Our deepest thoughts

Reasons for Resourcefulness

Written by John Lamerand in category 
August 8, 2016
I could have gone to Ikea. It might have been the easy thing to do. I have nothing against Ikea, per se, but to be honest, doing the easy thing would have been a missed opportunity for finding a creative solution.

To begin with, phrasing the need to have a work bench in terms of a visit to Ikea means that we first budget for the trip to Ikea, kicking the project down the road and perhaps into the oblivion that is “we’ll do it in a month or so”. The other problem with going to Ikea is that it encourages a mindset where if you have a problem it is time to go shopping.

What are the alternatives, then? 


Well, here is what I knew:

There were some small palettes in town that were going begging behind a shop together with a little piece of second-rate plywood. While I don’t make a habit of scouting for scrap I do try to keep my eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary whether I am driving, planning a meal or taking a photo.

The other thing I knew is that there was some paint in the garage steadily becoming unusable. It is the usual story – you have an idea of how many square meters you need to paint, you go buy paint and you’ve overestimated the paint required. There are two problems with discarding leftovers: the first is that it cost you money in the first place, let’s face it, and the second is that liquid paint is an environmental hazard and at that point you are either faced with getting some paint hardening powder (another dreaded purchase) or storing the remnant in the shed, next to the exercise equipment that was part of last year’s new year’s resolution.

Finally, and this is the biggest question for me: by visiting Ikea you miss out on the chance to create a lesson for the children about resourcefulness. Children need to know that there is no shame in re-purposing leftovers and scrap.

Last weekend my eldest expressed the view that he wanted a bench or a desk to do some carpentry on. So one of the key criteria for the solution was that the bench had to be solid.

My wife told me that she did not want whatever we were building to provide too many splinters, especially if we imagined a future use for the table inside the house.

With a sledge hammer I dismantled one palette and pulled the nails out of the boards that did not split in the process. Then within an hour I’d screwed the bench together and started painting the result. The children watched and took part where it was safe for them to do so. While it might not be the prettiest work bench it was part of a very valuable lesson for my children.


They learned that it is worth going the extra mile to save some money, to save wood from going to the town tip and to create something meaningful by up-cycling materials.

We have the added benefit of an empty paint tin which can now be safely put in the trash.

The trick to the whole process was being prepared to think creatively, not costly, and to redesign materials that were available at a low price (and for free).


The bench is still wet, so we cannot show it in action, but we will add some shots of it being used as soon as it stops raining here in Albany and the paint dries completely.

Here is a photo of a cubby-house that I made out of discarded palettes… proof that the results don’t always have to look “rustic”.



  • Resourcefulness is a skill worth teaching by example.
  • Consumer culture is robbing our children the opportunity to express creativity.
  • To achieve a sustainable lifestyle we need to change how we think and act.
  • Shopping can cost more than just money; it might rob you of a chance to share a skill.


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