Opting Out From Planned Obsolescence

I purchased the vintage 1950s percolator above new in the box at a rummage sale three summers ago for $1 and I’ve made wonderful coffee in it every morning since. It’s a relic from an era when things were made to last. Now planned obsolescence is part of our consumer economy over which we have little control forcing us to spend and trash, spend and trash.

Most recently I had to buy a new computer (and may have to upgrade my Office for an annual subscription fee of $70 [you can’t just buy Office 365], subject to price increases, of course). When I bought my house ten years ago the wall oven died shortly thereafter because a computer component malfunctioned and they stopped manufacturing the replacement. The entire oven was therefore trash. My washing machine stopped functioning properly a few years ago, and that, too, was due to a computer part that was no longer available. The replacement cost for both combined was about $2,000, all due to planned obsolescence.

When it’s possible to not pay into “the cost of living in today’s world” I’m on it! Here are some recent examples:

Cast Iron Dutch Oven Pop Corn

My popcorn maker died last week after only a couple of years usage, and that was after the same had happened to the previous model and so on. Sure, I can get a new one for only $30 which isn’t that steep, but why spend $30 every two years and generate more garbage if I don’t need to do it? I now use my old Wagner cast iron dutch oven with a clear glass lid and pop my corn on the stovetop. It’s delicious, easy and gives my arms a good mini workout when I shuffle it back and forth (wearing mitts) over the burner. In case you want to try it I use three ounces of popcorn and two tablespoons of sunflower oil over medium high heat.

Incidentally when I first started using cast iron almost exclusively I had a very hard time with it but now it all seems relatively lightweight to me. Old school cooking = toned arms.

Two weeks ago while whipping cream with my KitchenAid mixer which I used only for that purpose, so maybe a dozen uses from when I bought it new two years ago, the motor died. I did buy a $22 replacement, but not an electrical one: a rotary hand mixer. Do I have the stamina to whip cream manually? I’ll find out! If not, #goals.

I have a little canister vacuum that works well on my floors but, because it lacks a rolling brush, it doesn’t pick everything up on my carpet in the living room and bedroom. Because of that I had purchased an upright Hoover vacuum a few years ago for use on the carpets. It worked well until it didn’t which was earlier this summer. I looked into buying a replacement from a different company, thought I had found one until I read buried in the user manual that the two filters inside of it were not washable and had to be replaced each time at the cost of about $15 each. Crazy! Reading reviews of others priced no more than $200 revealed too many reports (verified purchases on Amazon, too) of things breaking down after a matter of months.

Vacuum Carpet Sweeper

Instead of buying a new vacuum I purchased a sturdy metal Fuller brush manual carpet sweeper for $60 that I now use in conjunction with my canister vac. The sweeper has been doing a good job so far with picking up what the canister vac doesn’t. Then I simply use my vacuum to clean it out. If this doesn’t work in the long run, I’m wondering if buying a Dyson is worth the price? I would love feedback from anyone who owns one. It looks like their warranty is valid for five years which in today’s world may seem like forever where most come with only one year, but to an old school frugal girl like me, I don’t want to spend $500 for only five years.

Anyone else reading have “bad luck” with modern appliances??

16 thoughts on “Opting Out From Planned Obsolescence

  1. Well, I’ve shared my thoughts recently on this topic. We have nothing but trouble with modern appliances. I’m on my third electronic wet mop in three years due to malfunction. They’ve been under extended warranty (thank goodness), so we’ve had to exchange because we can’t get refunds. Having a chronic illness, our apartment’s square footage is too much for me to keep up with considering the whole thing has flooring. BUT…I’m frustrated by the waste of it all. One mop really should last for years. Overall, I’ve operated by good old fashioned elbow grease. I can’t seem to muster enough upper body strength to whip cream, though! That’s what my Fella is for. I’ve watched my family go through so so many Keurigs and other coffee machines. I’ve had the same French press for 15 years, and an Italian moka for stove top espresso. I’m with you 100% on this. It’s downright discouraging, but I share your commitment. Awesome post.

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    1. Thank you! I used a French press for many years and when my percolator dies (who knows, maybe it’ll outlive me?!) I may go back to using one. Not only is it good coffee, but no paper filters are needed as you know. Same with my percolator. Our house is only 1,200 sq ft which helps make manual cleaning more manageable. I understand and empathize with physical limitations so going old school isn’t workable in every case. As an example I have no interest in hand washing my laundry over a washboard! As I and Wayne get older we’re more aware of our own planned obsolescence. While I still can I want to work myself as much as possible because it’s been very good for me. I also see it as we do what we can where we can. You rock with your sewing skills, making clothing that lasts with thrifted fabric, as a perfect example! No fast fashion for you!

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      1. “Our own planned obsolescence.” Ha ha, I love that! Thank you so much. Use it or lose it is my motto. Have you ever read the work of Katy Bowman (@nutritiousmovement on IG)? She is a movement expert who writes books on the importance of movement and how movement is the missing multivitamin; that we have outsourced our movement to our modern conveniences, and many human actions are actually becoming extinct. It’s so fascinating, the way all of these topics are intimately linked. The planned obsolescence of technology, the impact on the environment, the impact on our physical bodies, all connected in ways beyond what we can imagine. Off my soap box now! You and Wayne are doing so many good things. You continually inspire, motivate, and keep us all thinking!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. ha glad you liked that. 🙂

          I haven’t heard of Bowman before but I agree that movement is so important. I’ll check her stuff out.

          Thank you so much for letting me know that my blog is inspirational and thought provoking. I need to hear that to stay motivated to keep blogging. ❤

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  2. Another great post! For what it’s worth, my sister purchased a Dyson (specifically for dog and cat hair) 5 years ago, and it’s still going strong. She’s pleased with it!

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  3. I snagged a Mirro percolator from my mothers attic a few years back and have completely converted my Mr. Coffee-raised hubby to perked coffee. I have owned a Dyson in the past; I had a lot of dogs at the time so had the big pet vac. It was wonderful, but a lot of vacuum and a real workout. I read on another site that someone cleaned out their filters with an air compressor. Haven’t tried it yet!

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    1. Your husband is a lucky man! And speaking of husbands’ coffee preferences, Wayne used to always buy store bought before he married me. Now he brings the extra coffee from the percolator to work in a reusable cup. Thanks for the info re the Dyson!

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  4. What kind of manual beater did you get? We got one from IKEA and it doesn’t have smooth turning. There’s a bowl with a lid that has a hole in the lid I’m supposed to use to support it….I guess. Ikea does have a lot of low maintenance offerings. We love that store!
    I have had Dyson, but it sounded like a jet taking off and wasn’t good at pick up so I now have had a little Shark for four years that’s still cruising along. It has a dumpable dirt canister and washable filters just like the Dyson.
    If you’re looking for true things to use forever Lehman’s is a wonderful store that popped up to help the Amish. (As you know, they are the ultimate community in use it up, wear it out, make due or do without.)
    Per advice from Clark Howard, get the most basic cheapest model you can find because they are usually better made, and have more parts help. Your little floor duster is a perfect start.

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    1. Thanks for the tips! I ordered it on Amazon, it’s a Norpro (usual made in China stuff), arriving today. I couldn’t find one locally. Thanks for the tip about Lehman’s, just bookmarked it. (Edit 1: I checked it out and Lehman’s also is selling merch imported from China. Edit 2: I found a rotary beater made in the US but it’s $85, yikes! https://www.lehmans.com/product/stainless-steel-egg-beater?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4qzr3c7_5AIVj4bACh03ZgyWEAQYAiABEgK-h_D_BwE)

      That’s good to know about the Dyson, doesn’t sound impressive (yet loud). I almost bought a Shark when I was looking online since that does seem the most promising but too many reviewers stated they were very happy with their older Sharks that lasted many years but that their new Sharks weren’t of the same quality, breaking down in less than one year. I also checked the models with thousands of glowing reviews on fakespot.com and saw that many were not legit.

      That’s another evil of being a 21st century consumer–“trusted brands” don’t really exist anymore. Production moves from one plant to another to save money, they use third party manufacturing, etc.


      1. Re: your last comment about trusted brands: My poor SIL is in a big fight with Sears about a Kenmore dryer that can’t seem to stay repaired longer than two weeks. As a youngster, I remember my folks were die-hard Kenmore customers-they’d go buy the middle-of-the-line version of what appliance they needed. We inherited my folks’ washer and dryer from my high school years, and they died for good nearly thirty years and a couple of motors for the washer later. Not only were these older brands reliable, they were repairable, Nowadays, I wouldn’t even consider a Kenmore anything. Sad.

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  5. Averyl-
    Ugh, yes. Manual is the safest bet. A close second would be reliable/ older brands purchased at estate sales for this gal! I have owned a Dyson and they are a bit clunky. Love the idea of the cordless/ battery operated, but I don’t trust it not to break!

    **We own a twenty year old Orek XL upright vacuum and a 25 year old Orek canister vac (for little jobs: kitchen cabinet crumbs, cars, upholstery, blinds, etc. from a thrift store for $35 TOTAL! I have made minor (free) tune-ups on both vacuums myself at home. We even had the original cords replaced (some fraying on both which was probably why they were donated!) at the vacuum store for a song!
    Still very easy to find parts, if needed, and the replacement bags are inexpensive.
    Highly recommend. I see the older models at thrift stores frequently and I’m always tempted to buy them!

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    1. Hi Andrea, I once bought a barely used 1950s Electrolux canister vacuum at an estate sale but it didn’t work very well. Maybe it was stored improperly and the motor had gotten rusty or something. It sure was pretty, though! That’s more helpful info about a Dyson and has convinced me that it’s not worth the price tag, thank you!


  6. We’ve had our Dyson for 7 or 8 years maybe, can’t remember. It’s still going strong but it’s a bit clunky. You can buy newer ones that are more streamlined.

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