My family was pretty poor growing up. We received Food Stamps, my mom made most of my clothing, and I even had a few dolls that she sewed for me. I’m not complaining, plenty of kids have it worse.  I always had a roof over my head and I don’t think I missed out on any of the major “childhood experiences”.


The one thing that I never had was a doll house. I had plenty of Barbies and even accessories to go with them, but the house was just out of our price range… and in retrospect, I’m glad it was. I remember crying to my mom that my friends had these grand mansions for their dolls to live in. Why didn’t I? She told me that I already had one.


I had this built-in shelving unit in my bedroom that my grandfather built when we moved in to his house. It was 6 shelves high and two across and we found a dresser that fit perfectly right underneath it. I came home from school one day to find that my mom had decorated one of the shelves to look like a living room.  She used a few peel and stick bathroom tiles to create flooring, hung some fabric on the “walls” painted a television and hung a light from the “ceiling”.


“We will go buy some furniture after I payday,” she promised. But I was too excited to wait for payday. I wanted to move my Barbie in right away. I looked around the attic and found some Styrofoam pieces that were meant to protect electronics in the box. They were perfect. My Barbie got a couch, coffee tables (those little plastic contraptions that they use in pizza boxes to keep the box from caving into the cheese), she even got a hot tub. My Barbie was livin’ large.


When we have everything that we can possibly want, it’s hard to think creatively. Why think outside the box when you can just go and buy the box and everything in it? Not having everything at our fingertips forces us to become resourceful. We are able to step outside of the obvious and find creative solutions to our problems. If money had been more available, I never would’ve thought to repurpose trash (the beginning of my eco-friendly attitude?) into toys.

Growing up without money is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that breeds a new level of self sufficiency. Instead of viewing our challenges as negative experiences, let’s look at them as opportunities to grow and expand our skills.

Can you think of a time when you were forced to find a creative solution to a problem? I’d love to hear from you. Please share it in the comments.