Blog, Minimalism

Why things are no longer built to last

My mum has a relatively new kettle that leaks water everywhere. Apparently it’s an easy fix, just a little screw that needs tightening, then everything is right as rain.
Well, it would be, apart from the fact that the little screw is not accessible. It’s covered over by a random piece of plastic. That small, black barrier to the longer life of a kitchen item. The manufacturers have designed it so the item is not fixable.
They want us to throw it away. They want us to spend more money on a new one. Of course they do. Nothing is built to last these days.

Where is the pride of producing quality items? Somewhere over the last 50 or so years, quality has been replaced by quantity. Nothing is engineered to last any more. Why should it be, when it’s so easy to make hundreds more? Why should we bother investing extra money into well-made items, when it’s easier to pop off down to the nearest chain store and just buy another?

My phone froze recently, and of course I knew what would reset it…a good old battery pull. But I can’t get to the battery any more. It took me an hour to trawl through the internet to find out how to simulate a battery pull. If it was anything worse, I couldn’t fix it.
The advent of sealed technology is a win for those who rely on repeat purchase to make them more money. Big business can sell many more add ons…just because you can’t get into your piece of tech to even start to make a difference. Specialist repairs, genius bars, extra insurance… the list goes on. And after all that…usually it’s easier to just buy another. Even if you get it replaced for free, it’s multiplying the amount of waste we produce as a society at an alarming rate.

We see it in clothes too. Ever handled vintage clothing from the 40’s, 50’s or 60’s? The stitching is tight, the material thick, heavy. Despite the odd smell of mothballs, the pure quality is just hard to ignore. It says a lot that this clothing lasts for decades and yet something we bought just last year is already full of holes, the seams unraveling, the material light and see-through. But it’s ok, right? Because it only cost us £3 and we can just pop down and buy another to replace it, in this year’s style as well.
Old, wooden, furniture. Pieces that tell a story, shaped, hewn, loved, passed down. Where are our antiques of the future? In flat pack boxes? Will that glue and MDF last out the next decade, let alone the next century?

With recent headlines about working conditions in factories mass-producing items, and constant reminders of huge landfills and pollution, it’s sad that we don’t seem to be changing our ways. By all means buy. But buy mindfully. Think consciously about your purchases and buy to last. I take more pleasure and enjoyment from spending a bit more on a locally sourced and manufactured, quality item than from 20 items of clothing from a cheap chain store.

Take some time to learn about where your consumption really comes from. Talk to local cafes about their coffee. Learn how to fix sealed tech. Chat to your grocer about who’s growing their carrots and onions. Research local, ethical clothing companies. Ask about their cotton, their hemp, their credentials.
I’ve found that people are proud to talk about their manufacturing and sourcing processes. They’ll do anything to help, chat to you about every single step, show you, tell you, let you taste and try. The passion for their work shines. Do you find this in your local supermarket or high street chain? You’re very lucky if so.

To be in a position to think about minimising your possessions is lucky. The next step is to be mindful of how we minimise, and to do it as ethically as possible. Look around. It may seem that one person can’t make that much difference. But one person, followed by another, then another, soon creates a sea change.

A change to a mindset of less, not more. A change to beautiful items full of stories and meaning. Items we can pass on. Items we can use for decades. Items that fulfill their potential.

Let’s be the change.

Good reading:

IFixit: sells parts and instructions to repair ‘irreparable’ tech

Instructables: learn how to make pretty much anything






3 thoughts on “Why things are no longer built to last

  1. thank you! I will endeavor to drop a stone in my local pond. Maybe it’s ripple will join yours to change the tides

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