Embracing Make-Do As a Way of Life

Junk DrawerI had an epiphany this past weekend. I LIKE making do. You know, those times when you don’t have exactly what you need, but you make things work out anyway. Like when a recipe calls for buttermilk and you only have sweet milk. You just add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the sweet milk, let it sit a bit, and voila! A fair substitute.

It makes me happy to use up leftovers in recipes that didn’t quite call for what’s in that bowl in the fridge. I’m thrilled when I can use a tool for something it’s almost designed to do. (Staplers work as hammers in a pinch.) I get all satisfied when I can use up random party supplies to create a table setting that’s quirky if not exactly perfect.

Yes, I can appreciate perfection, but what really makes me happy is making do with what I’ve got. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of using something UP.

But here’s the thing. Not everyone feels the same way. My husband, for example, likes things to be–well–right. And that’s okay, too. On occasion, I will even confess that it’s better.

But me? I like making do. I like figuring out how to take the stuff rattling around in the junk drawer and transforming it into a solution for one of life’s little problems. THEN maybe I’ll go buy something new.


Waste not, want not was always
the way of it, though we wanted
often enough just the same.

Pie tins used over ‘til they’re good
for nothing but keeping crows away
and not much good for that.
The ole man can shape a new handle
for that rusty hoe and I’ll slip cardboard
in the soles of my shoes.
Make-do has a way of taking root,
of hanging ‘round my skirts
even when silver jingles in my palm.

The corn is up, the earth is damp
and the sun is shining, but back
in Bible days Joseph looked out
on a pretty afternoon and saw
seven years of lean coming on.

So today I’ll put on my old, worn
stockings with ladders in the heels,
help the ole man hoe corn.
I’ll wash and fold the tin foil
like it was hand-embroidered sheets.
I’ll line the windowsills with jelly jars
that sparkle good as diamonds.

We’re all of us climbing Jacob’s Ladder. Only,
some of us know what it’s leaning up against.

Published by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Author, wife, child of God.

12 thoughts on “Embracing Make-Do As a Way of Life

  1. What a diffenerce between “making do” because you HAVE to and “making do” because you WANT to…. Love the poem, especially the last line.

  2. Sarah: That’s probably in your “genes”. Your Dad grew up doing that (because they had to) and still does it (because he’s always done so)!

  3. You could be a missionary, Sarah! We seldom had EXACTLY what the directions or the recipe called for, but we managed. One big exception: Those science experiments never quite worked the way they were supposed to! We had a choice. We could see it as a challenge and a game, or we could hate it and complain. I confess we did both, depending on how things were going generally.

  4. I love this, Sarah.

    In my ‘day job’, building a WW2 fighter largely from scratch (along with parts salvaged from crash sites) I find that the individual tasks sometimes defy what I know about this work, and defy my modest collection of tools.

    So I make do. Instead of a 100-ton hydraulic press, I have a mallet, plywood form blocks, and a metal shrinker from Harbor Freight.

    If I can’t afford dead-soft aircraft aluminum, I’ve learned how to torch-anneal hardened material to force it to be formable.

    A factory would be nice, but field-expedient is far more satisfying. It’s also a bit cheaper.

      1. It’s kinda like building a LearJet from bits of several that crashed in the tundra about 70 years ago. Not for the faint of heart, or the wise.

        And the engine came from a swamp. Yes a swamp.

        Sure, we’ll eventually fly it. Why do you ask?

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