Thoughts on Pioneer Solutionism

(Editor's Note: We had a request for Janeene to tell more about her "Pioneer Solutionism" and she generously responded.)


I think the first principle of Pioneer Solutionism is flexibility. Don't fall in love with things or methods. Instead, fall in love with how good it feels to use your head instead of your purse. If the recipe calls for an ingredient you don't have, first think about whether or not that ingredient is necessary, and if so if there is anything else that might be almost as good that's already in your pantry. Be logical about it. If you need 1 tablespoon of 5 different sauces to make the latest meat loaf, you might as well buy filet mignon. Choose another recipe. My favorite words are "Hmmm, that's a possible way to think!" and I remind myself of those words whenever I find myself thinking there's only one way to do something.

Here are a few examples... My son bought a house that had some cosmetic problems. I brought over some craft paint. I painted over badly applied paint on door hardware, from 12 inches away it looks perfect. Same with locks (use metallic paint.) I brought over all of the old material and curtains I had and we came up with curtains for every room and several doors. I used some old rings (painted with metallic paint) for the kitchen, for other rooms I did a quick stitch at the top and ironed in a hem at the bottom. I had a roll of stitch witchery that has to be 30 years old, but it still worked. All of that took one day, his moving day, while he and friends moved his furniture in.

There were a few small wasted spaces in his house, and I did the same thing I had done for mine...made small wooden shelves to fit. Very simple construction but of course it helps that I have a woodshop (that's where I make my living, making Christmas ornaments.) I made a rack for a shower curtain, with a place to clip on a hand-held shower. Mine is about 25 years old and still works fine, both wood and shower, although I've replaced the hose a couple of times. It's the metal-sheathed kind and a good quality head, with a metal diverter at the faucet.

I also make hanging racks for the back of most doors. When the boys were little they were in the shape of baseball bats. Very quick and easy, just a board, a drill, and some dowels for pegs. A band or jig saw helps if you want to make it a shape.

Electricity is a place where I use pioneer solutionism a lot. I keep the cords from bad appliances, and I stock up on switches (especially cord switches), light parts, and plug replacements when stores offer closeouts. I've made a number of lamps, including one built into a small bookcase and one wall lamp for next to my bed. Electricity always follows the rules. Get any old home repair book at a used book sale and it will tell you all you need to know to switch out a bad plug for less than a dollar. I did two for a neighbor last week in under 10 minutes. The main rule is you turn off the electric before you start! Then just do what was done on the old one. She was quoted a price of $100 for that work. I've re-wired the most amazing light fixtures with pressed glass shades, bought at yard sales. Two of them had some broken shades, on these I took apart the broken parts, then put the fixture up against the wall. Looks like they were made that way. They are both gorgeous now.

Plumbing also follows the rules, but you need a lot of upper body strength. If you are (or have) a man, don't be afraid to change a faucet or do other simple plumbing jobs. I used to be able to do it, but alas!

I also make clocks. Michael's has a 40% off coupon in the paper every Sunday. You can get a clock works for less than $3 and make a clock out of photos or painted wood. Very quick and rewarding. I like to have at least one clock works on hand so I can make up a nice gift quickly.

I hope that isn't too much, I could go on and on!



February 11, 20090 found this helpful

I am 49, and when I was young, my family made do and reused things like power cords. Do it yourself was a way of life. I didn't know it was frugal until much later. I lived in a big city, and before plastic trash bags, oil drums were used for the trash. I could look and see what others threw away. We found rugs, radios, toys, leather gloves, an unfinished wood table, wooden crates, clocks... most in good working order or needing refinishing. I learned about fixing things by others trash. And it was creative and fun. I agree with you Janeene, its a win win way of living.

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