Monday, March 9, 2009

thinking about the economy

napkins: thinking
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I love blogs. I love reading them. But there's a small problem- sometimes they make me all wanty. We're all cutting back, all a little nervous, trying to be less wanty. As a craftsperson who makes useful, but, I'll admit, not exactly NECESSARY items, I'm nervous and thankful for every sale I make. I don't know where I'm going with this post, really, but I do hope that I'm not coming across as preachy. I'm asking myself a lot of questions lately.

But what does this have to do with a pile of napkins, you ask? This morning I was thinking about the economy (after I turned NPR off because I couldn't bear to hear one more word of impending doom), I looked around the kitchen and saw our napkins piled up in their basket near the table. It's not much, really, a bunch of cotton squares, some hemmed, some pinked. Then I realized that I've had the red ones for 11 years. I made them in 1997, just as I was graduating from college. A roommate's mother used cloth napkins, I reasoned that they were less wasteful and brought the family meal "up" a notch, so I wanted some for my first apartment. I found this fabric a year before at a mill-ends shop, squared about 6 pieces, hemmed them, then started to use them.

The gingham napkins were from my rehersal dinner- a shrimp boil and barbeque- in 2000. My mother in law bought yards of gingham, cut them into 10-12" squares with pinking shears, and tied them with raffia. After the dinner, she gave them all to me. There were more than 50. We have perhaps ten in use now, some pretty stained, but they still do the job. And yes, that means that I have about 40 more in a dining room cabinet, ready to last well into the century.

What do napkins have to do with pottery? Nothing much. Just one thing that I haven't had to go out and buy- not new cloth ones (though I was given 25 white damask napkins a relative found at an estate sale, so fancy dinners are covered as well), not disposable paper ones. The napkins make me pretty happy.

Like the napkins, almost everything in my home is hand-made, re-used, older, lived in. Lots of loved-up junk store furniture, a few pieces of good antiques from family or estate sales. We haven't really participated in the type of spending that is causing people to tighten their belts. It is still important to me to buy things from other artisans and artists- I think I will never give up my CSA (because we've found that it actually saves us money)

My family is very lucky. My husband is in an almost recession-proof industry. My child is about to start public school. When we bought our house, I wouldn't look at anything above a certain price point- and that was well under what the bank "said" we could afford.* We dive durable older cars. I like to cook, we like to rehab/remake second hand items. We have no credit card debt and very little left in student loans. I feel incredibly blessed. If my pottery sales tank in 2009, I'm fine, because my heart goes out to everyone who isn't as lucky as we are.

My hope for all of us right now is that we'll find contentment and happiness in little things- the grass greening up, beginning to garden again- or for the first time. I would love it if we could all share some of the things that we do to find joy in the little things. What is helping you?


*On that note, it bugs me that people castigate ALL home buyers who bought above their means. If, like me, they were first-time buyers who just listened to what the bank advised, they were encouraged to buy more house than they could afford. I couldn't justify spending more than half of our paychecks on the mortgage. It took a lot of careful looking to find something that I felt we could comfortably afford, despite the bank's assurances that we could swing something 50K higher. I know more people experienced this than just me, and we dealt with a reputable bank, not a sleezy fly-by-night mortgage lender. We're just lucky that I am stubborn. That would be a first.


TD wool design said...

i am a redo girl here too, melissa.
constantly repurposing something. it comes from a breeding of some yankee farm stock i think. we've always been cautious and careful as well.
my husband is about to get another job. safer, from the economy and all. i feel lucky. it could be going another way.
so i can relate to the napkins. we use them here as well, and have since i got married some 21 years ago. i've just always loved them. i've made most of mine from fabric in my stash...small leftovers, so they don't always match. i like that. nice post.

Mama Urchin said...

I love this Melissa. I'm going to plant some berry bushes this year. And I'm working on getting my dad to plant an apple tree. There is just something so hopeful and useful about it.

erica said...

I'm one of those planning on becoming a 1st time homebuyer this year, and though I am financially ready for it, the general state of the economy does scare me, though my job is very safe. I am enjoying planning on a new place and a new face to furniture I already have that will be updated with paint, pillows, and repurposing. And no big purchases besides a mattress set. Any changes beyond that will take place in years to come.
But I know what you mean about the wantiness that blogs can also start in your heart and mind. I remind myself constantly that it's a journey and maybe I'll have something like that later in my journey, but I don't need it now, and until I saw it, I didn't even know I wanted it. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Great post Melissa. I love your cloth napkins. I have gotten out of that habit. Thanks for the reminder:) and the sweet email.

Courtney said...

I don't know what happened, but that was me:) above.

amy h said...

We have an extremely dependable bank for our mortgage (they haven't had the same problems as others), but even they offered us much more money than we could afford. I mean, people generally come from renting and know how much money there is every month. I knew we couldn't do much more than our previous rent, so that's the number we stuck to. I'm not sure what banks were thinking...

I haven't bought paper napkins in years, though we do have a stash of fast food ones that I can't bear to throw out. :)