What can Georgia O’Keefe, Bach, and Trash Teach Us about Our Finances

posted in: Nature and Budgets

Hear How Upcycled Trash and Creativity Can Sound!

What can Georgia O’Keefe, Bach, and Trash
Teach Us about Our Finances?


Upcycled Trash - Okeefe's BonesRecently, I was part of a docent-led tour at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe.  Anyone familiar with her paintings already knows an entire blog could be dedicated to just one powerful painting alone.  However, let me briefly focus on the bones.

Ms. O’Keefe loved to utilize what already existed naturally around her in nature as her inspiration. In the desert, one is bound to find lots of bones.

In my earlier newsletter/blog I mentioned my interest in sharing upcycling (recycling), and repurposing topics and blending them with lessons about managing money and resources.

okeefe-skullWell, talk about repurposing. Seeing those paintings close up had me thinking.  Converting some old abandoned set of bones to award winning paintings was quite an extraordinary way of utilizing waste!

But then my young high school friend introduced me to the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra story, recently shown in one of his senior classes. It turns out I may be one of the last people on the planet to catch on to this viral video phenomena circulating around YouTube for the last two years. What started out as a project idea by a music director in Paraguay, South America to offer music lessons for free to all children, turned into a traveling orchestra performing music from recycled trash.

If you’re one of the few who missed this whole “Trash to Music” story from Paraguay, even though it’s been featured in The Oprah Magazine, Washington Post, NPR, CNN and many more, check out the NPR video SHOWN AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE. This is the trailer for an upcoming documentary in 2014 called “Landfill Harmonic”

Trash CelloI wonder how Johann Sebastian Bach would feel, learning his inspiring music is not only continuing to transform millions of lives, but now transforming trash to beautiful music as well.

Listening to that opening “Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1” piece performed on a cello made out of an old beat up oil can, wood from the trash, along with a wood meat tenderizer, is enough to dispel any preconceived ideas of how life or things are or have to be.

Now think about how this connects to your own personal household, finances, behaviors and attitudes.  What preconceived ideas do you have regarding your finances?

Recycled Budgeting Tools — What resources do you have buried in your own personal landfill made up of stuff, stories, and emotions?

  • What items can you dig out from your garage, closet or attic and give new purpose?
    • As much as people lament the fact that we don’t teach finances in our schools, there used to be budgeting classes in the schools. One of the original sections in “The Budget Kit” workbook was actually based on a book my husband dragged out from his high school days in the 1960s.
    • For inspiration (using old bottles and boards), check out these clever trash to treasure ideas.
  • Recycled Bugeting ToolsHow often do we assume we need to have all the perfect tools in place first (sophisticated software, apps, books, coaches, website memberships) before we can control our finances?
    • What if, like the instruments created from those landfill parts, we dug up those recycled budgeting tools already on hand.  You probably already have some version of  financial software around that just hasn’t been studied thoroughly enough to get started, thinking it’s too hard to figure out.
    • Maybe you already have Excel on your computer to create your own systems for tracking and planning your income, spending, debt and investments.  If you like the tangible approach, look around for an unused ledger from the office supply store sitting around, or a little notebook to carry with you.
    • Your bank, credit union or credit card company may offer free tools to use for managing your credit cards, budgets, loans, investments and other services.
  • It’s not about the tools, it’s how you use those tools that brings satisfying results.  Those students did not create beautiful music overnight, as any parent knows who has a young child practicing their music lessons.

Trash Guitar & ViolinA student once asked Segovia what kind of guitar he had, since his playing sounded so beautiful. Segovia said “Give me your guitar” ( a cheap out of tune one at that) and Segovia created beautiful music.  It’s not always the expense of the instrument, but what you  bring out of the instrument.

Mastering your own spending, saving, investing, behaviors, attitude, or negotiating are not skills that are gained over night either.  Like any art, those financial skills improve with practice,  motivation, persistence, determination, and a dose of passion thrown in.
What preconceived ideas exist around happiness? 

Is it really necessary to have the latest, most expensive “thing” to be happy?  Are your children growing up with this attitude?  As we move into the gift season, this might be the time to re-think some of those old, established patterns of spending and celebrating that no longer fit your budget, mindset or values.


Back to the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

Landfill Harmonic ViolinBy the way, if you really love the video of the Landfill Harmonic, and want to learn the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say, this video explains how the project got started.

For those of you inspired to donate to this program or curious to see how over $214k was already raised through Kickstarter, learn more here or at the Creative Visions Foundation.

Message from the music director… “If a person has initiative and is creative, even trash can become an educational tool that could change someone’s life as well as the lives of others.”

Translated to Money…  “If a person has initiative and is creative, even the most financial challenge can become an educational tool that could change someone’s life as well as the lives of others.”

 Recycle Budgeting Tools


3 Responses

  1. Jon Frazier

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    • Judy Lawrence

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