Dueling Platitudes Meet Depression Era Wisdom

The repair was perfect.  I’d just patched a gaping hole in drywall and sanded it to perfection.  Good for me!  I began painting the bare spot and then the rest of the walls in the room.

Painting gives you time to think.  Thinking is good.

As I continued painting I couldn’t help but notice many other imperfections.  A corner was crooked, some trim was uneven, etc…  Some areas got a little TLC but I just painted over most of them.

My house is a dump.  I’m well aware of that.  Laugh if you will but I’ll take my dump over a McMansion mortgage any day.  Unfortunately I’m still wrapping my head around the peculiarities of old farmhouses.  My natural inclination is to immediately repair everything in sight.  In a house like mine I have to accept imperfection as part of the job.  To do otherwise leads to “mission creep” and before you know it you’ve gutted the kitchen when all you wanted to do was install a dishwasher.  I was carefully using my limited time and money aiming for “fixed good enough” instead of “theoretically excellent but over budget and never done”.

I kept painting.  Painting gives you time to think.

One particularly ugly corner frustrated me.  Some of the drywall was water damaged.  It was only cosmetic but no matter how carefully I painted it the wall would still suck.  I longed to cut out the raggedy drywall, patch it, plaster it, sand it, and repaint it properly.  Then it would be perfect.  Just painting over it was “polishing a turd”.  I was being a moron.

I kept painting.  Painting gives you time to think.

As I painted past the ugly corner I got to an ugly door.  It was stained, scratched, and dented.  I would love to install a new door.  But a new door would cost money and require another trip to town.  I didn’t want to spend the money or the time.  So I painted the door in a different color to match the trim.  I was “putting lipstick on a pig”.   I felt like such a loser.

I kept painting.  Painting gives you time to think.

My mind kept coming to the two most fundamentally idiotic phrases of modern bullshit sloganeering politics; “putting lipstick on a pig” and “polishing a turd”.  Both rolled around in my mind while I forced myself to keep painting what was there rather than going nuts with further repairs.

Eventually I finished painting.  I’d done three coats; carefully applied over a few faultless drywall repairs and an ocean of unaddressed imperfections.  My house will never look like the cover of a magazine.  It’ll always be a simple country farmhouse.  The two phrases still rolling around my head bothered me.  Had all that work been in vain?

I carefully washed off my brushes.  Everyone else throws out old brushes but I use them as long as I can.  I tossed my paint stained jeans in the wash.  The jeans have been patched twice.  They’re still fine for work clothes.

Then I reviewed my work.  Taken as a whole I was impressed.  Instead of an unkempt dingy room with holes in the drywall I had improved it to a pleasing and tidy space.  It looked pretty good.  “That’ll do” I thought with some pride “polishing a turd is a bullshit analogy.”

Then, like a beacon from the Great Depression where it was coined, my mind dredged up the correct phrase:

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Exactly!  I fixed what needed urgent attention and did the best I could with the rest.  A couple cans of paint and I suddenly had a much more pleasant and useful room.  Could it be better?  Sure it could be better.  I could also wait for Obama to airlift me a carpenter and max the Visa for better materials.  Instead I’d “made do” with what I had and was proud of the modest improvement.

The quaint old phrase has stayed stuck in my head.  It seems oddly dated these days.  Politicians blovating about polished turds and pigs outnumber the Curmudgeonly few who insist on working with what they’ve got.  Patched drywall and fresh paint doesn’t rest easy on a society bent on magic green energy windmills and sparkly new “Sputnik” trains.  Ideally they’d like me to finance a new house.  Aren’t “building starts” a hotly watched economic barometer?

But fresh paint on an old wall is what we really need.  Your Grandma was right… “make it do or do without” is good for what ails ya’.  As for politicians; you can’t polish them enough to make them shine.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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4 Responses to Dueling Platitudes Meet Depression Era Wisdom

  1. bluesun says:

    I’m sad to say that only first heard that saying after reading one of Eric Flint’s 1632-series alternate history stories. It’s a good one for my house, though, which is a 1948 farmhouse with no foundation and a bathroom that doesn’t really count.

  2. kx59 says:

    That really resonated with me. I’d not heard that particular bit of depression era wisdom before, but I had a lot of it instilled in me in my younger years. I’m an architect, and you’d expect my house to look like it belongs on a magazine cover, but it does not. I suppose there is still too much east Texas dirt farmer in my blood…nothing more than a highly educated redneck I guess.
    I really liked the post. As I read, a sense of peace settled over me, perhaps because I’ve discovered I’m not the only one that thinks this way.

  3. Pingback: Redefining Normal pt.2 – Consumer Society vs. Producer Society « Lever Action

  4. KA9VSZ says:

    First and only time I’ve been exposed to “Use it up, etc” as a explicit saying was in my old (1969?) Boy Scout Handbook. OTOH, my parents lived that philosophy- that must be why I am debt free and “have enough”.. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

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