When I was going through my parents' effects late last summer, I came across my mother's "button jar." She, like other women of the time, kept left over or stray or spare buttons of all kinds, generally in a large (empty) (mayonnaise) jar. Whenever a coat or shirt or blouse or pants or whatever needed buttons, she would pour her collection out on the table, select one that most closely matched the original, and sew it on post haste.
I thought this was the normal order of things until we came across any numbers of new buttons in the sewing department of Murphy's one day. "Look at this, Mom! Have you ever seen such a pile of buttons? They're beautiful! Can I get some for my shirts?"
"Because I'm not paying 59 cents for buttons when I can match them for free from my button jar."
My mother's used button habit was not that unusual, and I have a suspicion she could have bought all the buttons she wanted to. She just didn't want to. And so she continued on happily in the world of buttons, picking up strays when she saw them or taking them off old shirts that soon had a new life as rags. It was recycling before recycling was cool.
We as writers have our own button jars--ideas, expressions, words and phrases that we keep in the mental button jar we carry around. And when it's time, we pull out just the right one and put it to use. And that's a satisfying feeling, like finding just the button that matches the ones already on a garment.
May your mental button jars increase!
Another Time: Velcro: A Promise Unkept, and Yet Another Time: A History of Buttons and Other Fasteners