Monday, July 22, 2013

Necessity as the Mother of Invention-The Joy of Finding Creative Solutions!

In between my mindless police procedural mysteries and best sellers, I do try and get some so called "serious reading" in here and there.  One of the books on the semi serious list is How To Retire The Cheapskate Way by Jeff Yeager.  For my friends who have not read this book (or Jeff Yeager in general), let me assure you that the book is not about miserliness in any way-but rather about creative solutions for everyone.  How to step outside the retirement box, if you will.   

 In general, Jeff's overall philosophy is that time has more value (most of the time) than money. This is especially true of those of us in the "mainly non working" world. More importantly, Jeff suggests that by doing it yourself, you can be more creative-and also end up with new passions as well as money saved. He encourages "constructive hobbies", as well.

I am surely not a do it yourself type in every area.  Prior to my relocation, I sold (practically gave away), my six year old LG flat screen television because it was taking five and some times ten minutes to come on (once on, the picture was perfect). At dinner this past weekend my brother was regaling me with the fun of searching the web for "how to" to fix his TV with the same issue-that now comes on immediately.  He found a free solution that only took time and the tools on hand-and in his case had fun with the search and the repairs. He'll have no hesitation doing the same thing again-and probably have fun every minute.

While I would be less than enthused, there are many do it yourself situations that I have had fun finding creative solutions . Not only that, in some cases my "do it yourself" philosophy has introduced me to new joys.  Prior to retirement, I was an okay cook at best-with a husband who had the skills and love of food of a professional chef.  The end result was that he cooked all of the big meals-and we ate out at really expensive gourmet restaurants a great deal.  Downsizing changed that. I will never be the cook my husband was, but I now enjoy cooking as well as baking (I was always a baker) and have considered expanding into areas such as canning and the like. (note: the way I keep cooking for one or two interesting is by cooking full recipes and freezing/gifting or  exchanging with others).

When it comes to gift giving, I come from a family where everyone still exchanges gifts (and the gift lists prior to the event). In an effort to give quality gifts that were not just gift cards purchased at discount, I explored some of those skills I had learned in younger days and put aside (mom skills as my daughter would call them).  I remembered that I LIKED sewing as well as quilting, and that the joy of being able to knit a shell for a niece (especially in a color that could seemingly not be found in the stores that year) was rewarding-especially when I could provide better quality at half the cost.  I also enjoy coming up with new decorations each year based on things around the house!

As part of looking for creative solutions, I also have developed a few new skills here and there. I'll never be a handy-woman, but my skill with hammer, nail and drill have expanded by leaps and bounds-saving me a ton of money.

I also see this attitude among other bloggers, friends and on other websites.  For example, at the beginning of the summer Bob over at Satisfying Retirement challenged his wife Betty to come up with a creative solution to their backyard space that did not involve many plants. While I have no idea how much of the decor was purchased vs found objects, the end result is stunning and, I expect, low cost in the long run.

My sister, whose patio I show regularly and often (and who awaits her new space excitedly) was for quite sometime unemployed-the price of being in the paper publishing/newspaper business in this new day and age.  She had a large tree in her yard that simply had to be cut down-but removal of the tall stump was beyond her. This stump is now covered with ivy and surrounded by outdoor lanterns ad is now one of the focal points (especially at night) of her patio garden.

Not all creative solutions or substitutions have to be large and beautiful.  It might be something as simple as realizing you don't have a themed patio table for your party and grabbing a patterned sheet from the cupboard-or sponge painting a white one. It might be the realization that you don't care that you have a matched set of dishes-and decided to use other items to pull the table together. One friend did not have a quilt rack and used a ladder to display quilts-a guy I know painted one of his ladders and it now has plants on it on his front porch. One time, years ago, I realized I did not have any tomato sauce in the house and ended up throwing a can of V8 into my beef stew-its now the standard around here. And although I'm sure others know this, until I actually MADE french toast with old dried bread I had no idea how much better it was than the regular stuff!

Most of what I'm writing about here has been about coming up with creative solutions around the house, but that's not the only place it's worth talking about.  I've come up with creative solutions for travel, entertainment wants and other parts of life, and I will share them later on, along with what I've seen others accomplish.

It's also worth saying that every "learn to do it yourself" solution will not feel creative or bring joy-as readers know from my lack of knowledge when it comes to vegetables and pots. On the other hand, my sister has shown me that when it comes to flower arranging, the rule of "chillers, fillers, and thrillers", so all is not lost.

There's certainly no denying that sometimes we simply do it ourselves because we can, and it because it saves us money.  Those are valid reasons, even without the creativity factor. While in my experience those situations are pretty rare, it happens.  I find little joy or creativity in cleaning my kitchen and bathroom, but I would rather have that money for something else, so I do the work. On the other hand, I get to decide the when, the where and the how, so there may be some creativity there after all!

Overall though, almost every time I am forced (or chose) to come up with a free or lower cost solution I feel that the end result is more creative, and more me than if I ran out to the store and searched for that "perfect solution".

What about you?  Would do you object to doing it yourself and coming up with solutions, or do you find it more challenging-and interesting?


  1. I scanned it the first time and now I'm going back and reading chapter by chapter..

  2. Great post! I'm working on this area; especially focusing on creative solutions & where DIY is more effective than rushing out to spend more money.

    I don't always stop to comment on your blog, but I enjoy reading it. Thank you!



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