By Brad Beckstrom
Years ago I had a vision for what I’d like my future home to look like. It included stylish mid-century modern furniture, expensive rugs, artwork, and beautiful lighting. It doesn’t look like that and I’m happy about it. Instead of replacing and upgrading furniture over the years, we decided to keep the furniture we had. This included things like our original coffee table that’s been destroyed by kids, dogs, spilled beverages. I kept my furniture from my college dorm room, now in my son’s room and still going strong. We kept various IKEA classics from my various bachelor pads and wife’s early post-college years.The IKEA dressers had to be repaired and in one case reassembled. A few years back, we had a fun day running down to IKEA to dig through the parts bins for pegs, knobs, and brackets. I also grabbed a few Swedish meatballs. We’ve received a few pieces of furniture from relatives over the years, proudly displayed next to the IKEA stuff in the living room that we repurposed as a library.
With all this old furniture populating our home, something interesting began to happen. The furniture began to develop its own personality. Chew marks from pets that are no longer with us, wild rings, marks, and divots in our coffee tables that come along with raising two boys and having pets. I guess you could call them scars, but the good kind. We’ve actually created that distressed, weather battered look the people pay for. I like to think of it as sort of a slow motion destruction.
Slow motion destruction
Slo-mo destruction is really just wearing stuff out. Really wearing it out, like keeping a car for a quarter of a million miles. We don’t do enough of this. The big box stores have made it too easy for us just to replace things. I can even have Amazon deliver something the same day now and never set foot in one of these places. That’s tempting, but I avoid it, like I avoid the big box stores and malls. I’ve chosen to prefer what I have, even if that means it’s starting to fall apart. When I see the steel grease splatter bars in the bottom of our grill literally disintegrating (Weber calls them “flavorizer bars”) I like to think of all the great steaks and burgers that have led to their slow disintegration. I decided to keep them in the grill until they collapse, then I’ll go about the chore of replacing them, but keeping the grill. The rules of slow-motion destruction are easy, you simply keep something and wear it out until it can’t be repaired.
Prefer what you have
This works with all kinds of things including clothing. I’d much rather have a really beat up pair of 20 year old shorts, and an even older belt, than have to replace them because they no longer fit. While my old cargo shorts may currently be out of style, they are certain to come back. If you spend that time taking care of yourself, you’ll find that even the oldest clothing hangs off of you better. I try to think of a 34 inch waist as a badge of honor. By keeping it I won’t need to replace one pair of old khakis with another pair that will also get old. If you prefer what you have, you can avoid built-in obsolescence.
There’s been a lot of innovation in home appliances and consumer electronics. Guess what, if you wear things out you can still experience innovation. You have the advantage of knowing what was just a fad, like 3D TV, versus what’s a solid legitimate technology, when you finally do go to replace that TV. I can tell you that the slick stainless steel appliances that eventually replaced our old refrigerator and washer after 15 years won’t last that long. So, if you have older appliances, hang on to them until they can’t be repaired. When you do replace them, avoid gadgetry and touchscreens and look for solid no-frills high quality equipment.
Eventually that mobile phone will die, or even better, your kids will need a phone or laptop that you can migrate to them. My son recently asked if he could be the next in line when one of us needs to replace a phone. I remember an iPhone 4 that went through three owners in our family before I finally got rid of it on craigslist. It still fetched $50.
You don’t need a Showtime or HBO subscription or even cable to enjoy great shows. In fact, if you wait for shows to show up on Netflix or Amazon, you have at least one full season and lots of reviews to know whether they’re worth your time.
One of the best financial moves you can make is staying in the same house for years and paying down your mortgage. Moving is expensive. If you like where you live, the only advantage to moving I can see is that it forces you to purge some of that stuff you bought that you didn’t need. We’ve been in our house over 19 years and raised a couple kids here. I can tell you that regardless of how organized you are, you’ll start to accumulate stuff. Before I discovered Minimalism and a living lean philosophy, I was definitely in the stuff accumulation mode. So much so that I personally declared war on stuff in 2013. Four years later the battle still rages on, but I have not surrendered.
We’ve been using Green Drop to donate used toys and items to charities like Purple Heart for years. I’ve always found it amazing all of the different items they accept, even old underwear, games and toys, beat up kitchenware. If they can’t use your old items they can recycle them or turn them into rag stock. We try to fill up about one large box per month. They even come to your house and pick it up.
Wearing stuff out, giving things away, and delayed gratification are some of the best ways to prefer what you have.…
It’s easy to get started. Just set up a box, and pledge to remove one thing from your life every day. When the box is full donate it and begin again.
Financial Independence through Living Lean, Working Lean, and Traveling Lean