Hide the Silver!
Silver cutlery and dishes were once coveted and included in the home for their beauty, usefulness and of course, as a status symbol. But they also represented a practical investment.
Cutlery and dishes were a needed item, and silver was durable, long-lasting, could be traded, pawned, handed down to the next generation; and at the end of the day ... sold to be melted down and re-used. Hence the saying "Hide the silver!" when someone was expected to visit the household with whom you weren't acquainted; or had reason to be suspicious of their poor character. It is also why many buffets and china cabinets had locks. Real silver is often very heavy and is hallmarked with various numbers and symbols which are helpful in tracing their age, place of origin and value.
Affordable Silver Plate
Silver plate became popular as a cost-effective alternative to silver and made it more widely available for the common public to attain. It is physically lighter than solid silver (though can be heavy if it has an encased lead plug for weight and stability). Silver plate items range from unmarked to marked with country of origin, a declaration of lead mounts/plug and can also be hallmarked or include the company name. I am not an expert, but to the best of my knowledge the lead content is not considered dangerous as it is not exposed at all. The lead is a contained "plug" fully encased within the item (usually within copper with the silver plate over top).
I have found multiples uses for vintage silver plate other than serving food anyway. A few are shown here ... and I keep finding more inspiration with each piece I add! You can polish away the tarnish, which looks nice in the shabby chic, romantic home ... or leave the patina for the more eclectic, bohemian, dark or magically witchy home.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan, 2022
March - Suspiciously Like Spring!
The weather is warm, the sun is shining, the crocuses are blooming and starting to outshine the snowdrops ... and the birds are singing! All this tells me that it must be Spring. So off comes the winter coat and scarf and on goes a light button-up sweater coat ... worn open. Suddenly, the next day is overcast, cold, drizzly and windy -- and the heavier apparel is required once again. Then the next day is sunny and noticeably warmer! So back and forth it goes until the end of March.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2021
Keep Your Clutter!
Okay, now that I have just said something so radical that many may be literally falling off their chairs; something that seemingly goes against all current and popular way of thinking ... grant me the opportunity to share another viewpoint!
But first, a sincere apology to those sputtering; "But I feel better when there is no clutter around!" or "My parents' / grandparents' stuff is so out-dated ... I don't want it!" or "I'll have more time for experiences if I'm free from taking care of dust collectors!" And so on and so forth. Yes, I do hear these protests ... ad nauseam in fact. It is pounded into my head constantly by posts on social media and by well-meaning individuals who truly believe in a minimalist lifestyle. I believe their viewpoint resonates with many people for one very simple reason ... that there is indeed good value in clearing out useless clutter! But the keyword here is "useless".
The alternative viewpoint I wish to share is not to be so over zealous that we "Throw the baby out with the bathwater"; and instead to focus on "Sorting the wheat from the chaff". (I do love old sayings!)
Here's the thing. I love my "stuff"! It fills me with great joy to be surrounded by sentimental items. They jog memories that I thought forgotten. They provide a warm connection to family, friends and pets who have since passed, to my family history and cultural heritage, and to travels taken. And these items reflect back to me, a little of who I am, where I've been and what I believe in; thus providing a sense of grounding in a sometimes unstable world.
I wholeheartedly believe that this sense of belonging is something that so many people today are desperately searching for and that I believe, could at least be partially found, in celebrating their own personal (and family) story through that very "clutter" that is so often overlooked, devalued and discarded.
The definition of clutter has recently evolved to mean basically anything and everything in the home - except for only the most necessary and (usually) neutral items. Under current attack in the name of "clearing the clutter" are sentimental items, heirlooms and keepsakes. We are also urged to discard books, records, videos, CDs, DVDs, photos and documents that can be transformed (or re-purchased - Aye, there's the rub!!) into digital form. It has come to mean vilifying anything and everything that can't be used in the actual moment. It has come with the illusion that new products are always better. And it is this new definition of "clutter" that I don't actually see as clutter at all, but in fact, an attack on heritage, disdain for the generations that came before us, and an inability to recognize quality household goods that last and last. It is also a symptom of the "throw away" culture and goes against the goal of sustainability.
An heirloom is defined as "a valuable object that has been owned by a family for many generations".
Value is determined by you; and many generations can also start with you too! This really comes home when you have a child. I take great joy in mixing up some baking ingredients in my Mom's old Pyrex bowl set - but what greater joy is there to watch my daughter do the same thing?
Save money by keeping hard copies of books, music, movies & photos
Don't get me wrong - I absolutely LOVE being able to snap digital photos and have access to them immediately; without the need for processing or printing. And I enjoy scanning old photos and having the tools available to restore them and thus prolong their survival. But printed photos in themselves, have a story to tell and are still necessary to safeguard your special memories. I have dozens of photos I need to print and I intend to do so. Once they are printed, I will be able to view them all by myself. It is dangerous in my mind, to rely solely on technology that requires power and a provider, in order to view your photos or documents. The important ones really do need to be backed up on paper. And a lifetime collection of favourite books, films and music is very expensive to reassemble on your devices. True, it may save space - in fact considerable space, but the (somewhat) old joke holds true that every time the medium changes ... we all have to buy "The White Album" again! But it is really no joke. At even 99¢ a song, that can really add up if you are a serious music lover. And I had gotten so used to hearing The Beatles on digital recreations, that when my husband ran one of my old albums on his turntable; it literally felt like John, Paul, George and Ringo were singing right in our living room! I had simply forgotten the fantastic and superior sound of vinyl records and all the feelings evoked by hearing these blokes again, properly ... and re-examining the much worn and loved covers of my 35-40 year old record collection - the best feeling!
Let's not forget the sheer pleasure of holding a real (and much loved) book in your hands, late at night, without the added distraction of "firing up" that electronic technology. Don't even get me started on how much it would cost to replace my book collection ... and how about cooking recipes from your Mom's, Grandma's or even Great-Grandma's recipe books and cards! (Sure, you can easily look up new recipes on-line and why not? though I do encourage compilation of these new-found recipes into a book of your own). It's truly a joy and comfort to see the scribbles, notes, clippings and long-ago food splotches in your Mom's much utilized recipe book! I guarantee you will learn something you didn't know about your family by following the path they took in their kitchen on some long ago day.
Find new uses for items you would otherwise discard
Another benefit that is often missed with keeping a little "clutter" about, is the amount of money that can be saved by having items on hand that can be reused or repurposed; not to mention that you receive Mother Nature's undying gratitude! This is huge for any one committed to "going green" and once started you begin to see possible reuses in just about everything. Old clothes, linens, containers, craft items, school supplies, cards - this stuff does add up and adds to the clutter. But what a savings to have these items on hand when a costume is needed for Hallowe'en, school plays or dress-up days! Old clothes that are in good shape should be donated, but worn out clothes can be made over into a variety of items - like doll or pet blankets, hankies, catnip bags or potpourri pouches! The rest can be cut into rags and used for all kind of tasks from polishing furniture to cleaning bike chains. Cards can be cut up to make new cards and tags; wrapping paper and tissue can be re-used; brown grocery bags can be turned inside out and re-used to mail parcels; cloth ties on bags and shoelaces can be re-used to tie up tomato plants and popsicle sticks can be re-used as seedling markers. The list becomes endless. A big one for me was sorting through my child's previous year's school supplies. I would compare what we had on hand against next year's school list - often saving a small fortune (and unnecessary waste) by just supplementing missing or worn out school supplies, and not buying a completely new set of everything ... each and every year.
This little fellow and matching blanket was made out of an old blanket from my childhood. I had kept it, even though it was worn and torn (literally falling apart) and couldn't be mended anymore. Inspiration came from my daughter on a rainy day when watching "Little Bear" cartoons. So with some of the good bits of material, we made my old blanket over into a couple of "new" things my little one could enjoy!
"Little Bear" stories and cartoons by Else Holmelund Minarik / Maurice Sendak
Find new uses / new owners for inherited items
Dishes inherited from older relatives are sometimes unneeded or unwanted. They are often discarded due to their "dated" patterns. But the high quality of china of generations past is phenomenal and can not be matched by visiting the box stores of today. They also provide a tangible link to your family and while I truly believe in creating your own style (and weaving your own magic) into your home - I think such decisions should be made carefully. Quality lasts - and that saves you money. It may be that certain pieces of an inherited set can be blended into your existing set - especially such useful items as extra platters and serving dishes (which don't need to match your place setting) and to have on hand as dinner and side plates for large gatherings. Forget using paper plates for appetizers - hand everyone an eclectic mix of fancy side plates or orphaned saucers. Or pack up a full set of 2 to 4 basic place settings - all ready to accompany a young person to their first home - the traditional "hand-me-downs" that save money on furnishing that first apartment!
Inherited furniture should also be cherished - if not for the gorgeous style or craftmanship, but because it is often real solid wood; a commodity difficult to find these days. Even the most expensive modern furniture is usually made from MDF, or has it hiding somewhere as part of its structure, and will not stand the test of time.
All of these practices and more make Mother Nature smile, save you money ... and reduce the demand on manufacturing.
So by all means, de-clutter your home of useless items. But remember what useless clutter truly is - the old bills, the half-empty make-up jars, the books you won't read, the clothes you won't wear, the unneeded or outgrown items that can't be reused - and low quality items. Those appreciated but unwanted gifts. All other possessions that you love and cherish, bring back good memories, or can be re-used or re-purposed; to those I quote these old and wise adages that still hold true and will keep your home fresh and un-cluttered:
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"
" A place for everything, and everything in its place."
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019 / edited 2021 & 2022
Time to Go Thrifting
Many people may have made a New Year's Resolution this January 1st to "clear the clutter" and get organized. When taking those unwanted items in for donation to your local thrift store or charity stop - do make sure you check inside the store to see what's on offer.
Many people donate unwanted Christmas presents in January or donate the items that those gifts replaced. Sometimes they donate better quality items than the new replacements they received!
For example, someone might donate their "out-dated" English bone china dishes or funky 70s Japanese stoneware. For the lover of antique, retro, quality or just plain eclectic dishware -- your local thrift store becomes a treasure trove!
Charity shops often have promotions too, like any other retailer, at this time of the year, to make up for low sales - so make a note of those dates and bring your donations in on those discount days.
Some Thrifty Tips
January is also a time of year when many people are cutting back on their expenses. For some, there is more tax deducted off the pay cheque starting in January. Others overspent at Christmas, or feel the need to take a holiday somewhere warm. Whatever the reason for a light wallet in January - there are many thrifty ways to stretch your dollars.
~ Reuse food containers in your kitchen ~
Isn't it silly that we buy containers to freeze or store our food in - when we throw perfectly good containers into the recycling bin every day? Containers that are already bought and paid for. Recent news has led me to believe that many of the items we faithfully recycle are not being recycled at all - but shipped to other countries for disposal in their landfills and even oceans. This, of course, defeats the purpose of recycling which is to keep the items out of Mother Nature's belly!
Here's a number of re-uses for those many containers that make their way into your home:
The best! Use for dry beans and lentils, pasta, popcorn and rice. Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water and freeze homemade applesauce and crushed tomatoes (make sure you leave a good inch or so at the top for expansion). Use for non-food items like: nails, screws, tacks, beads, paper clips, seed pods and any other small items that need organization.
Yogurt, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese, and those funky plastic take-away/delivery containers - anything that is packaged in an opaque plastic tub can be re-used. Use them to freeze left-overs, extra tomato sauce and chicken broth. Keep them handy to send guests home with left-overs, children to school with cut veggies, cookies and cupcakes for school parties and for numerous other non-food uses like: crayons, craft/painting supplies, pet food - just don't get the two mixed up!
Bread Bags & Cereal Boxes
Those many bread bags basically replace plastic wraps! Okay, they don't "cling", but many food items we wrap up don't need that feature. Use them to wrap cheese and to freeze extra portions of raw meat like ground beef and chicken. Cut them in half and use them to wrap sandwiches and snacks for lunches. Collect dry seed pods in the summer or fall and shake the bag. All the seeds will collect beautifully in the bottom of the bag (I learned this trick from a wonderful old Yorkshireman). Talk about thrifty! He even cut up his empty cereal boxes for a re-use as shopping lists.
~ Join a Local "Buy Nothing" or "Gifting" Group ~
If you are on Facebook, do a search for a "buy nothing" or "gifting" group in your local area. The premise is usually that everyone posts pictures of items that they are willing to give away for free. Read the rules carefully as each group is different, but usually, you are required to post a picture and short description of an item you no longer need. People express interest by commenting on the post and you pick a recipient and leave the item on your doorstep for them to collect at a pre-arranged time. You likewise comment on posts of items that others are gifting in the hopes that you will be the lucky winner. I have met some wonderful people this way and have received many amazing household items ... and helped to de-clutter my own home in the bargain!
One man's trash is another man's treasure.
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2018 / edited 2019 & 2023
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Meadow Sweet Grove