Jul 152010

It’s so easy to buy the things we need. Yet many of us love to do things ourselves. Why do we bother? Here are six reasons to choose the homemade option.

1. Save money

Many things are cheaper when we make or grow them ourselves. For example: you can grow broccoli or lettuce for less money than you could buy them. Practically all the convenience foods in the supermarket have less expensive and tastier homemade alternatives. Food isn’t the only thing that’s usually cheaper homemade. Think of the price of greeting cards. You can create a card, whether made by hand or on a computer, for a personalized greeting for not much money. Homemade jewelry can rival commercial jewelry in looks at a fraction of the cost. It’s far less expensive to paint a room yourself than to hire a professional to do the job. But the benefits of doing things ourselves go far beyond money.

2. Enjoy better quality products

Homemade products do more than save money. Frequently they’re better than their commercial counterparts. A vine-ripened tomato from your garden tastes far better than one that was picked only partially ripened and shipped across the country to your local grocery store. Or compare a beautiful hand-knit scarf with a discount store version. Think of the difference between a loaf of bread you bought at the supermarket and one you’ve baked yourself.

When we cook our family’s meals, we control the ingredients. We can use nutritious foods with names we can pronounce. We can adjust for our family’s tastes and health needs. And when we sew or knit a garment, we can construct it to fit our own bodies and not some generic body shape.

3. Spend time with your family

Making things at home can be a great family project. Everyone works together on a shared goal. It’s fun and it builds family bonds. Children develop good work habits. And they learn useful skills like cooking, sewing and carpentry that they can use later in life.

4. Provide economic stability

Most of us will probably never go back to the land and homestead. But to the extent that we make, build, grow and repair some of the things we use, we move a bit of our household economy away from the ups and downs of market forces. Producing some of goods you would normally buy makes a great work-at-home project to supplement the family income. Plus money you save is tax-free. A small home business (or two) adds another layer of economic protection.

5. Be good to the environment

Homemade goods can be much better for the environment than their commercial counterparts. When we grow and make things ourselves we eliminate packaging and the need for transportation. We can use sustainable materials. Each of us can work to heal that patch of earth we call our own.

6. Have fun

We all have creative talents, even those people who insist they don’t. Traditionally homemade goods expressed that creativity. Rarely were things made in a strictly utilitarian style. Garments were dyed, decorated, embroidered, trimmed or smocked. Gardens were laid out in pleasing geometric shapes such as four-square kitchen gardens or grown with exuberant abundance in a cottage garden.

Doing things yourself still is a wonderful way to express your creativity. I enjoy the kitchen alchemy of taking simple ingredients and turning them into a delicious meal. I imagine that a woodworker feels the same way about watching pieces of wood take shape and turn into something useful and beautiful. For all the practicality of making our own things, one of the best reasons to do so comes down to the sheer creative pleasure of it.