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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

How To Recycle

I know the dictionary definition of recycling. You’re supposed to paw through your trash like a crack-addled raccoon, and sort it into various bins, which you dutifully place on the curb once a week. Then a couple of parolees come by and place your items on their truck, drive to a dump — my bad, landfill — and dump it together in the same hole anyway. After fishing out any aluminum cans and gold bars they spot, of course. Recycling theater.

Well, I’m no actor. We make things. Every chance we get, we make things out of stuff we already have, rather than get new stuff. Behavior like that doesn’t really have a title anymore. It’s not frugality. Frugality is clipping coupons to keep on spending like everyone else. We’re not going to the store in the first place. We’re not skinflints. We don’t have much money, but we don’t have alligator arms when the check comes. We just avoid check-coming places to solve that problem. Waste not, want not is as close to a slogan as I can think of.

So if you want to try to live like us, I suggest you lie down in a dark room until the spell passes, and then get on with your life. But if you’re stubborn, and sorta poor, and insist, I’ll tell you how to fix up your bathroom for short money.

First, have two children. At least. They’re the only riches in this world worth a fig. Then stand around and take credit for their musical ability. That part’s easy. They practice, and you thump your chest. Then allow them to make music videos. Encourage them to recycle music, too. Don’t put Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond out on the curb. Make something out of them, even if you don’t have a piano or saxophone:

Did you spot it? It’s what I had my eye on the whole time. It’s what fascinated me, and called to me in my dreams. I wanted that cabinet in the background.

I built that thing to hold a gigantic teevee set about 20 years ago. When I say gigantic, I’m not referring to screen size. It was sized to accommodate a 32″ set. If you’re younger, you might not know that a 32″ teevee used to be considered pretty big, and it had a cathode ray tube in it, took up the same floor area as a dishwasher, and weighed about 200 pounds. And all that firepower was just so the kids could watch SpongeBob VHS tapes, which we stored in the cabinet wings on the sides.

That cabinet is about seven feet square, and the center bay is two feet deep. It can hold a prodigious amount of stuff. It was currently being halfheartedly used to store dishes and detritus in the dining room, where the video was recorded. It wasn’t useless, exactly, but I could make it more useful in the bathroom. Bathrooms need beaucoup storage.

When planning a bathroom, everyone just wants to go shopping for stuff to achieve an appearance. That’s why they spend two grand on a plastic slipper tub that they’ll never use, while they forget that towels need a place to live. We’d removed a washer and dryer from the bathroom, and put them downstairs in a laundry room we fashioned. I’ll bore you with that story sometime. Anyway, for my sanity’s sake, the three fixtures that count, shower, sink, and toilet, would stay about where they were currently located. I knew exactly what I could fill the gaping laundry hole with. Let’s recycle the big cabinet.

It’s the wrong color, of course, and the hardware has to be replaced. But that’s a relatively cheap and easy fix. Regular people who don’t currently have a SpongeBob VHS collection cabinet can find storage items like this at a flea market, and upcycle them. Anything’s better than the sawdust and glue cabinets they sell at the Orange Place. And cheaper.

Because it’s so big, we’re going to install it permanently, and build the rest of the bathroom around it. We were faced with the usual problem. The floor sloped in two directions. We built a platform for it to sit on, and busted off its existing baseboard/base. That came apart hard, I’m pleased to say. I knew it would have a lot of weight in it when I built it, and you could have plopped a car on it, and not just a Matchbox car, either.

As you can see, lots of preliminary work is already done. That happened off-camera, in the “and then a miracle occurs” stage of construction. You can see the stub-outs for the sink drain and water lines. The electricity is all straightened out. That’s a GFCI plug. It’s downstream of the plug that holds the GFCI outlet with the trip switch on it. If you’re unfamiliar with how it works, only the first plug in a series gets the GFCI outlet. Every one after that enjoys its protection. The door and window trim has all been removed. It was all pretty battered, and we’ll put up new stuff. The floor, which had more holes in it than a OJ’s alibi, got sheets of 1/4 plywood subfloor glued and screwed over it. The walls we mostly saved, with lots of patching, but we skinned over the ceiling with 1/2″ purple drywall. The purple makes it moisture resistant, and very elegant looking until you paint it, if you think an eggplant is elegant, anyway.

This is the view from the en suite, tout de suite entrance door from our bedroom. We used to be treated to a stunning view of the laundry waiting to happen first thing in the morning. Now it’s très élégant, n’est-ce pas? Sorry, we’ve been watching Pepe Le Pew cartoons again. I’ll lay off the French for the rest of the essay.

Note the tapering base it sits on. When you can spot the slope in the floor from ten feet away, you’ve got slope, I tell you what. You get used to dealing with problems like that after a while, and adapting to them instead of fighting with them. The cabinet ended up plumb, and level, and affixed firmly to the wall.

It makes me happy to see it there, where it will be more useful. It made me happy to watch my children perform in front of it. It makes me happy when it greets me every morning when I enter that bathroom, instead of the inelegant washer and dryer it replaced. It makes me happy to reach into it every day to grab a towel for a shower. But most of all, it makes me happy because I screwed it to the wall, and that made it impossible for me to ever have to move the damned thing again.

[To be continued. Thanks for reading and commenting and buying my book and donating to my tip jar. It is greatly appreciated]

3 Responses

  1. Hi Greg,

    It’s hard to believe that the video of the boys was from 2013, 10 years ago. I remember when you first posted it and I was impressed with their skill. I hope that they are still playing.

  2. “Waste not, want not is as close to a slogan as I can think of.”

    Back in The Day, someone taught my the New Englander Frugality Poem:

    Use it up, wear it out.
    Make it do, or do without.

    It’s the earworm I hear every time I go to a store.

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