Cleaning Out the Clutter

I tossed my microwave today. It died earlier this week. While it was a cheap microwave, I expected it to last for a bit longer than the year it did.

I don’t know if I’ll buy another microwave. Maybe if I find one at the right price at a thrift store, but aside from that, I’m doubtful.

I resent buying something just to have it fall apart as soon as the warranty ends. I’d rather do without.

While I was at it, I tossed a coffeemaker that failed earlier this year as well. I’d planned to replace the switch on it, but realized that I would never get around to it. I’d already located a replacement, so why keep it if I know I won’t fix it?

My Kindle failed as well over the past year. While it lasted me several years, I discovered to my dismay that once the battery fails the device refuses to operate.

I chose not to replace it. Why waste the money on something you know that will fail?

To be honest, this round of failures has really made me think about the things we use today. They aren’t designed to be serviceable. When they break, you’re supposed to toss them and buy new.

And when they don’t break, corporations find other ways to make you replace them. I’ve a mop around here that I had to hunt for a new mophead for because they discontinued it and I refused to pay $$ for the latest model. I lucked out and found the replacement heads on ebay.

Why do we do this? Why do we spend our hard-earned cash on crap that’s designed to fall apart so quickly? And we not only buy it, we depend upon it. We feel that we need it, so we are forced to rush out and replace the item as soon as it dies.

And if we don’t need it, it’s a fashion or trendy thing. Those things last forever! They change the color or the cut, tell you that you’re wrong if you wear last year’s model, and you fall for it.

I’ve fallen for it a few times myself. I’ll never forget Crocs, or those scratchy old polyester outfits my parents could not wear out, despite the abuse they suffered.

It makes me wonder if Ev had the right idea when he suggested that we need to toss it all in a dumpster and light it on fire.

What do you think about this age, where the old stuff is still going and the new stuff fails as soon as the warranty ends? Do you accept it, or do you wish you knew of a way to stand up to it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Barnes and Noble
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I Hate Planned Obsolescence

The other day a friend stopped by and announced that he had a surprise in the back seat of his car. Curious, I stepped outside to see what it was.

To my surprise, he had an ancient iMac sitting on his back seat. He explained with a grin that he had been visiting another friend when he saw their neighbors carry it out to the trash.

“I immediately thought of you, so I asked permission to have it,” he explained.

We carried it into the house. It lacked a keyboard and a mouse, but it fortunately still had a power cord, so I connected a spare Windows mouse and keyboard to the machine and plugged it in.

That old dinosaur powered on.

According to my research, this machine (iMac model M5521) came out around the turn of the century, which means that it is almost 20 years old. The hard drive is a bit noisy, the slot loading CD-ROM sticks, but it still works!

The more I played with that old machine the angrier I got. This computer cost someone $999 new. That’s the equivalent of two month’s expenses for me. The thought of someone tossing that much money in the trash just pissed me off, not because they discarded something they no longer needed or used, but because of the fact that this poor machine was obsolete just a few short years after it was purchased.

That’s the way it is with stuff anymore. You purchase a new phone, computer, gadget, outfit, or whatever only to be told it is useless or out of fashion before you’ve hardly managed to break it in, so what do you do? You go out and buy a new one, tossing the old one into a closet or—like this poor old machine—in the trash.

Heck, purchase a new appliance these days and you’ll discover that the lightweight gears and moving parts within the machine will fail within a few short years. Don’t believe me? Go to the store and buy a cheap fan. See how many seasons it will last you before it dies. Next, go to a thrift shop and buy one of those ancient fans with the old cloth-covered power cords. I’ll bet that thing still runs even if it is close to 50 years old. In fact, I happen to know a gentleman who uses an old percolator to make his coffee that is even older than that! He got tired of buying coffee makers every couple of years so he dug out the old percolator his mother used to make her coffee with.

Anyway, back to this computer. After tinkering with it for a while I decided to try an experiment. I’m going to see if I can acquire the parts needed to give this puppy an upgrade and make it useful once again. I want to get it set up with some simple games, configure it for printing, add a word processing program, and let my grandson use it to play and do his homework on.

This isn’t exactly a priority to me so I plan to spend as little as possible. I’m going to ask around for spare parts to upgrade the RAM and search online for a copy of the operating system that I can download and burn to disk. If I get lucky I’ll manage to score a new CMOS battery for it, since the original is long dead.

And piece by piece I am going to turn this ancient machine into something that can be used today, just to prove that it can be done. It won’t be the fastest but that’s not the point. The point is that we spend a fortune on items that manufacturers declare completely useless years before they actually are. We spend hours of our lives each week earning money to buy items like this old computer, only to discard them as worthless a short time later, when in fact, with a little love and a bit of work, they can last longer than Big Business wants us to keep them.

I’ll let you know when I get the old dinosaur running. I will also let you know just how much money I spent turning it into something that can actually be used (paperweight is not an option).

What was the last item you saved from the trash? Please share your stories in the comments below.