Mark Frauenfelder, editor of Boing Boing and author of Made By Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World, explains how learning to make more of the things he consumes has increased his happiness.
Q: Why did you start this DIY project?
A: I wanted to be more appreciative of my life, and I suspected that if I participated more directly in the things that kept me an my family fed, educated, and entertained, I might develop a deeper connection to the things I use every day. It turns out I was right.
Q: Which of your DIY projects made you happier and why?
A: The simple act of making my own yogurt makes me the happiest. I eat yogurt everyday, and I like my yogurt better than any store-bought yogurt. I also like playing my cigar box guitars on an almost daily basis. It’s a nice break to pick one up and play it for five minutes.
Q: What’s the connection between handmade goods and happiness?
A: When you make something yourself — a wooden spoon, a musical instrument, an omelet from your chickens’ eggs, you become more aware of what you are doing. Being observant allows you to appreciate these good things in life.
Q: What’s the connection between being observant and happiness?
A: If you aren’t observant, your mind wanders. I’ve suspected that a wandering, unfocused mind leads to unhappiness, and a recent scientific study bears this out. In short, when you are focused, it means you are engaged and aware of what is going on, which is a rewarding feeling.
Q: Have you had any DIY disasters or any projects that actually diminished your happiness?
A: Not really. I’ve been frustrated by things that go wrong, but at least the disasters become good stories!
Q: What’s your advice for anyone who wants a greater connection to the things they consume?
A: Start by making things that will have an effect on your daily life. Growing and preparing food (sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, honey, eggs) has a lot of bang for the buck and your friends and family will love you for it.