Melanie LeMay - writer.editor.designer

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The repurposed bookcase: A metaphor


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The repurposed bookcase: A metaphor

Thinking about repurposing, I realize my project of the last couple of days is the ideal metaphor. Here's the story.

I noticed an odd, but well-built piece of furniture sitting behind a dumpster near my apartment. Perhaps it was part of a dresser at one time, or the hutch for a desk. It was solid wood and in good condition except for a few small traces of wear. Someone had shoved it back out of sight -- not all the way in the dumpster, but headed for demolition when the garbage truck would arrive the next day. 

It was sort of like us Boomers, solid, and in good condition except for some minor areas of wear. It hadn't yet been dumped, but was close to it. Apparently it no longer fit into its previous home, and though it seemed to be too good to be discarded, its owners no longer knew what to do with it. Here's what it looked like.

Of course I empathized with the poor thing, but not out of pity. I took one look at it and instantly saw how it could be repurposed into something I needed very badly - a large, attractive, solid-wood bookcase. (If you haven't noticed, in this age of electronic books, it's getter harder to find affordable bookcases that have any style at all.) Those stubby little shelves on the side, with the gaps inbetween, could be extended into full-size shelves (just as we often have to fill the gaps in our training or background with new classes or experience). Likewise, I could cover the top with a sheet of thin plywood and make it usable as well. 

Inspired, I dragged the thing home, measured it, and went to Lowe's armed with the dimensions for three shelves and some trim. It took some help from a knowledgeable Lowe's staffer to get the shelves selected and cut (much as a Boomer might need help figuring out what to add to his/her skill set to jump-start reinvention), but soon I was driving home with a trunk full of fresh wood. 

Then I ran into a typical Boomer problem: I hadn't thought through all the ramifications. I had planned to simply lay fresh shelving on top of the stubby side shelves, but I hadn't counted on the fact that to place a fresh board on top of the bottom set of stubby shelves, I'd have to take the whole piece apart in order to insert the new shelf. Fortunately, I love logistical problems like these! (Again, there's an analogy here. Sometimes filling the gaps in our education and experience requires some creative thinking!) In this case, I took a hammer and banged on one stubby shelf until I separated it from the rest of the piece. With the new shelf positioned over the opposite stub, I pushed the first stub back into place and hammered it to its new and improved upper shelf. Problem solved!

The top piece proved to be yet another problem. Either I measured wrong or the Lowe's gang cut wrong, because my top piece was three inches too short! Another creative solution required! This time I unearthed a new jigsaw I'd bought some time ago and never had the gumption to use. I read the directions, inserted the wood blade, used my sewing machine to hold the plywood in place on my dining room table, and cut a piece to fill in the gap. It took learning to use a new piece of equipment to solve this issue, but now I know how to use my jigsaw, and I can transfer that skill to future projects. My reliance on people with their own saws has just been mitigated! Ditto for the Boomer who takes the time to master a piece of new technology, no matter how small.

With nails and some putty, plus a touch with my electric sander, my bookcase was ready to paint. I've been working on it today, and tomorrow I'll post a photo of it in its finished state.

This just goes to prove that something with good bones can be repurposed into something that can continue to be useful for years to come. Boomers (and employers), take note!

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