I Aspire to Own Only Old Things

But NOT by purchasing them! No antique stores for me! No, this aspiration is purely passive – I want watch the things I own age, and only remove them as they become truly unusable. However, this does not mean I aspire to be a hoarder – I call myself a minimalist, after all. The superfluous is continuously removed to make space for the important (nonmaterial) things in life.

Some things age faster than others – my smartphone is celebrating its third birthday in December and still going somewhat strong, so I intend to keep it at least until it turns four, hopefully five*. (Clearly, I’m a sustainability loving optimist.)

Things that don’t have an on-off switch generally last much longer: the sheets I sleep in were part of my grandmother’s dowry (time has made them wonderfully soft), some of my towels are much older than I am, and I very much intend to keep the bookshelf my boyfriend built me for at least the rest of my life.

Old thingsThis process requires patience and self-control. I’m literally watching my stuff age, which is – unlike shopping used to be – not an afternoon-filling or even slightly entertaining activity. In fact, a coffee cup does not age at all in one afternoon. If it looks different, that is because the light changed or I drank all the coffee. Both, most likely.

I have righteousness and my moral standards on my side, but when faced with genius marketing**, I sometimes wish for a more tangible defense. This post will add accountability, so thank you for reading.

Reminding myself of the numerous benefits helps resist the siren call of Madison Avenue (as does removing ads from my life):

  • Time and money saved by not shopping.
  • Ingenuity practiced by mending where I can – this still needs to be improved, I’ve historically been too quick to use the one-in-one-out method yielding a high turnover and seemingly minimalist lifestyle, but not much sustainability.
  • Over time, I will get even better at not caring what other people think, which means buying fewer things, because I will impress people with who I am, not what I own.
  • Buying less = fewer things to clean = more time saved (my favorite equation).
  • I’ll be kind to our planet. When I do need something new, I’ll be able to buy ethically produced high quality that will age well and slowly.

In twenty years, someone will say “Oh, cool, did you get a vintage XYZ?” To which I’ll reply: “No. I mean, yes. I mean, maybe? I’ve had this for twenty years, does that make it vintage? Or is it only vintage if someone else owned it first? I’m confused?”

Either they’ll explain, or they’ll walk away disappointedly, as they were looking to get an antique store recommendation…

What is the oldest thing you own?

*side note: does anyone know of a company that produces phones and other electronics that are intended to last longer than that? It would be a great way of marketing to minimalist and sustainability conscious people: “This phone will last you at least 7 years.” Not sure if that is compatible with capitalism, though.

**like the people who managed to make Oktoberfest an international thing. How is beyond me.

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24 thoughts on “I Aspire to Own Only Old Things

  1. Ok, not quite a fair answer since I am “old”, but in 1983 upon my high school graduation, my parents gave me a used Singer sewing machine. It was basic, with no LED panels or programmable features, but it worked well. It worked sew 🙂 well, it lasted until a year ago. I took it to a repair shop a couple of times, but this last time, even they couldn’t fix the problem. I replaced it with an almost identical model, again no LED panels or programmable features, because those always seem to break. I have found that the simpler the machine, the longer it lasts, or the easier it is to fix.

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  2. We’re trying to accumulate less too. You reach a point where you just don’t need much anymore. When it comes to gifts, I’m of the mind if I can’t drink it, eat it, or wear it, I probably don’t need it. 🙂

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  3. The oldest thing I have that I use everyday is my great-grandma’s wood dresser. The oldest thing I own period is my great-great-great grandma’s engagement ring 🙂 It fits on my pinky. Ha!

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  4. Ha! Well, I think I’m doing pretty well in terms of owning lots of old things. Having been broke most of my life has helped… but I’m also just lazy beyond belief and I hate shopping. I sorta have the opposite problem though – I have a really hard time tossing stuff out, even when it’s WAY past time to do so.

    And don’t EVEN get me started on the short life of things with an off button these days. I mean, it didn’t used to be that way. A few years ago (well, in 2007) my washing machine finally bit the dust and I decided to take the opportunity to upgrade. The old machine came with the house, and when I pulled it out I found a sticker on the back… it was a delivery ticket from a used appliance store that was dated 1968! I have no idea how old it really was since it was obviously used in 1968! Anyhow, people say I’ll be lucky to get 10 years out of my current machine, which just galls me!

    So the oldest things I own… well do have some antiques inherited from my grandmother (that she inherited from her mother, who bought them new) – not sure if that really counts though. Let’s see, my car is 25 years old (and has under 90K miles on it.) I have a few sweaters from the mid-1980’s that I’ve had since high school. I have a bike that I’ve owned since 1990 – oh but I bought it used… not sure how old it really is. Looking around the room I can see a 25 year old calculator sitting on my desk, a lamp that I’ve had since I was in jr. high school in the late-1970’s, a picture frame that I’ve had for 25 years, a wall calendar dated 1986 (!) a jar of shells I collected on a trip to Mexico 25 years ago, a coffee mug that dates back to the 1980’s, a flashlight that I’ve owned since I was a girl scout in 19xx! OK, you get the idea!

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  5. The oldest thing I own is a ring which must be close to 100 years old.
    I don’t think it’s about getting things to be old, it’s about getting the max out of something. I’ve worn the same pair of boots for 5 years until the soles split.
    And saying that reminded me that I have to pick up a pair of shoes that are being repaired.
    I go for style, not fashion, and I love to wear the stuff that still looks good 5 years later.

    Our bookcases are hand me downs. My TV is 11 years old. Our house was built in the 1930’s. My maternity clothes are mostly second hand or borrowed. I still use the belt I bought when I was 13.

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  6. The oldest thing I own is a chair from my wooden chair from my grandmother. But I also still wear a couple shirts that I’ve had since high school (over a decade ago).

    I also loved the time saved by not shopping and having less stuff to sort and clean. I recently wrote about the benefits of minimalism and the potential pitfalls of a shallow understanding of this lifestyle; I’d love to know what you think: http://www.pretendtobepoor.com/minimalism/

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  7. If I can count my husband as the oldest thing I own, I’d have to say him. 😛 If not, let’s see, I’d have to say home movies from my childhood. I used to have a few stuffed animals from when I was a baby, but in my last ditch effort to get as minimal as possible this year, I finally took pictures of them and donated them. My sheets are about 5 years old now, but getting pretty tattered in places. How do you keep your sheets for so long? I do agree, the older they are, the softer they get. 🙂

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    1. The sheets might last so long because I don’t have a dryer, and I thing they were unused for decades before I started using them. Getting rid of the last stuffed animals, congratulations! I have two left, and I have never considered donating them. Maybe one day…

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  8. I love this, Sofia! It’s so true that we live in a society where “more is best” and the “sooner the better.” I love your approach of using things until they wear out, especially with clothes. I’ve had some of my favorite items for YEARS and it’s always a sad day when it’s finally time to let them go. I think that is a much different experience than most people have with their clothing. I’m feeling inspired to think even harder about the other items in my life, like furniture and toiletries. Keep up the great work! 🙂

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  9. Wonderful objectives. I would really like to get back into upcycling/refashioning my wardrobe. It is so rewarding to create something new from an article of clothing that was just taking up space in the closet. I have a ton of ideas, just got too busy making Halloween costumes.

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  10. This is such an awesome outlook! Some days I feel the same way. Why do we always believe we need to purchase new to feel accomplished? The oldest thing I own is a vest I got in grade 8 (still fits), and is still so easy to wear with basically everything I own. Because it was fairly expensive it is still in great condition.

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  11. I have been thinking about going minimal, too. It has a lot of perks and as I am not much of a shopaholic, it seems like the best idea. I love the impact old stuff have. It just feels so personalized and imagining how it would have been a few years earlier, is hard to put into words.

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  12. Hi Sofia!

    How about the FairPhone2? Its creators aim for sustainable conditions all over the cycle – starting from resources, including the production and even the product’s life cycle. Also the latest version’s components are supposed to be completely replaceable. Hence you could repair your phone quite easily if anything breaks. A thing Project Ara has been working on for years without noteworthy news.

    Cheers,
    Philipp

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