Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without

by Katy on July 16, 2009 · 16 comments


I should come as no surprise that I kind of groove on the phrase “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

This phrase, which I believe to be a depression era saying pretty much sums up how I want to be living my life.

Here a a few examples:

Today I wore a pair of Columbia Sportswear brand pants I bought a few years ago at Goodwill.

Use it up: These pants have a small rip on the left knee, yet I feel fine wearing them for such formal occasions as taking my kids to swim classes and hanging out at home.

Wear it out: I will wear these pants until the rip gets bigger, at which point I will tear them up for rags. (This will help to get my Hulk-like aggressions out.)

Make it do: I am perfectly fine with looking less than the pinnacle of perfection. I have no allusions on my status as a fashion plate.

Do without: I don’t have a huge wardrobe full of clothing, which means I have to get optimal mileage from each garment. (This does not mean I will go pants-less.)

My friend Ed is visiting from Seattle for a couple days:

Use it up: I made curried lime chicken for dinner. I found a fairly shriveled hunk of ginger, which worked just fine after I peeled the skin off. I also found a small container of lemon and lime juice that my industrious 11-year-old had reamed the other day — this too went into the marinade. I also used up the last of a head of romaine lettuce even though it was starting to get ever so slightly pinkish.

Wear it out: We ate our dinner on our backyard patio. One of the chairs is one of those cheap-o plastic deals that is currently sporting a broken right arm. (My husband sat in this chair.) I will use this chair as long at it still functions. When I do locate the fabulous patio set of my dreams, I’ll demote these chairs to the kids’ treehouse.

Make it do: I meant to slick my house up to an envy inducing state, but I decided that enough was enough and resigned myself to the fact that having the first floor of my house clean was all that I could accomplish. (My husband works night shifts, so I don’t have access to our bedroom during the day. And the kids rooms? Fuggedaboutit!)

Do without: I would love to spend all day tomorrow doing nothing but hanging and browsing the cool shopping districts, but my kids have swim classes at 11:00 A.M. I have roped my mother into watching them afterwards, (thanks Mom!) so we will get to shop on N.W. 23rd Avenue for a few hours. (Very hip shops for him, two terrific thrift stores for me!)

How do you use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

jessie July 16, 2009 at 5:03 am

I definitely followed this mantra in my kitchen. When we moved in, the countertop was a bumpy mottled gray and black Formica with wooden trim. It had seen better days, and also had the undesirable ability to “hide” sticky spots (put your hand down, ew! what is that??).

I knew we were going to do a bigger kitchen remodel down the road, but this countertop just would not work. So what did I do? Rip it out and put something in for about 2-3 years? Nope. I sanded that puppy down, put a high adhesion primer down, about 5 coats of black paint, and then about 3 coats of marine grade urethane. It looks great, and is very durable. It will definitely last until the “real” update.

I’d say this is the epitome of “make it do”. ^_^


Jinger July 16, 2009 at 5:48 am

i wanted a new colorful cushion cover for my ikea wicker chair, looked around my apartment and realized that one of the baby quilts i made would work perfectly. it livens up the room for no cost. next i will make a “new” cushion cover for my porch lounger from a retired shower curtain!


Beth Dargis July 16, 2009 at 8:11 am

How inspiring!

Use it up – I never have more then one shampoo, conditioner or moisturizer open at one time so I have to force myself to use it up.

Make it do – before going out and buying something we look around to see if we have something usable. Like milk crates to store outdoor toys on the porch or a stationary box for receipts.


Di July 16, 2009 at 8:13 am

once the tear in the knee of those pants gets too big I advocate getting more use out of them by cutting them off and using them as shorts! I joined wardrobe refashion so I’m all about the thrift clothing. Wear it out baby! I have a pair of jeans that are going threadbare on the butt, obviously shorts won’t work for those, but rather than throw them away I am gonna try making a skirt with the legs! I lose nothing by trying!


steplikeagiant July 16, 2009 at 9:57 am

I am the queen of do without…if I want something or think I need something, I wait a month to do something about it and by then, I usually have either forgotten about it or found something that will do the same thing…it helps that I hate, yes, hate shopping.

I sew up rips with colorful embroidery thread that someone gave me and call it an embellishment. It helps that I live in a city where no one cares what you wear – ever.


Angela July 16, 2009 at 10:18 am

I’d say I’m the best at “making it do.” It’s sort of philosophical I guess- accepting what you get. So we’ve lived in an old house with a 60s remodeled kitchen for the past 7 years, and now that my husband is undertaking a “limited remodel” on the kitchen, I’m thrilled because I wasn’t expecting it or pressuring him about it. It’s like an unexpected gift instead.


Angela July 16, 2009 at 10:22 am

P.S. Would one of your sons (the younger I would think) like a “Hulk” poster? I worked on that movie for a few months last year and for some reason the director liked me and gave me a signed poster (he said it was because I was always smiling- makes me sound like a simpleton).

If not, no worries. My nephew is the same age and didn’t like the movie.


Meg from FruWiki July 16, 2009 at 10:37 am

My husband and I both try to live by that saying! And we wish more people would. We live in such a disposable society. It’s sad.

Use it up — Food, personal care items, cleaners, you name it, we try to use it up. Or, if we know we are not going to use something (often because we don’t NEED to), we try to give it away.

Wear it out — Our public clothes sometimes become our sleep/play/yardwork/exercise clothes sometimes become our rags. We’ll also be using our current car for some time if we can, despite the fact that we’d love a newer one.

Make it do — Our front door really needs to be replaced, but we’ve sealed it and painted it in the meantime. Our windows are single-pane and let the heat in, but we use our blinds and curtains to keep it out and are looking into using solar film on them.

Do without — Our George Forman grill just died. But you know what? Our cast iron skillet and press works just fine — maybe better. Plus, it takes up less space and it’s healthier than using anything with a synthetic nonstick coating. And while we’d love a dining room table, we’re using our laps and the coffee tables until we can afford one we truly like. Recipe call for an ingredient I don’t have or that is too expensive? I’ll often leave it out (or if it’s important, try to substitute it).


Maniacal Mommy July 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I buy “damaged” produce very cheaply at the local store until my garden produces. The remaining green pepper from a multipack of bruised goods was shrivelling in my fridge. I cut it up tonight to toss it into the goulash, where it perked up nicely.

And as I cooked, I was wearing my glamorous 25 cent cut off jean shorts from a garage sale, paired with a fabulous thrift store tank top.

I also dropped off some maternity clothes and toys that weren’t quite “Craigslist-worthy” to the local WIC (Women, Infants & Children) office. They assured me that the items would find needy recipients who wouldn’t care if there was a small stain or a missing piece.

I love the daily inspiration I get from your blog!


WilliamB July 16, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Use it up: I store my ginger in a foolproof fashion. I peel it, slice it, and store it in a jar of dry sherry (or rice wine – *not* sake! – if you can get it) in the fridge.

My go-to use it up dishes are stir-fry and omlets.

Wear it out: I buy high quality clothes and wear them as long as they look reasonable, typically a decade or longer. I decided I might have been taking it a bit far when I was looking at 20 year old pictures and realizing how many of those clothes I still had. Especially the ones I didn’t like all that much but were still “good.”

Make do: I generally hold off on a purchase for days, weeks, months, to help me decide that I really do want/need that thing.

Do without: see “make do.”

Don’t forget #5: be clever. I knew that today I’d be near a Bass Pro Shop (I don’t live anywhere near one; it was a work thing) so I bought my favorite knives for them to sharpen. $25 saved!

This all said, I’m not a hardcore frugalist. If my chair was broken like Katy’s, I’d replace it. I did get rid of a bunch of those 20 year old sweaters & shirts, even if they are still “good,” because they gave me long service and I don’t like them all that much.


Alison July 16, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Here’s a timely article from today’s Boston Globe about how Maine residents have been using it up, wearing it out, making do and doing without for years:


Judy C. July 17, 2009 at 5:33 am

Although I usually live by that mantra, yesterday was a complete failure, and I’m still trying to analyze what I could have done differently to have avoided the purchase of a brand-new chest freezer.

Yesterday, I started to panic when I saw that the foods in the freezer compartment of my 15-year-old refrigerator were softening and the ice-cream was liquid. Having nowhere else to put the food – every square inch of freezer space was being utilized (I had a bountiful raspberry crop this season!) – I called my husband and asked if he’d pick up a chest freezer (made in the USA) on the way home from work. I just couldn’t picture shoving that much food into our picnic coolers! My daughter’s suggestion was that I cook up all the food and have an all-you-can-eat buffet for the neighborhood!

Of course, if I had had a crystal ball and had known in advance that my freezer was dying, I would have done the Craigslist thing, but…

Now…I have to decide whether or not to have a repairperson look at the refrigerator, or invest in another one (note that I did not say “new”). Sigh.

It’s always something! Oh, well…today’s a new day.


Kristie-ND July 17, 2009 at 9:48 am

I really like this motto. I don’t know where this fits in, but I guess I did more of allowing another to follow the motto this week than I did myself.

My kids are older now, one is an adult and one is in his middle teens. We had too many “kiddie” movies, and vhs movies at that, so they took up alot of room in our movie cabinet. When I organized the cabinet to pull out all the movies we no longer watch, I had a pile of VHS tapes, and some DVD’s. After offering first title grab to my brother for my nephews, I now have them boxed up to donate to my dentist’s office. They don’t have enough movies for the tv in the play section of the waiting room, and they have a tv for movies in the child exam room as well.

Movies that we will no longer watch get recycled and give parents and children(and staff 😉 ) a bit of a distraction waiting for the mean ole’ dentist, but I also don’t have movies that nobody wants sitting here rotting or eventually getting tossed.

Glad that there are still vcr’s around to provide homes for all these videos lol


jenn baron July 19, 2009 at 9:42 am

I completely love this mantra! When I was younger I didn’t follow it like I do today. I feel so much better when I use up my health/beauty products (used to be my downfall) and everything else before buying more. My partner will ask, “Why don’t you just go get another X?” And I will reply that I don’t need another X and I can use something else or do without. To her credit, she is getting better at following this mantra especially in her domain, the kitchen.

Keep up the great work everyone! 🙂


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