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Jen Gale: a year of making, making do, mending and buying nothing new

Have you heard of Jen Gale?

She's been part of the Sugru community for a few years now. Together with her family she’s been using Sugru to fix all sorts of things and coming up with ingenious solutions around their home since discovering us back in August 2012.

A few years ago, after she realised just how much consumerism was affecting her kids, Jen came up with a big idea — setting a challenge to herself and her family to not to buy anything new (apart from food and toiletries and shoes for her children!) for one whole year!

On 1 September 2012 her ‘Make Do And Mend Year’ began — a full year of making, making do, mending and buying nothing new started. It was a journey which helped her to realise it's not as hard as first feared it might be.

Jen committed to writing a blog every day throughout the year — helping to share the skills she picked up along the way. The blog included hundreds of ideas, inspiration and project ideas for making, repairing and creating things. Word of mouth spread and soon the blog was getting attention from tv shows and newspapers across the UK and beyond.

“It has totally transformed the way we shop, and to a certain extent how we live. I really try to stop and think now before I buy something, and try to find second-hand sources.”

Before starting, Jen had worried it would be difficult to source second-hand items that her family (including her 2 young sons) would need during the year. But she found that thanks to the growth of popular websites such as Pre-loved.com, Freecycle, StreetBank and eBay it was much easier find what they needed.

But what about Christmas?

As you can imagine, she explains, Christmas was exhausting but thoroughly rewarding. When Jen looks back she is really proud of her family for doing it, and they ended up making 95% of the presents they gave to friends and family, as well as all the Christmas decorations this awesome Christmas tree (made from DIY pompoms!).

Throughout the year Jen began to pick up new skills – from repairing clothes through to home improvement and fun DIY projects for kids. Head over to the Make Do And Mend website for loads of projects and how to guides to inspire you to try things out for yourself.

Now while we don’t expect many people will be going as far as Jen (!), we think everyone can take a little inspiration from what she has learnt along the way. So we’ve put together some of the best things Jen have picked up along the way to help inspire you.

5 things Jen has learnt

1 Look at what you already have and see if you can just 'make do'

Most of the time, we don't really need new stuff, we just want it! By the time you find what you want you realise you don’t actually need it!

“I don't think I will ever buy clothes from the High Street again.”

Jen found herself buying far more clothes during the year than she ever would have done normally, by sourcing items in a charity shop, car boot sale, flea market, vintage fair or online.

2 Try and look at things in a different light and upcycle!

Look at what you already have in a new way and think of how you can repurpose them. For example an old duvet cover or a pair of old jeans can make a cheap alternative to furniture fabrics. Or that old jumper you were going to throw away can be remade into something new like a pair of mittens or a new woolly hat for winter!

3 The web is an endless source of inspiration and instructions


The growth of sharing projects and ideas online means it's much easier to find help from others — websites like Pinterest and Instructables are a great source of project ideas and a place to learn. Just search for what you need and chances are you will find what you're after!

4 Visible mending! Don't stress if your repair is there for everyone to see

Embrace it and be proud! Something here at Sugru we have always celebrated — A fixed thing is a beautiful thing.

5 Don't be afraid to have a go

What's the worst that can happen? Something that is already broken or damaged becomes more broken or damaged! And you are bound to learn new skills along the way.

With a lot less commitment, and the inspiration we can get from sharing our ideas, we can all keep enjoying the regular satisfaction of saving things and saving money in our own creative ways.

Make Do and Mend-able: Back to Basics

Check out Jen's ebook Make Do and Mend-able: Back to Basics — a collection of projects that teaches you a range of mending and repairing skills, from upcycling unwanted items through to fixing and maintaining clothes and furniture.

What's next for Jen in 2016?

Oh nothing much, just a new project to save the world, one clever little tip at a time with her new challenge 365 Ways to Change the World!

Follow her progress over Twitter every Thursday (8-9pm GMT) where she answers your questions on the hashtag #makedoandmendhour.

There's a satisfaction to saving money by fixing things instead of replacing them. It's a sense of achievement we can all share. Let's beat the January blues... with clever fixing and creative upcycling!