Scrimping with Style

In an article I wrote for Native Magazine last week, I reflected on how the greatest compliment I’ve ever received was being told by a complete stranger passing me in the street that she loved my style.  The fact that we were outside Vogue House in London only added to the magnitude of my pleasure at hearing this!

Charity shop skirt & the washbag that doubled as a clutch bag

I was also thrilled because what the kind stranger particularly liked was my skirt, which I’d bought for £2 from a Scope charity shop in Coventry the previous day.  Since that January day, I’ve worn the skirt innumerable times in all kinds of weathers and I always feel good in it.

We all have these kinds of treasures in our wardrobes.  The items that whenever we pull them on, we instantly get a confidence boost.  The garments that we know will get us through the day (and night too) feeling that bit more pulled together.

Yet as my skirt suggests, our fashion favourites aren’t necessarily the most expensive things that we own.  On the contrary, sometimes it’s the bargain finds that bring us the most happiness!  My friend Catherine over at Midlands Minimalist shares this view; she found that a cream and black Jean Muir skirt that she picked up in a dress agency fitted her perfectly and lasted for years.

Sartorial scrimping doesn’t mean sacrificing style. 

Choose to make-do-and-mend, whether for financial or ethical reasons, can drive ingenuity.  Not being able to chuck money at wardrobe crisis forces us to come up with more creative solutions.

Scrimping Style: washbag that doubled as a clutch bag ||

I admit that this is a lesson that I’ve had to learn over and over again.  I’ve made expensive mistakes, like limited edition trainers in a colour I loved but that I only wore once or twice because at the time I always wore heels.  In contrast, some maroon canvas pumps that I got for 20p from a jumble sale had a happy life on my feet last summer.  When I then wore out another pair of second hand trainers, I figured maybe it was time to invest in some brand new ones.


Last week I forgot to take a clutch bag on an overnight trip.  Given half a chance, I’d have purchased another but as that wasn’t possible I ended up using my small washbag instead.  I got several compliments on it and afterwards was glad to not have impulse purchase guilt.

Changing the buttons

Changing the buttons seems to have particularly magic powers in the realm of make-do-and-mend.  Over the years I’ve had two gorgeous second hand coats (one from a rail at the back of an ice cream parlour in the Cotswolds) that just needed replacement buttons to bring them back to life.  If you’re a bit uncertain about how to do this, Jen Gale of My Make Do and Mend Life has a straightforward guide to this entry level repair job.

Scrimping Style ||

Life styling

It isn’t just our wardrobes that can flourish when opt to make-do-and-mend.  It can benefit our spaces too.  Recently one of the sun loungers broke beyond repair, prompting a search for some new garden furniture.  Determined to continue the thrift theme, I dug two cream kitchen chairs that we no longer use out of the garage (purchased at the tip shop for £3) and found a butcher’s block in a local charity warehouse.  I added two bright cushions from John Lewis in the sale, and that little corner is now a new seating area.  And I feel inordinately proud of what £20 can do!

Scrimping with style

I’m now a bit obsessed with this idea of scrimping with style, looking around wondering what I can tackle next!

To help scratch my new itch, share your scrimping with style stories.  Tell your thrift treasure tales!

Reworked, reused, recycled – whatever it is, I’d love to hear about times when you’ve scrimped but the results have seemed anything but cheap.

You can comment below or on social media.  And if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then please do share – it really does make a huge difference!

Thank you for reading 🙂

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Repurposing repurposing: the joy of the toy-box

Repurposing repurposing: the joy of the toy box

Last week, I looked after Little Niece for the afternoon and she decided that she wanted the toy box and book basket out from their spot by the sofa.

Soon we were outside, having a teddy bears’ picnic in the shade before playing schools.  Little Niece was the teacher, I was her helper and the cuddly toys each had a book of their own.  Helpfully they also doubled up as clipboards when we had to take them on a nature walk.  She is very imaginative!

It was so much fun for both us, with the nostalgia element adding another level of emotion for me.

I’m not sure there is any greater joy than watching a small child enjoy playing with toys that you loved when you were young.  

The experience reminded me of why I put the toy box together in the first place.  I wrote about this two years ago and decided to reprise the post here…

This morning, my mum sent me a photo message showing my poorly eight year old nephew clutching a well-worn soft toy in the shape of a panda.  Pandan, my nephew used to call him, and for years he was never far from his side.  I was always extremely thrilled by how much Joe loved Pandan as I had bought the toy for him (although it is perhaps more accurate to say that I collected tokens from the packets of a well-known brand of toilet paper and sent them off with £1.99 for postage and packaging).

Now Joe is almost nine [NOTE: he turned eleven last week!], I hadn’t seen Pandan around for a while.  It was so heart-warming to discover that he continued treasured him and still drew comfort from his frankly manky and slightly discoloured fur.  It’s funny which toys find a place deep in our heart and which remain simply playthings.

I replied to my mum’s message saying that maybe Joe will put Pandan in a future toy-box too, a joking reference to the toy-box that I have recently created.  Over the last few weeks, I have been boring friends and family talking about my new toy-box (okay, so talking and making them look at it).

The toy-box is one of my latest mini-obsessions.  I love it almost as much as I love some of its contents.  I had thought about putting something like it together shortly after moving into my new home in mid-April, having realised that we live in possibly the most un-child friendly space ever (think lots of potentially dangerous items at low levels and little to distract curious small people with).

Whilst we don’t have kids of our own, I want visiting children to be at home here and want their parents to feel relaxed rather than nervous or worried.

One Sunday afternoon, I read an Apartment Therapy post that mentioned the same toy-box idea and that was that: I seized the moment and tore round the place gathering
up any suitable items.  Some pencils, plastic cups, a few children’s books that happened to be in unpacked boxes.  I had a large basket just right for the job.  I even remembered the two hand-knitted rabbits, one of whom featured in my first day at school photograph, suffocating in a plastic box under the bed.

In the weeks since, more bits have been added.  I picked up a colouring book from a coffee morning.  My boyfriend put in his childhood chess set.  I’m keeping my eye out for suitable bits (please someone somewhere get rid of some Lego!) but most of all I’m encouraging my mum to get up the loft and find more of my actual toys out.  I’ve already begun bringing things from my parents’ when I visit, including the first book I ever remember, yet I know there is more still in the attic.

Suddenly all these possessions that I’ve never been sure what to do with have had a new
lease of life.  This sense of repurposing has bought me genuine joy and contentment. Lots of the standard advice on sentimental items or such like instructs you to have a clearout, perhaps taking a photograph as a reminder of a once-prized object.  But is that really
what we always want?  Whilst drowning in reminders of the past can stop us from getting on with life in the present, surely we can find ways to forge a new path where we give space to honour our earlier treasures and let the happiness that they bought us then infuse our worlds now.

That is what I feel my new toy-box does.  It is my own way through.  It isn’t getting rid
of everything, although there will be much from my childhood that I won’t keep.  Nor is it shoving it all in some place out of sight (under the bed, the loft, a spare bedroom – preferably in someone else’s house), hoping to never have to deal with it but also never
getting any pleasure from it.

Seeing another child being entertained by toys that you also happily played with is a beautiful sight.

Of course it doesn’t have to be a toy-box.  This sense of repurposing can be applied to other possessions too.  What item in your home (or left elsewhere!) is languishing?  What stuff aren’t you sure what to do with?  Is it something that you can breathe new life into in some form or another?

If you like the idea of upcycling then Pinterest is full of amazing ideas to give you
inspiration; I’ve made a board with some of my favourite ideas.  Not that you have to be artistic or crafty; if you love reading, can you simply spare some shelf space to your favourite childhood books?

It may be that you decide repurposing actually does involve giving something a new home or to a new owner.  I used to have a gorgeous ragdoll that an older cousin made for me when I was born; when she had a daughter, I passed the doll on to her.

Or do you need to rethink in a broader way?  Is there a different way of looking at the item(s)?  It may be that a mental shift is more useful than a physical transformation.  Old toys were literally just old toys until I recognised that they still held their magic for a three year old today just as much as they had for me thirty years ago.

Thank you for reading! Share your repurposing stories in the comments or via social media (the buttons are below).  And if you enjoyed reading this post then please do share it – this really makes a difference!

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