Sunday, 14 March 2010

Out with the Old?

This week Bron and I have consigned the following items to the local dump:
• One toaster (only toasts if I hold the bread down by hand)
• One microwave (paint peeling off and rust growing inside the oven)
• One vacuum cleaner (actually burst into flames when I turned it on; granted they were small flames, but it was still enough to make me run shrieking from the room)

I am a conundrum
The act of throwing these items away has brought to my attention that I’m a bit of a conundrum. Yes, me.

(A) I don’t like mess. Everything must have its proper home where it is tucked away out of sight when it’s not in use. If it has no use or aesthetical value anymore, then it shouldn’t be in my house.
(B) But I don’t like throwing things away that still have a function. It just feels wrong.

The toaster still worked even though I had to hold the bread down for it to toast, the microwave still did an excellent job regardless of the fact that it was possibly poisoning me in the process, and the vacuum looked on the outside as if it was perfectly fine, apart from the burning smell. Yet the act of throwing them into the big metal dumpster at the waste and recycling centre made me feel completely and utterly guilty, as if I was committing some hideous and unspeakable crime. Is this just me? Is it right to feel guilty?

What happened to ‘Make Do and Mend’?
I live in an inherently throwaway society. Everyone around me is throwing away the old and unwanted, replacing it with the new and shiny. It’s what the world of corporate marketing is telling me to do everywhere I look, and I often feel that goods today are not made to last – everything is designed to be used once, twice, three times, and then abandoned. Both the vacuum cleaner and the microwave were less than three years old, and I honestly believe they should have had a lot more life left in them. Perhaps that is why throwing them away felt so wrong.

My parents were both of the post war generation, and ‘make do and mend’ was the motto of their childhood. Although I’m from a different generation, I was still brought up within a similar concept, up to a point at least. Where did it all change, I wonder? Is it possible to get back to it? And how extreme will the triggering factor have to be?

The redeeming factor
The one thing that makes me feel better about throwing away these things is the fact that I have not replaced them with new ones. Not brand new ones, anyway. In this context I can almost convince myself that the manufacturers and marketing consultants have not won; I have not succumbed to their cunning salesmanship this time. This is thanks to my cousins, who are emigrating to the states and in the act of clearing out their house have donated their toaster, microwave, Dyson (ahhh, a Dyson!), bread maker, speaker system, garden spade, and several Xbox games to the worthy of cause of Bron and me. Ok, so I know that they’ll be buying new replacements for most of it when they reach their new home, but at least it wasn’t me who had to!


  1. Hi :) Do you have a local Freecycle group? These items would have been perfect for that. Also, was there WEEE recycling where you are? At least your goods might have been recycled for a new lease of life.
    I really hear you though; I hate clutter and mess, but sometimes it's hard to know how to dispose of these things responsibly.

  2. There are several freecycle groups in the area where we live, but I don't think any of these would have been suitable unless someone wanted to take them apart for parts.

    As for WEEE, I just assumed that the recycling centre I took them to does do this, but I must admit I didn't check. I've just tried to find out online, but without success. I'll have to check with them on the phone or next time I'm passing - and if they don't I'll be mightily disappointed.

    Thanks for the tips, though, I'll definately be bearing them in mind for the future.