By Kathy Lundgren
Fran and Paul are just two of the nice people I’ve met through my membership in Transition Town Media. Cheerful volunteers, they were hanging signs for a TTM event. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them through activities as varied as Paul teaching about bees, New Year’s Eve at Iron Hill, and the Climate Rally in DC. So when Fran called me to help her for Time Dollars, I jumped at the chance. She had seen my Time Bank service ads for sewing and wardrobe consultation. Downsizing possessions, in preparation for her and Paul moving to their smaller house in Media, Fran wanted to streamline her wardrobe.
The first afternoon at their old house was a total pleasure. After a house tour of antiquities and projects, Paul brought us a tray with tea and cookies. He learned from his family to respect for “that which came before”. They saved significant items from generation to generation with stories and pictures tying the items together. Fran’s wardrobe evoked her career and her lifetime really; within Fran’s collection is a sweater she knitted when she was twenty-one in Australia using Australian wool! I traveled the globe and back in time just by visiting their house.
Once we got started, my first role was to listen to Fran’s goals as she described what she is giving up (pieces from a career-dominated wardrobe) and what she needed (fewer high-quality pieces, warmth for winter, versatility and suitability for walking through town). I looked at each piece on the hanger then on Fran. We nixed about three-quarters and kept only what enhanced her. Well, that is, with one important exception. And this is where it gets fun.
Somewhere I read a quote by someone famous and I paraphrase: “Keep something because you use it or because it gives you happiness to have it.” How simple! Of course we can have our treasures! For Fran, there was one treasure in her wardrobe she wasn’t sure about: the Australian wool sweater she knit at twenty-one. The few small holes and rough edges are easy enough to repair. It looked good on Fran, but there were several styling elements that she just didn’t like – and yet…it has a history. It’s a singular piece from the pile of otherwise factory-made items. So, we came up with this plan: repair it and keep it as a guest-sweater. For a household that aims to embrace community while keeping down consumption, our solution was perfect. Fran and I reflected afterwards about what might have happened without the Time Bank. One thread had her hiring a professional organizer and “just getting it over with.” Another had her procrastinating until one day she just ripped through it and missed out on a few pieces, possibly including the sweater. But we are fortunate – we have a Time Bank.
Our Time Bank is a great tool allowing us to formally “give and get credit” for exchanges of service. As a TTM Steering Committee member and representative of the TTM ReSkilling Working Group, I want to be a better user of and a better advocate for this remarkable system we call “Media’s Time Bank.” Within a specially organized website, people post two kinds of ads – Requests of Services Needed and Service Offers. So far, I have posted things I love to do, things I do naturally and confidently, without really having to think about it too much.
Media’s Time Bank is probably the most popular project of Transition Town Media and, in line with Transition goals, it allows us to reduce, reuse and recycle. In a nutshell, we strive to reduce our fossil fuel use. By reusing things we keep them out of the landfills. Recycling will become second nature as we increasingly model our processes on natural systems. In short, we are transitioning from polluting to respecting and protecting the Earth. And through the Time Bank, we get to do at least part of it by helping friends and earning Time Dollars doing what we like to do.
At Fran and Paul’s, I got to sort and evaluate clothes with a friend, something I’ve always enjoyed doing. When I was little, my best friend’s mom, two houses away, sewed both her daughters’ clothes. Too young to use the sewing machine ourselves, my friend and I put our needles and thread to use making troll doll sets – dresses with matching cone-shaped tube-hats for their hair. We stitched the seams and hemmed up all the little edges. Later, in a new town, our Home Ec class assignments bonded a neighbor and me. Our mutual friend took runway modeling classes and we pored over fashion magazines. Helping a friend to evaluate clothes for the purpose of streamlining possessions is not only something I love to do, it’s important. In this case, Fran is streamlining her life purposefully, to live more lightly on the land.
Fran and Paul are reducing their number of items as they reduce the square footage of their home. They are reusing a house built during the 1920s. They recycle items as they downsize by giving things to friends and selling what they can. By living in Media Borough they reduce the number of car rides they need to take. They can walk to purchase locally-grown produce at the Hillside Farm CSA. Soon three laying chickens will live in their backyard. Our entire circle will benefit by learning how to take care of chickens as we visit Fran and Paul. They are transforming their lives in accordance with their and Transition’s values. By helping Fran with her wardrobe, I got to participate in their transformation and learn toward my own transformation. I got all of this while I helped a friend and earned Time Dollars doing something I love to do! Viva Transition! Viva wardrobe streamlining!