by Kit Davey
I just love knowing that my decorating style helps fight waste and conserves resources. If you're a frugal decorator you're helping to save our environment, too.
When you buy a table at a garage sale instead of brand new, or repair rather than replace a ripped tablecloth, or use a jar as a vase instead of tossing it in the trash, you are making a difference. Try some of these environmentally friendly ways to decorate your home on a budget.
Alternatives to buying new
It does take a little more time and energy, but you can furnish your home without ever setting foot in a new furniture store. Shopping at garage sales and flea markets saves you money and allows you to enjoy the weather and meet interesting people. Antique shops offer unique furnishings with a past, often for less than new pieces at retail shops. High-end furnishings from redecorated homes and designers can be found in consignment shops.
Trading is one way I have obtained accessories for my home. I have a yearly art party during which I trade art I've grown tired of for creations made by my artist friends. You can also hold knick-knack swap parties. Everyone brings a bag of white elephants, puts them on a big table, and then takes turns selecting stuff to take home. Any left-overs get donated to charity.
Try borrowing furnishings. I was looking for the perfect painting to hang over the mantel. My kind parents "loaned" me a piece I had often admired in their home. I no longer had space for a chair in my den, and I am "loaning" it indefinitely to my brother.
Sharing makes sense. Our neighbors went in together on a chipper/shredder and a leaf blower. Could you share a punch bowl, pasta maker or extension ladder with a friend? Most of us have overflowing bookcases, so why not trade books or share a magazine subscription with a friend and start using the library?
Every year Santa Clara has a mega-pick-up day during which residents are allowed to put out trash equivalent to 12 32-gallon cans. I'm not ashamed to say I spend a lot of time cruising the street the day before these pickups scrounging for cast offs. I have found tables, dress forms, leather-bound books, dishes, etc., which I have diverted from the landfill and which are now treasured possessions in my home. (I don't know how the garbage company feels about this, and I ask the homeowner if I can take things before I fill my trunk).
Most of us have more than enough stuff and it's just a question of fixing up what we have or using it in a new way. I never liked the color of my refrigerator, but it didn't make sense to buy a new one, so I painted it red. (Yes, red). Look for alternatives; if you need a new end table try using a stack of coffee-table books or leather suitcases, a sand-filled flower pot with a glass on top, or a wooden box covered with fabric.
Use things from nature. River rocks can be used as bookends or doorstops, a tree stump as an end table or footstool, shells can be displayed in a bowl. Line up a row of red pears on your mantel.
If you maintain what you have, it will last longer, delaying its replacement.
Reduce waste: Re-use and recycle
If you have things accumulating in your home that you need to get rid of, please don't throw them in the trash! Hold a garage sale or get a booth at the flea market. Call a local charity and have them pick it up, or give it away to a family member.
I have had luck giving things away by hauling them out on the curb marked with a "Free! Please Take!" sign. A toilet, boards from a fence, pots, picture frames, etc., have all quickly found new homes.
Give tired furniture a new function. An old dresser can become storage in the garage. A worn table can be used out in the yard as a potting station or for plant display. Paint a tippy chair, and put it in a corner with a plant on it.
"Trash" can be used in countless ways. Use the funny papers or grocery bags adorned with leaf rubbings as wrapping paper. Use margarine containers to mix paint or for leftovers. Broken plates can be used in mosaic projects. Use old fabric-softener sheets to clean your TV screen and mirrors. Shoulder pads from blouses can be use to apply stain or to wax your car. The cardboard from pads of paper can be cut up and used to back picture frames. Old panty hose can tie up tree branches in the garden. Cut up greeting cards and re-use them as post cards, or to frame. Read "The Tightwad Gazette" (Villard Books), a book by Amy Dacyczyn, which "promotes thrift as a viable lifestyle" for fun and bizarre recycling ideas.