If you’ve spent any amount of time reading my blog, you know that I’m a big proponent of using things until they wear out. In our house, we do our best to use things until they no longer work for us. We wear clothes until they no longer fit or they get worn through. We use appliances until they can no longer be repaired. We see if we can make do with something we already have before buying something new. And, in general, we choose not to shop for recreation.
But there comes a time in the life of all goods, when it is time to retire it from day-to-day use. This week we said goodbye to our long-standing vehicle, a 1992 Toyota Corolla.
I bought the Corolla used when I was a graduate student, and it was a good, reliable car for a very long time. It made several cross-country trips. I drove it routinely until my in-laws gifted us a car my mother-in-law was no longer driving. My husband used the Corolla for his commute to Texas because, in spite of its age, it was very fuel efficient (about 40mpg!). It features in several of our favorite family stories. It was a great car.
Until, suddenly, it wasn’t. At just shy of 25 years old, it was beginning to have all sorts of issues. My husband’s squawk list of things that we needed to address grew longer and longer. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find replacement parts to fix the problems. And then, on the last trip he drove the Corolla home from Texas, the driver’s side door opened – on its own – 7 times. That’s right, the car’s door simply popped open as he drove down the highway. It was scary. And not safe. And it told us that it was time to pass on the Corolla.
We chose to donate our car to National Public Radio. An NPR representative came and picked up the Corolla from our home (it was a very easy process). Someone then sold the car at auction to raise money for our local public radio station.
As the tow truck pulled away, I thought about the messages commonly sent by our media: that newer is better, and that a person is somehow worth more if they own fancier things. It feels good to choose alternative values and to model those different values for our sons. It’s also easier on our budget and a more-sustainable lifestyle choice.
There is a time to simplify your life by holding on to something that still works, and there is a time to simplify your life by letting go of something that no longer serves your needs. Corolla, you served us well. I hope that the vehicles we’re driving now function reliably for as long a time.
Have you used something until you’ve completely worn it out? Do you have an object that has far outlasted what most would consider its useful lifespan that you still use regularly?