approach. Somehow the problem and all our knowledge percolate around in our brains when we don’t even realize we’re thinking about it, and then a good idea seems to pop out.


Practical Parsimony September 10, 2011 at 7:46 am

If you want to use less rock or dirt, try using broken bricks or concrete pavement for weight. Then, you will require less rocks or dirt to fill the pot. Actually, anything heavy, could be metal, will serve as weight. Just remember that a pot under the table might not leave much room for feet. However, if you are not using it with a table, no problem. If you have a small board (thinking plywood scrap) you can cut round with the proper hole, it could be painted and put on top of the pot, making a smallish table…thinking small and low, not for dining. That way, the heavy fill for the pot does not have to be pretty because the board will cover it.

Congratulations! I have never, ever seen an umbrella on a trash pile! I got a table from the side of the road, but there was no umbrella. I could make the fabric part if I could find good ribs. Oh, a friend gave me an umbrella base because he did not know what it was.


Indy September 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

I love it when the back of your mind produces the perfect solution.

My most reecent solution went in reverse, I had a material, lots of broken terra cotta popt and brick, and I needed a use for it.

I took apart a useless retaining wall on the edge of my back yard, build a good 4 ft circle, and cracked all the bricks into smaller bits as was well as the various tiles, to create a gravel base. I now have a very attractive firepit for cool autumn nights in the flat area of my backyard that will never grow anything.


Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares September 10, 2011 at 1:24 pm

A funny paradox of thrift is that there are two really good ways to save money:

1. Wait (like your patio umbrella example).
2. Don’t wait. For example, don’t wait until your sandals are broken and you’re desperate, but think ahead and acquire another pair if you find a good opportunity, even if you don’t need them yet.


Practical Parsimony September 12, 2011 at 8:21 am

Filling a pot with concrete that will harden could be hazardous. In an area with even a mild freeze, the pot and concrete will likely not expand and contract at the same rate, causing the pot to crack. Vulcan, a cast-iron statue presiding over Birmingham, AL had concrete poured into it to stabilize it years ago. The opposide occurred, destabilizing it to the point the whole statue had to be removed and repaired to make it safe. ….just something to consider.


Katy September 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

It turns out that my mother had a cast iron patio umbrella base, which I brought home, fixed up a bit and set in place. My backyard suddenly looks so much more put together and I am really happy.

I would have been happy to figure out a creative solution, but I’m also happy to get a simple solution. 🙂



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