Thursday, February 28, 2008

Barter More, Spend Less…and Save Useful Stuff!

Okay, I know it’s silly. But when I found out that my daughter needed a “Renaissance-Classical look costume” for her role as Queen Margaret in Richard III and that it was to have “almost a wild haggard witch look…perhaps the tattered remains of a royal dress…,” I panicked! I did not want to go thrift shopping for a costume that I had such a slim chance of finding. I mean, Renaissance-Classical and tattered???? You've got to be kidding!

I even dreamed about it one night, stressing over where I was going to find this costume. It had been suggested that we check with a costume shop, but I knew the rental could be formidable. I sew, but did not want to invest time and energy in a new costume, only to turn around and destroy it.

Several years ago at Halloween we purchased a royal-looking dress from Goodwill. I hated to wreck this perfectly good costume, also doubting that it was “enough” for this production. I remembered that in the bottom of my scrap box, I had the very, very tattered remains of what was once a wedding dress. At a garage sale an older lady had practically begged my then preschool daughters to take the dress and “have fun with it.” The dress wasn’t in good shape even ten years ago, but now all that remained was the under layer and zippered side seam. Only a couple weeks before, Anakin had been cutting little Lego Star Wars capes from the starched, yellowing skirt.

Thankfully, I remembered that my friend, Lynn, liked to do costuming. I just didn’t know the extent of her talents! Always gracious, Lynn agreed to help us. We met one afternoon and she transformed the odds and ends into a beautifully tattered, Elizabethan wonder in just a few hours.

During the “fittings” Lynn mentioned that she was hosting a birthday dinner for her mom the next day and she hadn’t had time to find a musician for entertainment like she had in other years. My daughter and I looked at one another. “We could do it.”

“What do you mean?” Lynn mumbled, pins sticking out of her mouth.

“We could play for your mom. Queen Margaret here could play violin. I could play piano.”

“You play piano?”

“Sure.” I played through a few tunes in an attempt to prove that my repertoire wasn't limited to "Chopsticks".

The next night we returned for our first birthday musical event. The audience couldn’t have been more appreciative. Queen Margaret loves her tattered Renaissance look. And I’m not having any more costume nightmares. Everyone won in this barter. What skills could you exchange with someone?

Digital photo work?
Car repair/oil changes?
Video production?
Computer work?
Household repairs?
Hair cutting?
Word processing?
Car washing?
Animal care/grooming?
The options are limitless…

If you’ve traded a skill/service with someone, I’d love to read your comment about it.

Oh, and on saving useful stuff…

Last weekend I had dinner with a group of high school friends. We were talking about saving vs. discarding used items. After several people talked about how easily they dispose of stuff, I admitted that I had a hard time parting with things. They asked why. “Because I might use it sometime.” Although I generally have an aversion to “stuff”…especially when it gets in the way of life, I was sure glad that I had the shell of that wedding dress left. I’d considered throwing it out many times, but somehow it always managed to make it back to the scrap box. I'm so thankful it did! It very well may have saved us a large rental bill.


jennifer said...

tutoring for haircuts.....(believe me!!!! it's better than me just cutting the hair myself!!!!!)
but I hate stuff!!! thankfully I've rarely had to replace what I've eliminated. Can't even think of an example right now. Part of the whole useful stuff thing might be personality? I don't have a second time around gift. I can't see redesign. And I don't want to store it! My husband on the other hand is a good saver and consistently impresses me by fixing/creating something with odds and ends of stuff I would never have kept had his space been my space......

Ansley said...

C, You rock!

Awesome Mom said...

I wish there was more bartering going on. Right now I am trading my skills with knitting for some cloth diaper wipes for my kids. I don't have a serger but the friend I am making the socks for does. It is a very win win situation.

Anonymous said...

I have just finished trading a web site for a custom-made solid wood front door for my house, installed and varnished. Go me! I also have an upholsterer who is interested in this barter-for-site deal.

Anonymous said...

I get a break on my rent in exchange for tutoring the landlady's son (I am a licensed teacher). I charge $50 an hour for tutoring regular clients, so if you add that value to what I pay for rent, I that's $200 a month I am saving.

Anonymous said...

babysitting in exchange for borrowing ski gear for my rapidly growing children. ski gear is expensive and spends much of its time in storage, so if more than one family can use it, everyone wins.

an afternoon volunteering for a neighbors' nonprofit in exchange for borrowing a cot for visiting relatives

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