Have you ever wondered how to make your household goods last longer? Living simply and economically can be a challenge in a world that seems to thrive on the exchange of money and goods.
Every day we are bombarded with advertisements to buy more and upgrade now. But for those of us who value quality over quantity and can appreciate that oftentimes less really is more, it can be frustrating to fight this battle in our homes.
What can you do to increase the value of the items you buy by increasing their usable life? How can you save money and rescue your bank account from the rat race of consumption? As you learn to increase the productivity of the household effects in your home, you will not only save money but also reduce clutter and help save your sanity.
Let’s talk about the two types of home goods that you typically purchase for use: Non-consumables and Consumables
For each of these categories, you will have unique expectations about what it means to make them last longer. So shall we get started?
Non-Consumable Personal & Household Goods
This broad designation generally refers to items that you buy rarely and expect to have a fairly long life. It includes large & small appliances, furniture, kitchenware, electronics, bedding & towels, window treatments & floor coverings, most clothing & shoes, artwork & decor, and other such items.
In times past, most companies who manufactured items for personal or household use prided themselves in quality goods that could be purchased once for a lifetime (or very nearly so). But over time, they began to realize that it was very hard to get repeat customers because their products worked so well and lasted so long.
So with time, they began to realize that to sell more they had to create a system of planned obsolescence, meaning that they wanted their products to last just long enough to get past the warranty date (plus long enough for the consumer to learn to enjoy the product), but no longer. In this way, they could enjoy the benefits of selling again to the customer and thus creating more sales.
So literally, in the economy we live in, we don’t generally have the luxury of buying just once. Instead, we must fight every day against this built-in ‘designed breakdown’ of the items that we use in our homes. This is especially true of lower end products, but often even affects expensive items that we purchase.
So how do we combat this?
First and foremost, look for the best quality goods that you can reasonably afford, read reviews before purchasing, consider any warranties or guarantees, and do your best to choose wisely!
Next, once you have purchased your selections, do your best to perform proper maintenance and cleaning. This means that you will need to read and follow your manufacturer’s user guides or labels, no matter how boring. Remember that dirt, dust, and grime wear out surfaces and can cause unnecessary breakdowns. Some items may require gentle care, so don’t be too aggressive.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t want to overload or put too much strain on your household items. There is a reason that “professional-grade” items cost more and last longer. They are designed to carry a greater load. But normal household appliances aren’t built to carry a lot of stress. Go easy on them and don’t expect more than they were designed for.
Use proper storage and also consider that downtime and rest aren’t just for living beings, but also can work wonders for products such as appliance motors, electronic components, and even fabric fibers. This means everything from not overusing your blender to unplugging electronics that aren’t in use. Rotate your clothing and store sweaters folded and coats on hangers, while keeping them in dark, dry areas between seasons.
Protect your household possessions from weather, sunlight, and pets. Though most of your items are probably used indoors, there may be occasions to sometimes use them outdoors. Never leave them outside longer than absolutely necessary, however. Even items that are left near windows that get full sun will fade and deteriorate over time. Prevent this from happening by pulling your shades during the brightest part of the day. And don’t allow your pets to scratch at or urinate on your furniture and rugs, as that will quickly destroy them.
Furthermore, know when to upgrade and keep in mind that newer technologies sometimes work in our favor overall, so at times it’s okay to say “out with the old and in with the new.” Be realistic and conscientious of your choices so that you are not on the losing end of the planned obsolescence battle.
Consumable Personal and Household Goods
Let’s start by clarifying what types of items would fall into this category. Things such as cleaning agents, trash bags, soaps & detergents, paper goods, toiletries, personal care items, lightbulbs, office & school supplies, batteries, and the like are considered consumable.
Far different than the previous category, this group of products is supposed to be used up and replaced fairly frequently. But still, in the interest of saving money and being kind to the environment, how can you get the most for your dollar by making them last longer along the way?
Choose quality items that won’t break or degrade too easily or that, at the very least, do their jobs adequately. For example, if it takes 3 or 4 paper towels to wipe a mess up because they keep falling apart, it may be time to move to a nicer quality paper towel that can hold up better.
Substitute, when possible, with items that aren’t as consumable. This may mean using a rag, instead of a paper towel, for drying your hands or using rechargeable batteries instead of regular ones.
Learn to use less. Purpose to restrict your usage to just the smallest amount necessary to get the job done. We live in a society of excess waste and this manifests itself with huge gobs of toilet paper in hand or a long ribbon of toothpaste when just a drop or two is sufficient. Does it really take a handful of shampoo to wash your hair? Or 7 squirts of window cleaner when 3 would be enough?
Dilute what you can. Rarely do we need to use at full-strength the chemicals and cleansers that we buy. Make them go further by watering down soaps and cleansers approximately ¼ -⅓ of the way with plain water. Not only will they last longer, but less will be wasted when the trigger or pump is pushed one too many times for a job.
For some items, it is simply a matter of using common sense ways to extend their lifespan. Turn off the lights when you leave a room to conserve light bulbs and don’t leave batteries in items that are only used rarely, as they will corrode and become unusable.
So there you have it, the ABC’s and 123’s of how to make your household goods last longer. I hope this tutorial has helped you think of new ways to help you live inside your budget, take care of mother earth, and find true relaxation in a better-functioning home.
Melanie is mom to five energetic kids, including a sweet little toddler. She enjoys homeschooling her children from a peaceful parenting perspective and traveling with her family whenever she can.