November 20, 2015

Parade of Junk

I'm grumpy. That means that this post will come off as something of a rant, but don't say you weren't forewarned!

Why am I grumpy? Because I've taken a liking to peanut butter and jelly on toast for breakfast, and my toaster oven died. The problem isn't so much having to change my favorite breakfast, as it is our continual parade of junk consisting of things we've purchased, such as drip pot coffee makers and laundry baskets, that are kaput after about six months or a year. Many readers will likely nod their heads in sympathy over this problem.

The modern world has a disposable mindset. The irony is that it rallies behind "green" products and recycling, but for all the talk and hoopla about these things, nothing really changes except that prices go up and quality goes down. It seems to me that we have something of a 3-ring circus going on, with everyone pointing the finger at someone else. We have industrial manufacturing and agriculture in one ring, the economy in another, and the environmentalists in the third.

Let's start with the third ring, since global warming, climate change, carbon emissions, and petroleum dependence are so much in the news these days. It's interesting that the target object for all of this is usually emissions, mostly automobiles. Rarely is it pointed out that the majority of plastics and all their cousins are petroleum products. And what, in the parade of junk, isn't made with at least some plastic (or all) these days? Then there's the energy cost to manufacture and transport those goods, plus all that packaging which must be dealt with. But don't get me started on that.

In the second ring, business people tell us they only sell what the public wants. Baloney! I mean, who really wants to keep buying a new coffee pot or laundry basket every six months? Or a new toaster oven every couple of years? The truth is that we can only buy what they offer to us. Don't show it to us and we won't even know to want it. So called "better quality" costs more, but is it really? Somehow I doubt it.

Then there's the economy, which is based on the industrial model. It's so called "health" revolves around "growth." In other words, they have to keep making more and more money to keep their investors in dividends and their CEOs in bazillion dollar bonuses. There's the real culprit! Let's just all grow a little garden and be satisfied and content with living simply and modestly - problem solved!

Don't even bother with the government. Every time they pass laws to make things "better," it only means things get more expensive, with all that expense passed on to the consumer.

This is madness. How long can it go on?

< /rant>
Parade of Junk © November 2015 by

68 comments:

jewlz said...

My first appliances' life spans were measured in decades...now its years and months. Many have pulled out of that consumer circus, only to find viola, mandatory consumption via health care over hauls.

Vintage Maison said...

I always remember my dear mother-in-law's fridge was the same one when she passed away as she had when she first married. Forty-odd years by my reckoning.

Dawn McHugh said...

It is very much a throw away society, I have been doing away with appliances, clothes is my bug bear, they just dont last and footwear lucky if a pair of boots last 6 months, clothes I am making myself now but footwear is another matter

Dani said...

Leigh - It's called "planned obsolescence". Very frustrating!! It's the only way corporations can keep the profits soaring, and their shareholders happy. Do you have a http://ifixit.org/ outlet near you? In the meantime, have you considered making toast on your wood stove - or isn't it lit yet?

Leigh said...

There are a lot of things I won't buy again either, like another drip coffee pot. Looking to not have to buy another plastic laundry basket again either!

Leigh said...

Amazingly I still have the same washing machine that I did when my son was in diapers almost 30 years ago. But it isn't because of quality, it's because Dan keeps fixing it!

Leigh said...

Throwaway is the industrial model in a nutshell. Footwear is another annoying one, and you're right, shoes and boots appear to last only about 6 months before the soles fall off. Maybe some good tough leather and a pattern for handmade boots is in order!

Leigh said...

Dani, that's exactly what it is, and it is the backbone of the industrial economic model. Considering that neither manufacturers nor the government seem particularly concerned about the long term consequences to the environment, I've come to the conclusion that they don't really believe in those consequences, or that they've fabricated them as a means to increase revenues as either taxes or profits.

Interesting website, and I wholeheartedly applaud the principle, but it seemed to be set up as a advert for itself. I had to click every link before I finally found a link at the bottom of the page to take me to any information. Then it was difficult to figure out where the real information is. Fortunately, Dan is a able to fix almost anything if he can get parts, which is becoming harder and harder. Anyway, not cold enough for the wood stoves yet. As with all things, we simply adapt. :)

Chris said...

Like a thick slice of PB & J, toast, you really chewed into that one! I thought our toaster bit the bullet recently too. But it turned out, if I just held the toaster bit down for a few seconds longer (sometimes up to 10 seconds) it would magically hold and cook toast again.

My mum told me, sometimes the electrical connections get slightly out of whack - especially if you shake it to get all the crumbs out to clean it. Sometimes a little shaking can fix it, or just holding the handle down longer (with bread in) and it will magically start working again. We've kept ours several months longer, than when we first thought it was for the rubbish. It's still going. ;)

Pam said...

Gosh darn, Leigh....this darn computer won't let me make a comment so I had to go under Chris's comment in the reply box....sorry Chris! :)

I so totally agree, we get so discouraged and grumpy too about things! We used to be stuck in the consumerism realm, but that was years ago...thank goodness we woke up! Thank you for speaking the TRUTH!! Hugs!

Frank and Fern said...

Until it collapses.....not much longer in many economists opinions. I know you have a way to make toast on your woodstove, which is probably the most viable option.

Fern

Kathy said...

Check out a YouTube video (not sure if I can post the link here?) called the Story of Stuff 2007 Official Version. It explains in an understandable way how government, business, and consumerist society "works." While I'm not a "prepper," I certainly look at preppers differently now than I did before that video. Those who can become more self-sufficient and less driven by acquiring stuff (simple living!), are onto something! Personally, its always been a game to see if I already have something I can recycle/upcycle or salvage rather than spending money... and when I do spend, I try to support the small local businesses whenever possible, even if that's not the cheapest option. Look for craftspeople, artisans, and cottage industries near you or barter with friends, neighbors, family. There are lots of alternatives to getting what you need without supporting big box stores and oil production. =) But I'm probably preaching to the choir here!

Lady Locust said...

Amen! This is so irksome. Plastics drive me crazy. I've been looking for glass food keepers w/ rubber lids for our lunches - no luck so far. And I think you already know how I feel about making things that last. . . wait, is this soap box big enough for the 2 of us:?)

Ed said...

Years ago, it used to be fairly easy with a bit of research to find quality made things still at a higher price. Unfortunately there is this thing called the Walmart Effect (which is also an excellent book by the way) where certain big box store retailers have gotten so big, they can dictate what gets manufactured and primarily that is making things cheaper at the expense of quality. At first this was contained just at Walmart stores but their power is gotten to be so huge that now even private stores have a hard time buying quality stuff because manufacturers devote all their energy catering to Walmart and their crowd.

These days, to combat the Walmart effect, I typically start by seeing what brands Walmart does not sell in their stores and researching them. Often times you can find European stuff that is better made but you pay for it in shipping costs. I've also found niche companies that specifically try to cater to those of us who are after quality and not so much price. Buzzard Gulch for tools comes to mind as I type this. However when it comes to larger ticket items like appliances, there really isn't a way around other than to attempt to fix the one you have as it fails.

If I was in the market for a new toaster, I've learned awhile ago that there is a huge market for vintage/antique toasters out there, you know the ones built entirely of metal and still work after a 100 years. I would try to find one that wasn't so collectible so it was reasonably priced and give that a go.

Mama Pea said...

Here's the latest that left me with a dropped jaw and shaking head. A friend purchased a new washing machine a couple of years ago. It was a "good" model and cost a smidge over $300. It recently stopped working. The repairman said the main computer chip board had to be replaced. The cost? $600.

How long can it last? Not. much. longer.

PioneerPreppy said...

Yep. This is why I always try and buy used things as old as I can find them. Tractors, implements, small engines, toasters :)

The ones that really get me are cheap screws though. Can't really go shopping for old screws but the new ones always seem to be made out of cheap metal and strip out too easily.

Ian H said...

Not a rant, but a very valid point!

Sandy said...

PP,

Yard sales and estate sales we find old cans of screws and actually purchase them to help with repairs. All these new modern supposed appliances or gadgets are generally useless. Like you, I would prefer purchasing the older items.

Sandy said...

Leigh,

I 2nd Ian H's comment. As for my toast, I've used the oven, wood stove, and once when desperate my husbands old torch.

Leigh said...

Chris, there's a lot to be said for learning how to trouble shoot. With my toaster oven, it's either the heating elements or the thermostat. Either way, the elements won't come on. They are secure (I checked them) but they aren't replaceable like they are in a big stove.

Pam! Good to hear from you. Blogger does that to me too, sometimes. I usually find that reloading the page does the trick.

Leigh said...

Woodstove or campfire. :) I have a campfire toaster, but you know how it is at 5:30 a.m.; I want convenience! LOL

Leigh said...

There's always room for more folks in the choir! I think most of the time folks are busy with their lives and never even think about this stuff. It's just the way things are. It would seem that if each of us would do what we can, it would make a difference. For a lot of things, that means simply stop buying the stuff.

Leigh said...

Luckily for you, I have an expandable soap box. :)

Leigh said...

I heard a lecture from a college prof called, "The China Price." It was basically saying the same thing, and how American and now European retailers think they can make bigger profits with cheap Chinese made goods. He followed the logical train of consequences to this thinking, with disastrous economic results.

Used to be that the better quality stores carried better quality goods, at a higher price tag, of course. I'm starting to find that they've caught on the the China price idea. They have the same high price tags, but the quality is significantly cheapened.

I hadn't heard of Buzzard Gulch. I'll have to pass that on to Dan.

Leigh said...

You know, the more technologically advanced things become, the easier it is for them to break. $600 to repair a $300 machine is ludicrous! But I'm sure he has his mark-ups.

The last time Dan repaired our washing machine I researched the new, fancy, high price tag ones. I love reading consumer reviews on these things. The almost unanimous opinion of folks who'd bought them was to get buy the service contract because it would undoubtedly be needed within a year or two.

Leigh said...

Screws and nails! Hammering brand new nails is a joke these days; at least a quarter of them bend before they're hammered in. I keep telling Dan he needs to take the bent ones back and get a refund on them.

Sandy, great idea about yard and estate sales.

Leigh said...

If only there was a total "opt out" button. :)

Leigh said...

A torch! Love it. I do have a campfire toaster as part of my prepper equipment. I just lament the loss of that oven because it a lot for cooking and baking. It draws less electricity, so I figure it's a better choice for cooking every whichaway.

Renee Nefe said...

I was going to recommend The Story of Stuff also. It just drives me nuts. My washer & dryer are the same ones we bought when we were first married. Hubby had to replace the heating element in the dryer a few times but once he figured out how to get the drum balanced we stopped wearing those out and it's been fine. The frig had a part go out about a year or so after we bought it...the repair guy said it was because the part was made in Mexico...he replaced it with a US version and it is doing fine now...13 years later! It has gotten so that I cringe if anything THINKS of breaking down now. My printer was acting up (this was several years ago) and the HP website said that they no longer supported it...I HAD to buy a new printer. I searched online and found that I could easily fix it myself and I haven't had an issue since...course I've totally voided the warranty but it was outside of that already! ;)

Renee Nefe said...

and I know it doesn't help that you have to get a replacement, but I saw at least 4 toaster ovens at our thrift store yesterday. used means "the man" isn't getting my money. ;)

Robin Follette said...

Maine has a consumer protection law that mandates everything but used cars must last an expected amount of time. Toasters and coffee makers that die in six months must be replaced because that's not a reasonable amount of time. Every time someone asks if I want to buy a warranty I give them my standard "Maine has this law that says..." reply. I get a funny look in return. If a manufacturer won't stand behind its product the state's AG will get involved. That little tidbit of information will usually make the manufacturer replace the item.

Disposable society, low expectations, settling, not knowing better should be standard Oh how I can rant about these things.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

I totally agree with you! Just why can't things be made to last and without plastic that breaks! Because they want us to buy again! And why do they want us to buy insurance on things we buy. Shouldn't they be made to last! Bah hum bug! Nancy

Mike Yukon said...

AMEN!
I am so sick of all the small appliances then the washer/dryers, AC/Heat pumps, water heaters, garbage disposals, dishwashers, blinds, door locks and everything else made today failing after a few years then need outrageous repair costs.
I feel my house is like a Ford, Fix Or Repair Daily!

Farmer Barb said...

Oh, I'm the queen of taking it apart before I throw it out. I have a toaster with one handle (plastic) that broke. I still use it. The crumbs do get stuck in the elecro-magnet, so it gets a through cleaning with its dress off so I can vacuum all the crumbs. I had a problem with my front door handle. Not working. Hmm. When I opened it up, it was a dirt dauber nest INSIDE the thumb lifter mechanism. I try hard not to throw away. The culture of consumption is like a caffeine habit. Socially acceptable, but still not good for you. I finally just stopped having coffee. I save on the coffee, the filters, the cream and the machine. It is a very conscious choice NOT to over consume. My daughter is 9 and SHE gets it. We wash out plastic bags. She can't understand why her friends' moms wrap the lunches in plastic wrap and foil. We have had the same set of food containers for all three children since they all started school! I think that people are lulled into compliance by the marketing and peer acceptance of waste. If there was no dump and there was no trash collection, people might take another look at it.

Meredith said...

This is absolutely one of my pet peeves!! I don't even own a toaster (I just use the broiler of my oven) because the ones available for purchase are poorly-functioning crap.

I'm a big fan of Cook's Illustrated equipment reviews, and this is what they have to say about toasters "In three years, we’d tested 14 two-slot toasters, and we didn’t love a single one. The only one we’d ever found acceptable had been discontinued." http://www.cooksillustrated.com/equipment_reviews/1421-two-slice-toasters?

Michelle said...

I'll take your rant and up the ante! Speaking as someone who had to replace a 12-year-old heat pump this year, and whose three-year-old microwave and relatively new and expensive Husqvarna riding lawn tractor both recently died. (I know, microwave=evil, but it comes in very handy at times.) My refrigerator is falling apart as well, plastic shelves and bins breaking. At least it still cools . . . for now. ARGH!

Leigh said...

I usually buy bread machines 2nd hand, but I hadn't thought about toaster ovens.

Leigh said...

Ah, that's a very good law indeed. I have to agree that the company that sells warranties is pretty much an admission that their product is poorly made.

Leigh said...

I agree, plastic is the worst!

Leigh said...

Printers are something I've just quit buying. The last three only lasted about a year each, and the ink replacements were almost as much as a new printer! Now I just go to the library when I need copies. I spend less there than I would on a new printer every year.

Leigh said...

What it boils down to is that we end up supporting our technology. It becomes the master rather than the servant and time saver. But you can't convince folks of that!

Leigh said...

That's exactly right; it's socially acceptable, in fact, it's expected. We are consumers by nature but it is at a level that is totally out of control. If more people had to work to grow their own food and clothe themselves, I think it would help give them a more realistic perspective.

Leigh said...

Well, that's always the way of it. The stuff that works doesn't make them enough money because nobody needs to replace it.

I don't have a regular toaster either, but I liked my toaster oven. I could cook in it as well as toast, and only use 110 volts instead of 220. One small savings at least.

Leigh said...

I'm disappointed about the Husqvarna; I've always thought their products better built. But maybe they've gone the way of every other manufacturer! What will they all do when folks just quit buying because the products aren't worth it anymore?

Pam said...

Yeah, I tried that Leigh....kept disappearing on me....LOL! :)

Karen@ onthebanksofsaltcreek.com said...

We have become a disposable society and it is WRONG! Appliances used to last decades. Now you have to look at the cost and realize that you will need a new one in 10 years....if it lasts that long.
Quality mattered to manufacturers at one time. Brand loyalty. Not any more. They build stuff so it dies a horribly early death so that they can sell us another. It is pathetic and you are correct.... it doesn't help our environment. Big pet peeve. I'll pay more for something if it is built to last...but where do I find such a thing anymore.

Leigh said...

Huge pet peeve. I agree. I think manufacturers count on consumer brand loyalty, especially when they buy another company out. The brand was once half-way decent until the new company applies "cost effectiveness," i.e. cut corners and uses cheaper parts and ingredients. That seems to have happened to a lot of things.

Jake said...

To the comments above recommending garage/estate sales and thrift stores (excellent suggestions), I would add Craigslist and FreeCycle, and local variations thereon (e.g., Twin Cities "Free Market" in Minnesota).

Also, I'm sure this rant would get a round of applause from the Zero Waste movement, although the originator of that blog has quite a different living situation than most of the folks here, I think.

Leigh said...

Awhile back I figured out that the only waste Dan and I have is from things we buy. Everything we grow and make on the homestead has purpose and nothing gets thrown away. I don't imagine we'll every get to the point where we'll never have to buy anything, but we have definitely been moving away from buying things like this new!

deborah harvey said...

lady told me she had to buy a new fridge. complained to salesman that the old fridge was only 6 yrs old.
he told her that all new appliances are engineered to last only about 5 yrs.

1000$ every 5 yrs for a fridge, or other device. you would never be out of debt.
parents had a toaster that was ages old. man in neighborhood was small appliance repairman, but eventually new appliances were unrepairable and he retired. all succeeding toasters were essentially 'temporary' since they never lasted like the first one.
husband got me a 'fry daddy' used it once, followed all directions, next time it would not work. took it to repairman he said it wasn't worth fixing even though brand new.
never bought another one.
microwaves the same.
then we are told that our 'carbon footprint' is too big. it isn't our footprint it is the industries' footprints.

Leigh said...

Don't you just love the way they always point the finger at the consumer! I think I've mentioned that my husband drives a big truck. He says the amount of manufacturing and industrial waste is ludicrous. I agree that after awhile one simply stops buying and just lives without.

Very good point about debt too. Things are priced so that they almost always have to be bought on credit. I stopped using a credit card years ago when I realized that the minimum payment was less than the monthly interest. Debt = bondage; what a scam.

Blah said...

Often you can buy replacement shelves and bins - ask! The interior of our door broke and I queried the repairman why it was so junky. He said it was designed like that so it could be repaired. He said if the door interior was more firmly attached or moulded in one piece, then you would need a new fridge if the door shelves broke.

Henny Penny said...

Amen! I agree totally with your "rant". We went all out a few months ago and paid over one hundred dollars for a, supposedly, good brand of coffee maker. That's a lot of money for us! It constantly dripped coffee. We returned it for a much cheaper model.

Henny Penny said...

Funny, my comment published before I was finished...anyhow, seems like folks might as well buy the cheap stuff as the expensive models are not made any better.

MQ said...

What you said--in spades.... My mother-in-law has a fridge which was made in 1948; when she needed more fridge room (nine kids!), she put it in the basement and still uses it as an extra freezer. When we lived off-grid for several years, I used a wringer washer built in 1927. We hooked it up to a small gas engine and it worked great. When I took a job 'in town', I traded it to a neighbor for a year's laundry service. We had a Warm Morning pot-bellied wood stove during that time and made toast by slapping the bread on the side of the hot stove. It was done when we could detach it with just a little gentle assistance.It took some trial and error, but the real trick was catching the toast when it fell. We also made toast on the wood cookstove, but the Warm Morning heated up much quicker.

I empathize with you and your toaster oven dilemma, I use one for summer cooking outside. keeps the house cooler. It even bakes bread.

Sal and St V de P ( Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul) are two of my favorite stores. Since I found out, from those who have taken stuff to Goodwill and watched them throw out perfectly good items because, I assume, they were tired of sorting, I no longer take anything there. I am in the process of paring down the 'stuff' from many years of marriage, pre-retirement, in anticipation of full-time life in a 1993 well-built, top of the line at that time, motorhome. Since, like almost everything else, many of the parts for the new ones are made in China, we're better off with a gently used older one. I also like Craigslist, especially the large ticket items that are being sold because some has remodeled their 'dated' kitchen.

Leigh said...

Yeah, it really is getting so that where price doesn't mean anything except more money in the pocket of the seller. Might as well just get cheap stuff and know it won't last long.

Leigh said...

That's exactly it with the toaster oven, it's less expensive to buy, uses less electricity, and makes less heat in summer time.

I read somewhere that 0% of the money donated to Goodwill goes to helping anybody. That was enough for me. One that I like that no one has mentioned so far is Habitat for Humanity Restore. Lots of good stuff donated because of remodeling projects!

Ngo Family Farm said...

This is exactly why I've hauled some very old, abandoned appliances up from the basement to replace the newer (less than ten years old!) ones that have all failed. There's the top loading washer that runs great and replaced the supposedly better, newer front loader - which became not so energy and water saving efficient when I had to wash my clothes three times to get them clean! And then there's the ancient oven that must be 30+ years old down there, and it works great! The "nicer" oven in the actual kitchen has an error message most of the time and a burner on the cooktop that won't heat (and of course it's the only burner that can actually accommodate a large pan). Sigh. Oh, but my $5 college dorm toaster is still going strong!!

Leigh said...

Those newer appliances have two strikes against them. One, of course, is poorer quality all around, from materials to construction. The second is that they rely heavily on cheap electronics. A "computer brain" sounds good, but the more complicated things get, the easier they get to have something go wrong. Good think you kept all those old appliances, Jaime!

Leigh said...

At least something is designed to be repaired! One of Dan's pet peeves is that repair parts no longer seem to be sold as parts, but as units. He'd rather buy and replace the part that needs it, not remove the entire unit that the part is, well, part of. He says part of it is because the more complicated things become, the harder they are to troubleshoot. So just pull out the old unit and pop a whole new one in. Trouble is, units cost more and take up more room in the land fill. :(

Mamawizzy said...

Leigh, I agree wholeheartedly! It is very frustrating how much things cost today and how cheaply they are made. I feel like our society has a throw-away attitude about everything. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we no longer know how to do anything ourselves! We are just beginning on the homestead/simple life journey and it amazes me how much I don't know! Better late then never I guess!

Mamawizzy :)

Su Ba said...

Even though I'm deeply involved now in homesteading, my hubby still has the modern city-boy mindset. This leads to the replacement of our old, reliable, but worn items for shiny, new, modern junk that breaks quickly. Yes, it drives me nuts. Out with the old reliant, sturdy, solid range and in with the new, tinny, already rusting, not quite fitting correctly new range. Old clothing and shoes are ditched, new replacements get holes or breakdown quickly. You already know how it goes, over and over again. When buying things, we consumers get to choose between bright spiffy junk or shiny crap. Not much of a choice. And hubby hasn't seemed to catch on yet. He still optimistically thinks he's buying quality stuff when he pays good prices.

15 years ago I got fed up with the state of materialism. Sad to say, I believe it's just getting worse, and will keep going that way.

Leigh, I love your blog. And I totally agree with this post.

Leigh said...

I once made a comment to a cashier in a grocery store about this very thing. She gave me a blank look and then finally said, "I recycle." I don't think folks realize what that too-easy answer actually costs. But it does make a nice rationalization to continue wasteful living.

Leigh said...

I think you're right about it getting worse. And so many folks remain blind to it. I think it's because they are dazzled by the bling and the sales pitch. It's a sad state of affairs, indeed. I hate to think of where it will end.

Lynda D said...

You touched a nerve. 65 comments. I think we all have strong opinions about this topic. The machine keeps turning im afraid. For every one of us that yearns for quality products made in an environmentally sustainable way there will be a thousand that want cheap and cheerful. I had visitors from the country this weekend and they wanted to shop shop shop. Yuk. I drove them to the nearest factory outlet mega complex and sat in the car with a book.

Recently i was told my house looked dated. Why? Because ive had the same toaster for 15 years. It makes my toast just fine and now when i eat my peanut butter on toast ill think of Leigh.

Stephanie Holladay Johnson said...

I agree with you SO much. I am tired of all the junk that is being sold on our market. I'm looking for a new coffee pot, the kind you put on the stove and it percolates. I am done with the drip pots that you have to buy filters for (another thing to buy!!) and all the filters are different so I had at one point 3 different kinds of filters from old coffee pots and I didn't know what to do with them. I just started using them as covers for making vinegar in pickle jars and kombucha in another jar. IT's working to use them up, until I come up with another solution.
A lot of use seem to want something that will last. There is a site that I've been reading called life without plastic and it talks about ways to wean yourself off the plastic machine. And it is a huge resource sucker! It's everywhere, you can hardly buy anything without plastic coming with it, whether or not it was a plastic item or not. Bags are the first thing that they say to start with. Take your own bag to the store so you don't have to take home the plastic bags. It's hard to remember at first, but over time it gets easier. I hope that everyone here makes an effort to change this plastic monster.

Leigh said...

I never did get the concept of shopping as entertainment, I'm afraid. And I can't say trending has much of an appeal either, but it sounds like you're the same way. :)

Leigh said...

That's a great website. I think sometimes it just takes a few of us saying we're doing things differently for others to catch on and be inspired.

You will love a percolator coffee pot! We love our and it makes way better coffee than the drip pots. We find we use less coffee grounds and get a better cup with the percolator.