On Barbies and Using What You Have

On Barbies and Using What You Have | A Simple HavenPhoto by

I have a new theory on Barbies: however you played with Barbies indicates much about your personality today.

I developed this theory after listening to a podcast. One of the bloggers interviewed loved decorating her Barbie house and rearranging Barbie furniture; she couldn’t be bothered to dress Barbie herself. She now writes about making your home beautiful.

The other blogger was all about Barbie’s relationship drama; she would create and analyze intricate webs of attachment between the various dolls. Now, she shares beautifully written personal stories and insights into life and relationships.

Barbie Slept on 2x4s

And me?

My homemade “Barbie apartment” consisted of scrap wood from my Dad’s wood shop stacked on an old table.  My sister and I called it an apartment because we had the good sense to know it was no Barbie mansion.

Barbie’s bed was a couple 2x4s we clumsily nailed together.  Her bedding was leftover fabric from my mom’s sewing basket.

When we got more Barbies, we just went to Dad’s shop and made more beds.  If memory serves, we even attempted a car.

I knew that toy shops sold perfectly good Barbie accessories requiring very little assembly.  But honestly?  I don’t even remember wanting them.

Somehow making them myself felt better.  Even if no Barbie ever said, “Ken, my dream house won’t be complete without a plywood kitchen and mismatched bedding.”

I’m Still Using Scraps of Fabric

Today, I decorate for parties with whatever I have on hand; the only discernible theme at my daughter’s first birthday party was “scraps of fabric.” (But I promise they were pretty scraps).

I make my kids upcycled Easter baskets and repaint tables and chairs from Craigslist.

Upcycled Easter Basket | A Simple Haven

Repainted Napleon Chairs | A Simple Haven

Instead of buying a custom frame for my world map, I discovered the wonderful world of Ana White and built my own.  And then wrote a 26-step tutorial so you too can spend the better half of a month in your garage.

Handmade Custom Frame | A Simple Haven

It’s not that I’m against purchasing party decor, kids’ gifts, or picture frames.

I do all of the above.

But my default is the handmade route.  Twenty-five years later, I still enjoy making my own stuff.

And I get a weird thrill out of the challenging of using what I have. As if I were on Project Runway. I figure if they make fantastic outfits out of saran wrap, I should be able to pretty up my home with the random stuff in my closets.

Why Use What You Have?

I won’t deny that the handmade route has its bumps.  Like when you’re in the middle of step 15 of a project and you have to go back to step 5.

Or when your three-year old asks for modifications to the play tent you just slaved over.  Or when you realize (too late) that some projects just aren’t worth your time.

Handmade Play Tent | A Simple Haven

Fair enough. Handmade isn’t always a bed of roses.

But for me, “Use What You Have” is usually fantastic advice because:

1.) My choices are limited, avoiding the stress of too many options.

If I tell myself I’m decorating for Christmas with what I have, there’s no stress of figuring out themes and colors, where to buy everything, or how to fit it all in the budget.

2.) I’m a practical purger.  So if I keep it, I want to use it.

3.) Shopping the house often brings pleasant surprises.

I find a pretty frame I’d forgotten about, the beautiful china from Nana, the Brambly Hedge lunch box from when I was eight.  Just rearranging my current stuff can quickly spruce up a room.

4.) My kids are just as happy with upcycling.

Ok, I do buy them new things–for Christmas, birthdays, and every so often in between.

But if I’m trying to keep the clutter to a minimum and they’re just as content with good-as-new, I’m going to make use of what I already have.

5.) It makes my purchases more intentional.

If I decide I actually do need (want) to buy something, it’s a more purposeful decision because I’ve already evaluated what I have.

6.) It’s easier on the budget. Obviously.

So, how did you play with Barbies? 🙂

If the answer is “not at all,” I will happily refer to you to more legitimate personality tests.













About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.

  • I didn’t grow up with Barbies…but I did have an American doll and I was more keen on her stories then anything else. Stories and her adventures. Revealing something, perhaps. 😉

    • Totally! I would have loved an American girl doll but by the time I discovered them I thought I was too old :). I read the books and still have one of the cookbooks :).

  • Gina at CampClem

    I love this! I’m a bit the same–I’d rather make something than buy it… And my older brother tore off one of my barbie’s legs… But she was barbie with disabilities and welcomed into the fold. 🙂

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