Spinning Straw Into Gold

by Katy on August 24, 2010 · 11 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

Non-Consumer Living Room

I am the queen of spinning straw into gold. I guess you could say I’m theRumpelstiltskin of the non-consumer set. Show me a mostly empty refrigerator and I can pull together a tasty meal, show me an empty bank account and I can find free stuff to do, show me a poorly decorated room and I can tart it up using things found throughout of the house.

Yup, straw into gold.

Sometimes I think we do ourselves a disservice when we are provided with all the resources to everything we could ever possibly need, as this state dulls ingenuity. Some of the most creative people I know are that way precisely because they’ve never had a comfortable living.

Paris Hilton? Not so creative.

Anyone schmo can walk into an Ikea or Pottery Barn and pick out everything needed to outfit their home, but it takes creative and critical thinking skills to figure out how to furnish on a dime. And if done right, can be a much more beautiful and fad-bypassing look than when everything’s bought at once.

Need a bedside table? How about hauling that ugly dresser out from your mother’s garage and stripping off those layers of paint.

Ahh . . . better.

There is little in my home that I paid more than $100 for, yet I think my house looks much more elegant than I could normally afford. My living room is pulled together from Goodwill, craigslist and garage sale finds. My dining room sports 1920’scraftsman-style Carnegie library oak chairs that I bought off somebody’s front porch. (Eleven of them for $75!) The 1914 piano was free, as was my living room rug. (That burned-by-an-iron-mark? Just make sure it’s hidden under a chair!)

I derive a tremendous amount of satisfaction from being able to assemble a great life for my family. And I don’t just mean furnishings. Money is tight at our house right now, yet we’re heading into a Spring break that will include a night at a water park resort and a few nights nestled in a cabin on Mt. Hood. All of this is for free, and all of it will be way more fun and satisfying than if I’d simply booked a trip to Disneyland.

Cause that’s how Rumpelstiltskin rolls.

Do you feel having less inspires more creativity in your life? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Cate August 24, 2010 at 5:22 am

Yes, in a myriad of ways. Now that we have less money (or rather, are choosier about how we spend our money), I do a lot more repurposing. Decorative items move from room to room instead of me just running out for something new. I mend our clothes. I’m more creative with meal planning (which doesn’t necessarily mean our meals are gourmet 🙂 ). I also tend to look further into the future than I used to, trying to figure out whether or not we’ll need something in the future. For example, we have five fitted sheets for my daughter’s crib, all of which we received as gifts. We really only need two. (We have an extra mattress pad, besides.) I’ve considered getting rid of a few, but we plan to have another child in a couple years, and our daughter will move into a toddler bed–which, of course, uses a crib mattress and crib sheets. If I’d gotten rid of our current sheets without thinking about it first, we’d have to buy new ones in the future.


Rebecca August 24, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Cate, just skip the toddler bed and go straight to a twin. We moved our kids around age 2, but no one time is right for everyone. They can start out on a twin mattress on the floor, so no big falls out of bed, and then move to the bed frame with some safety rails. Works great, and then you don’t need 2 crib mattresses, one for the baby and one for your toddler.


Cate August 25, 2010 at 7:02 am

We’d love to do that, but we don’t have the room! Our kids will be sharing a room, and there’s just no way to fit a crib and a twin bed (or mattress) into it…once both of our kids are out of the crib, we’re planning to get bunk beds.


Annie Jones August 24, 2010 at 6:03 am

Your home sounds like ours. I can only pick out a few things that were purchased new and full retail price. Far more of our furnishings and decor items came from thrift stores, garage sales, hand-me-downs or clearance racks.

And yes, it does spark creativity. An entertainment center with bookcases on either side became two free-standing book cases and a free-standing credenza, all in different areas of the house. A free full-sized display area rug could be used anywhere in the house after hubs carefully cut away the extremely tightly glued-on manufacturer’s label from it’s plush surface. An empty tequila bottle with a cork became a decorative decanter for mouthwash. A $5 garage sale floor lamp in an absolutely wrong color was transformed to the absolutely right color with a $3 can of spray paint. I could go on and on.

It just confirms the adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.


Lisa August 24, 2010 at 10:02 am

Absolutely! I constantly challenge myself to find other ways to fill a need besides buying. If I can make, mend, borrow, substitute, do without, or otherwise find a way to avoid spending , it gives me great satisfaction.


Jennifer August 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Our general rule is that if an item is still servicable, it doesn’t get replaced. I’ve spray painted lamps that worked that I didn’t like the look of, made curtains and duvet covers from old flat sheets we weren’t using and repainted our kitchen cupboards instead of replacing them. It definitely is more work, but most of the time, I end up enjoying the results more that if I had gone out and spent a bundle. Not to mention, you always end up with a one of a kind item!


sharon stanley August 24, 2010 at 6:19 pm

what a great post…i’ve always called it making chicken salad from chicken poop…it’s a gift…and you are right…much more rewarding than a cookie cutter life…


sofy August 25, 2010 at 4:05 am

wow, I feel so inspired right now!
I have a mixture of everything, though no designer or such expensive stuff. Tops, some furniture from ikea the first time I moved from my parents.
I am defiantly going to try a more frugal take on home décor from now on!:)


Molly On Money August 25, 2010 at 11:20 am

For some reason people love to get rid of their china dishes (and I love to receive them). I have several sets and rotate them through seasonally! It gives me the illusion of having new stuff.


debbie August 26, 2010 at 10:36 am

I’m constantly moving stuff around and reorganizing to create a fresh new look…making something out of nothing. I never spend any money on decorating my home. I have plenty of creativity to keep this going for many years to come. Less is more i always say.


Lynn August 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm

I have been doing this “repurposing” now since 1978. Almost nothing new and looks great to me! Sometimes it takes a lot of elbow grease, but the satisfaction is amazing! Lynn


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