A Doorstop from Reused Materials, Delivered By Airplane!

Today is the organizing tips edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, but I have no new organizing tips to impart.  Check out my articles on Organizing Girl Scout Troop Information and Things Not To Do: Home Organizing Edition.  Meanwhile, here’s an idea for a homemade gift kids can use to surprise their faraway relatives!

In early December, my first-grader was looking at a book of crafts made from trash and came upon this idea: Make a doorstop by decorating a shoebox with scrap fabric or wrapping paper and filling it with gravel.  He wanted to make one.

The trouble was that we don’t need a doorstop.  In our 90-year-old house, there are some doors that won’t stay shut at times, but we almost never find ourselves needing to prop a door open.  I knew that if I allowed Nicholas to make a doorstop for our house, it would only be in the way–and a heavy box left lying around the floor is an obvious hazard to an often tired and clumsy mama.

However, we were headed to my parents’ house for Christmas, and they use doorstops!  They have an attic fan.  On summer evenings, it fans hot air out of the house into the attic, causing cooler air from outdoors to come in through the windows, and that breeze slams the bedroom doors if they are not propped open.  They might have enough doorstops already, but surely they would see a new one as a useful gift to receive.  I explained this to Nicholas, and he was happy to make his doorstop a gift for Grandma and Granddad.

The fact that we would be traveling by airplane presented an obvious problem (to me–Nicholas might not have thought of it until he lifted the finished doorstop) : We would not want to carry such a heavy gift in a suitcase, but it would be very expensive to mail!  I explained this to Nicholas, and his face fell, but I immediately announced a brilliant work-around: “Decorate the empty box so that we can open it.  We’ll put a plastic bag in there to hold the gravel.  Then I’ll pack it in my suitcase with some clothes inside so it doesn’t squash.  After we get there, we’ll sneak over to the school playground and fill the bag with gravel and hide it under my coat.  Then we’ll put it inside the box and wrap the gift.”  Nicholas loved the idea of stealthily creating a mysteriously heavy gift!

We didn’t have a spare shoebox, but we found a corrugated cardboard box of about that size, with a hinged lid.  Nicholas carefully wrapped blue tissue paper around it and taped it into place with the lid open.  (I suggested using a sturdier paper, but he was certain of what he wanted.)  Then he used markers to draw dogs and cats and also write DOOR STOP on it to prevent any confusion.

Everything went according to our plan, except that we had not considered the possibility of rain or snow that would make the playground gravel wet.  Our first morning there was sunny, and the top surface of the gravel was dry, but when we started scooping we found that the lower gravel was damp.  We carefully collected only the top layer.  Nobody wants a mildewed doorstop!

My father, a notorious squeezer and shaker of Christmas presents, had little opportunity to investigate this one because we arrived on the evening of the 23rd so didn’t get it under the tree until Christmas Eve morning.  But he certainly was startled when he picked it up to open it!  What could be so heavy?!  And how had we transported it?!  Nicholas gleefully explained our clever plan.

A practical, earth-friendly gift that cost pennies (for the tape), was fun and easy for a kid to make all by himself, and provided him with a funny story to tell his friends works for me!

4 thoughts on “A Doorstop from Reused Materials, Delivered By Airplane!

  1. You do realize that taking gravel from the school playground is stealing, right? You could have bought gravel, quite easily, and cheaply. I don’t think that was the world’s greatest example to give your son.

    • Well, I guess it is stealing, to about the same extent that taking paper napkins from a mall food court to blow your nose (when you didn’t buy any food) is stealing. I felt that taking about 3 cups of gravel off a playground that contains about 6 truckloads of gravel was morally acceptable.

      Tell me how I would buy gravel easily and cheaply on Christmas Eve. I would have had to borrow a car, but I could have come up with some ruse for doing that–but that wouldn’t have been a good moral example. Leaving that aside, I’m wondering what type of store sells a small amount of gravel for a small amount of money, and whether there is one in my parents’ small town.

      • You probably also realize that you are rationalizing your behavior. Any store that sells fish would have had a bag of gravel the perfect size for less than $4. Or you could have put a note in the box saying that the gravel was forthcoming. If everyone thinks that it is ok to go steal 3 cups of gravel from the playground, pretty soon there is no protection on the ground for the children who are playing. Then the taxpayers have to pay for the gravel and labor to spread it. People make the same rationalizations about taking paint sample cards for craft projects, and taking express mail boxes from the post office. Taking something that doesn’t belong to you, without permission or payment, or intent to use it for its proper purpose is stealing.

        • Yes, it is a rationalization. Like most people, I make the occasional moral compromise when I think it will do no actual harm.

          I did talk with my son about this last night. We agreed that it was technically stealing but that it truly is not enough to make a difference. If every kid in that school (about 500) did the same project, that might reduce the gravel depth on the playground enough that you could see a difference, but they still would have enough gravel to last the rest of the year. The school gets new gravel spread every August. My parents, who received this gift, are among the taxpayers who fund that school.

          I agree that it is better to make gifts that do not require swiping anything from a public place.

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