Rules of the Great Depression: Make Do


There were four rules of The Great Depression that helped folks make it through those tough economic times.

  1. Use it up
  2. Wear it out
  3. Make do
  4. Do without

Yesterday we talked about using up what we’ve got and wearing it out. Today, we’re going to discuss making do.

We live in a culture of disposables. Nothing is made to last anymore, not like they were back in the 1930s. In those days, things were made to be fixed at some point. Now they’re made to be replaced after a short while.

Another disadvantage we have is that we’re sold many items we don’t need. We’re told that we need the newest, the shiniest, the updated version.

Still, we can use this rule of the Depression to our advantage. Here are some ideas how:

  1.  Learn to fix things (or marry someone who does): Our grandfathers knew how to fix their old jalopies regardless of what might have busted on them. Our grandmas could glue the handle back on a tea cup like a pro. Just because something was broken didn’t mean it needed to be tossed. If it could be fixed, they found a way. (NOTE: These days I drive a minivan that is over ten years old, it’s made it over 200,000 miles, and is rust red from so many Michigan winters. But when something breaks on it, my hubby fixes it. It’s paid off. We’re going to make it do until we have enough saved up for a new vehicle. NOTE #2: This is not to my credit. It’s all about my husband. He’s the coolest.)
  2. Make use of multi-purpose items: That vinegar in your kitchen? GREAT for washing windows. Baking soda? Fantastic for killing odors. Vicks Vapo Rub? Superb for healing those little cracks on your fingers from dry weather. When you can eke out more purposes out of what you have the value doubles!
  3. If you need something, make it: As far as I know there was no Ikea in 1930s America. Not even a Target or Walmart. If somebody needed a bookcase they got some wood out of the scrap pile, hammer, and used nails out of their old coffee can and put one together. If they needed a new shirt/dress/etc. they used the fabric from the flour sacks they got from the store. They used the materials they had on hand (or could borrow or trade) to make what it was they needed, saving them a mint. This is also GREAT when you want to give a gift! People love handmade things (just as long as they’re nice). Etsy is a testimony to that! (NOTE: My husband decided that we needed an antenna for our house since we don’t have cable. He didn’t want to spend between $40-$80 on one at the store, so he made his own!  He used some scrap wood he had in the shed and attached old wire hangers all up and down it. Voila! Free! And it works great! NOTE #2: Again…my hubby rocks.)
  4. Play to your strengths: Don’t forget your number one resource! YOU! Folks in the 1930s were aware of their strengths and worked with that. They’d trade for services they needed (doctor visits, lawyer meetings, etc) with what they were skilled at (baking, gardening, child care, etc.). Know what you’re good at and make do with your skills. Don’t be afraid to learn something new, too. (NOTE: This is one reason I’m so glad that my husband and I have different talents. We’re able to work together to get things done for our home and family. Team work makes the dream work, friends.)
  5. Decide to be content: It’s a great temptation to get the brand new, the bigger and better, the newest and fastest. We want the newer house in the nicer neighborhood (which comes with a hefty mortgage). We desire the newest version of technology (which will just be outdated in six months). We can spend a whole lot of time and even more money chasing after satisfaction in things. BUT, we’ll be far happier (and better off financially) if we can decide to be content. This was something those in the Great Depression understood. They were able to be okay without the newest and shiniest. (NOTE: My pastor Jeff Manion wrote a great book about learning to live a life of contentment called Satisfied. It’s worth checking out if you’d like to find value in life aside from what we have.)

So, what are some of your ideas for making do with what you have? Any tips or tricks to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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9780825444463-1I’m excited about my newest novel A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression which releases next week! You can pre-order today.

If you live in West Michigan, you’re invited to a release party at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI. Get details and register for your free online tickets HERE.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook for more book release details and fun!


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