The Greater Purpose of Repurposing

new garbage box made of repurposed materials Since this recycling project was designed and built based on the materials I had on hand – and it’s something I’m sure most of you don’t need – I’m treating it more as a philosophical exercise in creative problem solving than a how-to project.

The ‘project’ in this case is a roadside garbage box – an absolute necessity in our rural area – to keep the racoons and crows from spreading your garbage half a mile down the road.

If anyone wants to know more about the actual construction, have a look through the photo gallery. Feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to share additional photos and explain any details.

Hurry up and wait

While we all have the occasional ‘eureka’ moment when a good idea suddenly occurs to us in response to a situation – solid, creative and workable solutions usually need to ‘bake’ a while for best results.

In my case, I had two failing structures that I had to do something about pretty soon.

The old roadside garbage box (made mostly of previously recycled materials) was suffering badly after 18 years buried under snow banks and broiling in the summer sun. It all but disintegrated when it was accidentally clipped by the snow blower on my neighbour’s John Deere tractor during a much-appreciated drive-by blowout. That was the same winter the greenhouse blew it’s lid.
old stonehaven roadside garbage box old stonehaven greenhouse

I used the few months waiting for winter to end to turn things over in the back of my mind. What materials and hardware might be salvageable from the greenhouse? What other bits and pieces of leftovers and salvaged boards did I have ‘in stock’?

Sometimes an idea would start to gel when I took a moment to look out the window during a storm to watch the snow drifting through the bones of the greenhouse. I might not think about it at all for a month or so, and then one day I’d get inspired to draw up some preliminary ideas in my CAD program.

Slow-cooking ideas this way let’s your mind wander down a bunch of different paths – when you hit a roadblock – think your way around it – or change direction and wander down an alternate path. Or just wait.

There’s always a solution if you’re not in a rush.

Garbage in-Garbage (box) out

7 garbage box with corner boards installed I’ll take a moment to briefly describe the construction of my project.

    • The box structure is made of 2×3 corner posts with 1×3 strapping nailed to the outside face – all recycled from the old greenhouse.
    • The bottom is a drop-in ‘duckboard’ made of strapping that I can easily replace when it rots out in about 10 years.
    • The strapping on the outside is spaced to hang vinyl siding without needing solid sheathing.
    • The peaked top lets the rain run off and makes a smaller lid since only one side has to open.

The peaked top supports are made from part of an old waterbed frame (remember those?) that a room mate left at my brother’s place sometime back in the 1980’s and I’d snagged when my brother sold his place in the mid-1990’s. I’d passed over this piece dozens of times when scrounging for materials in the past. It was exactly what I needed for this!

    • 13 painting first of three coatsThe siding and paint were leftovers from recent home renovations.
    • The cable that keeps the lid from falling open is an old dog tie-out made from a clothesline.
    • The whole thing was assembled using nails and screws I had in my shop.

I didn’t buy one single thing to make my spiffy new garbage box!

Here’s a gallery of selected construction pictures that show how I made my garbage box.

Daydreamers wanted

17 the old garbage box gets replacedI heard an interesting discussion on the radio this morning about how we’re in danger of losing our creative thinking skills in our hyper-scheduled, 24/7 connected, smartphone-enabled environment.

Back when I was a kid, ‘daydreaming’ was considered a sign of laziness and someone without any ambition. It turns out that new research using MRI scans has shown that our brains use this ‘unproductive’ time to reflect on past events and sort them into long term memory for retrieval later. We also use this ‘down time’ to explore future possibilities and exercise our creativity.

The interviewer asked a young girl how much time she had for daydreaming each day. Her answer – ‘…about 30 seconds. I’ve got so many things scheduled I don’t have time.Yikes! When I was a kid – summertime seemed like forever – we spent most of our time thinking up new stuff to do!

One last cautionary tale I’ll make about our always-on connected lives. While we may think we’re becoming ‘global citizens’, we’re less likely to realize how we’re subtly being drawn into ‘silos’ where we hang out with others who ‘like’ how we think. Besides the fact that online ‘likes’ have little real value, this confirmation bias can end up channelling us into a pool of popularity instead of creativity.19 new stonehaven roadside garbage boxSo unplug from your social media once in a while. Take a walk in the park or wash the dishes – or just gaze out the window for a few minutes and let your mind wander. It’s crucial to recharging your creative mojo.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious porch time to catch up on.

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