The Disposable Economy

planned obsolescence

I came across this meme on facebook today and it reminded me that one of my biggest frustrations with my car towards the end of its run with me was how much work it suddenly needed after 3 years of average use and regular maintenance.

I was raised by a stay at home dad who passed on to me a lot of “quirky” little habits gained from his own mother, who grew up in the Great Depression. As a result, I grew up with the “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” mindset, and I never got used to the idea of buying something just to throw it away. Marketers now literally sell us trash in the form of paper towels, fancy plastic packaging, disposable ____ (razors, wipes, dishes, you name it).. and we buy these things in an effort to make our lives easier.

I also grew up with the notion that something of true quality will be built to last. My parents married in 1978 and we had the same Sony TV until about 2001, beautiful crystal lamps in our living room (my parents did finally replace the shades when they moved last year), and a Eureka vacuum cleaner that I believe still has yet to bite the dust.

So I suppose it’s not surprising that my car drove me absolutely nuts. Something that costs tens of thousands of dollars should be built to last more than a few years before having 3 recalls, 3 flat tires, power steering failure and random software updates required.

When I sold my car I thought that I would be a little stressed out about it. In fact, I felt an enormous weight lifted off of my shoulders. I’ve never felt more liberated than when I got rid of this expensive liability that we’re all told that we have to have. I can’t watch a car commercial anymore without rolling my eyes and wondering why I was ever so infatuated with driving.

Giving up my car commute has been so transformative that it has me looking at what else is in my life just because I’m told that it should be. I’m on a wifi (read: Netflix) detox this week, working on a capsule wardrobe, and paring down odds and ends. It’s pretty amazing what can be gained when giving up things that aren’t in our lives for a good reason.

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The Disposable Economy