living and dining room
Image courtesy jdn/Flickr.

No, I’m not talking about the stuff that we don’t need or want. We should definitely chuck that out the first chance we get (to a thrift store or a friend or the recycle bin, as appropriate). I’m talking about stuff that we need and want and use and find ourselves needing (or wanting) to replace.

Steeped in consumer culture, almost before we are born, we’re used to upgrading, replacing, and buying new stuff – new computers every couple years, new cars every few years, new clothes, new appliances, new gadgets. All that out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new not only contributes to the destruction of the planet and the suffering of people and animals, but it costs money that we don’t need to spend. And that’s an important factor in today’s economy.

My husband and I make an effort to extend the life of our stuff.

We had our Geo Metro car for more than 17 years before we had to replace it (with a used car). My first laptop lasted for more than six years. We took good care of both to help them last longer, and when the hard drive on my laptop blew, I replaced the hard drive, rather than get a whole new system (even though I wanted one).

We still use the plates and silverware we received as a wedding gift almost 28 years ago. We repair our clothes (or just live with the holes) until they’re too worn to wear, and then we turn what we can into rags or dog toys or whatever we can think of. We get our shoes repaired at a store down the street. A few years ago we refurbished our 19 year-old bikes, instead of getting new ones (though we recently replaced them and sold our old ones cheap to someone else, since they still have some use in them). My husband bought an off-brand mp3 player several years ago and happily eschews all the suggested upgrades, the original providing just what we needs. We bought a vacuum cleaner at a big box store more than 10 years ago; it was supposed to last for 3. When it finally died we replaced it with a repairable vacuum. We try to get good stuff (when we can afford it), and then wring every bit of usefulness out of it that we can, before we have to replace it.

Of course, we’re not always successful. Sometimes we’re lured by shiny new things that we’re sure will reduce our stress or add more happiness to our lives. And some things break well before their time, with no good replacement options. The point is that we strive to be mindful in our choices and creative in our reuses.

For those of us wanting to decrease our negative impact on the planet and others, there are plenty of opportunities to reuse, mend, maintain, and extend the stuff that we all have, so that we don’t have to spend the money or resources to replace it quite so soon. We can also practice a little delayed gratification when the marketers try to woo us with their must-have gadgets and ways of making us think their products will make our lives easier or better.

Experiment. Take something that still works that you’ve been meaning to replace, and see if you can’t make it work for you a little longer. Then try it with something else. The planet — and your pocket book — will thank you.

~ Marsha

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