Sheds and why they matter

Click on the image, as usual, to read the small text

The meme at left turned up on my social media some time ago and I’ve been planning to share it here ever since.


Firstly because it is (a little) amusing and we all need a joke in stressful times like these.

Secondly because I have been cleaning up my own shed in the free time gifted to us by lockdown. It never quite made it to the top of my “To Do” list before that because other things were more fun – and then I suddenly couldn’t do the other things. In the end it was a satisfying job to do, so that’s a win.

Thirdly, and most importantly, because the shed is so central to the Three (or more) Green R’s – Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and the rest.

I grew up on a farm and every farm has a shed. It is a workshop, hardware store, junk shop and (in its darkest corners) rubbish dump. Outside it, usually, is a continuation in the form of abandoned machinery – pumps and ploughs, a tractor, an old US army Jeep, and so on. And it’s all about reducing the need to drive into town for a new article, repairing anything that’s damaged, renovating or rejuvenating anything that’s looking a bit worn, repurposing and recycling anything that isn’t repairable.

I left the farm as a teenager, moved into the big city and eventually took a white-collar job, but the pattern was set: in every house I lived in, I wanted a shed. If I couldn’t have a real shed, I would at least find a corner for a bench and my tools. And I kept stuff – nuts and bolts and old music stands, bits of electrical gear, casters from a broken chair, and anything else that might come in handy some time. I still do.

The shed in a throw-away society

Here’s another meme, from the good people at the Story of Stuff project. Let’s see how their recommendations play out in shed terms.

  • Recycle, Upcycle, Salvage, Repair, Create: of course. Core functions.
  • Borrow or Swap: that takes another person, but that’s what neighbours are for.
  • Grow: that’s more of a kitchen-garden thing, isn’t it?
  • Buy second-hand, Do without: only if you really can’t find one in the shed – and the more stuff you have in your shed, the less often that will happen.

Around about the time I got hooked on the value of sheds (I might have been ten and I was probably building billy-carts) I read a science-fiction novel which featured a boy-scientist who crashed his home-made rocket on Mars and then had to learn how to survive in a barren environment. It was, I guess, similar to Robinson Crusoe in outline but much more fun (the hero could have been me!) and I loved it even though I knew it was completely improbable. In it was a little list of pioneers’ commandments which has stayed with me ever since.

They are good Shed Science. They are also incredibly appropriate for a society suffering from a glut of manufactured goods and a mountain of trash.

2 thoughts on “Sheds and why they matter”

  1. Years ago, if you wanted a picture hook, you went to the hardware store and bought a picture hook. Nowadays you have to buy a packet of 10 (who wants 10 picture hooks?). That’s another reason sheds are vital now – a place to store all those extra hooks, nails, screws bolts that you were forced to buy but didn’t need.

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