Friday, February 14, 2020

Thinking outside the box

Written by  Jim Nakoneshny

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I grew up on a Saskatchewan farm in the early ‘70’s. As a result, many of the things that we owned had been repaired a time or two over the course of the years. Often, they started out as something else entirely, like using an old ceramic crock as a Christmas Tree stand. Replacing a missing pin on a pulley with a bent nail or wrapping a piece of heavy wire around a joint to keep it tight didn’t seem out of the ordinary to me. It was what you had to do to get the job done, and we improvised with what we had.  

When my folks retired and we moved to town, the same mindset carried forward. If a screw was loose in a chair leg, you found a bigger screw – or glued matchsticks inside the leg to make a smaller hole. If you needed to mount an object on the garage wall, you looked around for something the approximate size and shape to fit the bill and adapted it to your needs. At the time, it was often because a specific part wasn’t available for replacement, but mostly it was because this got you back up and running quickly and it was more than adequate for the intended purpose. 

To quote the infamous Red Green from his TV shows many years later: “This is only temporary… unless it works.” 

After getting married, I discovered that my father-in-law took tinkering and repurposing to a whole new level. He had its-and-bits and odds-and-ends of things all over his garage, and wasn’t afraid to rework them into another item altogether. Many of the things he bought new were often “updated” to make them more functional. His wife sewed professionally, so between the two of them any project was fair game. I haven’t nearly risen to that skill level, but with those influences, it’s no wonder that a number of our household items have somewhat disparate origins. Halloween costumes for the kids came from anywhere except the Halloween aisle of the store.

It’s easy to buy goods brand new in the box - and to be honest, for the majority of items we usually do. But there are times when what you’re looking for just isn’t available. Or maybe you have something that can’t be used anymore, but the individual parts still have some life left in them. That’s when it’s fun to shift over a couple of aisles in the Big Box store and start looking at the assortment of things on the shelves as ingredients to be mixed together, rather than relying on finding an object fully formed. 

Our house is decidedly not industrial or rustic, but beneath the surface a number of things have started life as something else. It’s much more rewarding, (and often a lot less expensive) to find just the right solution for, say, hanging a wall of record albums, in the flooring section of the Home Center rather than paying a lot of money for a pre-existing solution that isn’t any more functional or attractive. 

There’s a whole world out there of strange little things in remarkable shapes and sizes. You don’t really need to use a certain piece of hardware or material the way it was intended (public safety and common sense excepted). There’s no rule that says you need to use “bedroom furniture” only in the bedroom, or “gate hardware” only on a gate. Go on an adventure trip to Princess Auto, Mission Thrift or the Habitat Re-store. Look past the obvious. You’ll be doing a service to your kids by teaching them that it is possible to think outside of the box.

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