The Button Box

Most of shirts, blouses, and coats I buy come with an extra button or two, and I have a growing collection of them. Gathering up the small spare button envelopes from some recent purchases brought to mind my mother's button box. Did your mom have one? When I was growing up this was a staple item in most homes. We took better care of things back in those days, if you lost a button off a garment you sewed on another one, and if you couldn't find one to match you sewed on a whole new set.  Buttons were salvaged from clothing that was too worn to wear, so there were always sets of buttons to be found in the button box.  My sisters and I loved to sort out all those colorful buttons, arranging them in patterns, and exchanging them as if they were precious coins. 

Now days we live in a disposable world... if the button is lost, toss the garment. If an item is broken, replace it rather than seeing if can be repaired. We have become a society of resource wasters, too lazy to make an effort to salvage things that can be saved or repurposed.  This sadly often holds true for people and relationships as well.

Recently we were watching a reality show about an extended family that has opted to live in the wilds of Alaska, totally dependent on the the land, wild game, and what they can fashion with their hands and talents. If they don't work hard to prepare for the future, such as winter setting in, they will go hungry and be without adequate wood for fuel. There is no running to the store for meat and veggies, or ordering a delivery of propane and charging it to your credit card.  Despite it being very hard work, there is much to be said for self-sufficiency, and for learning to make good use of what you have. Timely maintenance and repairs are the order of the day.  The same holds true for our relationships. They take work, they take time, they are important!

Along with taking good care of what you have, and sustaining it's usefulness as long as possible, comes the awareness that we truly NEED so much less than what we have come to believe is necessary to have a good life. Older homes have much smaller clothing closets... the reason is obvious... the average person's wardrobe was far less extensive in times past. How many coats/dresses/pairs of shoes do you really need? How much of what you have spends most of it's time in disuse or storage? Do many of those "necessities" reside in storage boxes that get moved from place to place and rarely if ever accessed?   I know that I am sometimes guilty of picking an item up from the store that I know I already have, just because that's faster and easier than finding it in the jumble of storage boxes.  Maybe it's time to get those boxes organized and pass along what we don't need to someone that has use for it.

As I get older, I crave more simplicity in my life... less is better.  Making do with what we have is fine. In reality, my life is very blessed and there isn't a need for high living, embellishment, or impressive consumption. Maybe we all need to work toward getting back to the days of the button box... and learning to be caretakers of each other, our possessions, and mother earth.


  1. So true Josie.

    I work at creating simplicity in my heart. But stripping the complexity out of my life is a whole other matter!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    And yes, my mother had a button box -- forgot all about it until reading here. Thank you for that lovely memory.

  2. Great post. You are right on point. I have my grandmother's button box and I love searching through it.

  3. YES...we always saved the buttons and used them when a garment lost a button. My momma only had one arm, so I learned to sew buttons on when I was small.

    I have a button jar. My husband loses his buttons on his pants a lot, and he always brings them to me to put a new one on.

    I agree we all have too many clothes and shoes, coats, etc. When I was little we were poor...and I think I always felt like "when I grow up I want my kids to have what they need". I would have to put cardboard inside my shoes because I had holes in the soles sometimes. Soooo...I think that made me not want to ever be there again!

    There is a happy medium I am sure. The Lord always provides...and sometimes He wants us to give to others!

    Thanks for this post! It is a good reminder to appreciate and use what we have...but not to hoard our excess...but share it with those in need.

  4. I often shake my head when people lose their cell phones or their TV breaks and they lose their minds. I wonder how those people would have managed back in the day when buttons were saved.

    I am as guilty as anyone else of "replace rather then repair" but I do try to remind myself, until I can make the new purchase, that people used to live with so much less and that many still do.

    Excellent post and I'll probably be stealing the idea in the near future. Thank you in advance for the inspiration.

  5. I love this subject. Yes, my mom had a button box growing up and so do I. So funny, because I was looking at it a couple of weeks ago when I was organizing. Makes me feel secure to have buttons on hand.

    I try to replace things. I just took 2 coats to the tailor to have zippers fixed. I could have bought a new coat, but now I have two perfectly good ones.

    We only have one shoemaker/tailor in our town and he is terrific. I want him to stay in business so we bring him business whenever we can!

  6. I completely agree with you, Josie. Less is definitely more these days for me. I think I have been guilty in the past of overconsuming and buying a lot of things I didn't really need - I want to stop that now and be more sensible about my purchases. I admire people who can live frugally - it takes a lot of dedication!