One of the reasons I don’t have a car is that it’s another thing to take care of. But as I look around and observe a lot of cars, I notice so many of them in rough shape with dirt, rust, scrapes, dents and everything else, as if the owner just doesn’t care.

Negligence of anything, whether it’s a car, a bicycle, a pair of shoes, a suit or one’s home, not only demonstrates one of the seven deadlies (sloth), but it also shortens the life of the item. Imagine how much longer things would last and how much less waste we’d produce if we took better care of our stuff.

I notice this more with things that are inexpensive. The attitude seem to be “Well, it was cheap, so it’s not really worth taking care of,” which is a shame.

In my own relatively simple apartment lifestyle, this comes into play with things like kitchen tools, furniture, my bicycle and, of course, my clothes. When I’m deciding what to bring into my life/home, I consider the quality carefully. As a proud thousandaire, most of these things fall onto the more affordable spectrum, though I take care of them as if these things have real value. I wipe down my bicycle, maintain the brakes and keep the chain lubricated. I keep my razor handle sanitary. I clean my apartment and vacuum my rugs and carpets. I also polish my shoes and maintain the soles and heels with taps. I’ve honed rudimentary sewing skills to restore buttons that may have popped or seams that have come open.

My Florsheims cost a fraction of what I paid for my Aldens, but I care for them all the same. They’re still going strong and looking good at almost 10 years old.

My custom suits cost around $600, but I treat them like I paid $6,000. I keep them on good hangers that maintain the shoulder shape, I keep the wool looking fresh with a clothes brush, I steam or press them by hand when they need it, and I have them dry cleaned only when absolutely necessary (about once or twice each year). And they all still look terrific.

With my tech, I’m not one of those consumers who upgrades every year and adds another smartphone to the waste pile. I don’t need the latest gear to impress anyone, and I will use my current (2 year old) MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone until I absolutely must get new ones. They’re all very expensive, after all.

Another item that comes to mind is my 60 year old vintage pea coat. Over the 20 years I’ve owned it, it’s undergone numerous touch-ups and fixes with buttons and seams. I could have easily thrown it out or given it to a thrift shop. But it’s a great coat and an original Navy issue made with a wool that is really hard to come by these days. Taking care of it is worth it to me. And it still looks amazing.

If I had a car – no matter how much it cost – you’d better believe I’d keep it clean, waxed, vacuumed and dusted (windows, too!); I’d get the oil changed when necessary; and I’d bring it in for prescribed check ups so that even when the odometer hit six figures, it’s still looking good and running well.

We’re in a culture of uber disposability. When something stops working, when we’ve neglected it or when our eye is caught by a sexier upgrade, we so often throw it out and add to a growing pile of waste. It’s lazy and unproductive. We can do better.

So whether something cost $50, $500, $5,000 or $50,000… take care of it. And it will take care of you.

A little favor…

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I baby my car so much, it’s no wonder her name is “Baby Car”! I bought her new in 2011 and she looks so good, people still ask if she’s new. Is she work to take care of, to wash and wax by hand, to keep her clean and healthy, do her scheduled maintenance? Yes. But work I enjoy. And as she is my largest investment after my house, it benefits me to keep her clean, healthy, and maintained. Not getting oil changes, for instance, can lead to big repair bills in the future. I don’t park up front in a lot, but as far away from other cars as I can. This not only keeps my car from getting door dings (grrr to people who do that!), but forces me to exercise.

    I had company cars for fifteen years. I took care of my cars like they were my own. My company trusted me with these expensive pieces of equipment, so it was my duty to take care of them. All expenses were paid; we could have rental cars if our cars needed downtime for maintenance and repairs. After two years or 50,000 miles, whichever came first, our cars were sold and we got new ones. You could buy your own car for a really good price and resell it; we made easy money that way. But even if you didn’t plan on buying your car, not taking care of it cost the company money when they tried to sell it.

    Yet some employees trashed their cars. They didn’t get the oil changed, didn’t take them in for repairs when needed, didn’t get it washed or vacuumed, nothing. When my car was hit and totaled, my company transferred a car to me from a rep who was leaving. I hope the guy had been fired. His car was such a mess, the hired driver was embarrassed to deliver it to me! The driver said he threw away several packs of cigarettes (full and empty) and about a gazillion cigarette butts, tried to get the hay out of the back, and drove with the windows down to air the car out (and in hopes of not getting cancer), but it was hopeless. The dash and steering wheel were melted from cigarette burns, the car rattled like pieces were about to fall off, the paint was chipped, and the hay was never coming out of the upholstery (we think he transported farm animals in it). I got the car detailed, but they said there wasn’t much they could do. We named the car “Deathstar”. As soon as my manager took one ride in it, he got me a new car.

    Is it an age thing? How you were raised? A reflection of how you feel about yourself? I’m pissed because my computer hard drive crashed this month. It’s only seven years old, and I’m the only one who uses it. It may have gotten heaver use since 2016 (how many times per day can you google “trump impeachment odds” without damage?), but overall, it’s been babied. My washer and dryer are 20-years-old and work well. My fax machine lasted 25 years. My mom’s hot water heater is 30 years+ and still going strong. If I take care of it, it should last. But that’s not how today’s products are built. When we replaced our hot water heater, we had to pay extra for the ten year one, or else it was scheduled to die at seven. A seven-year-lifespan, while my mom’s is 30+. So are we training the younger generations that it doesn’t matter, everything is disposable? If your kitchen isn’t the HGTV design du jour, trash it and replace it all every time trends change, no matter what the cost to your wallet or the environment?

    Okay, done ranting, need my tea. Just hope my old, outdated subway-tile-free kitchen will let me boil water. 🙂

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  3. Well we live in a throw away society. My parents told me to care of my things and to respect them. At a young age I learned to burnish my shoes, Iron and Starch my shirts and some basic sewing skills. Things can last a long time if you take care of them. I have in my wrist a watch that belonged to my father. he had it for more than 50 years until it stopped working. gave it to me and I repair it. Now I carry it with a lot of pride on my wrist.

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  5. I had a 2000 Land Rover Discovery II that I bought new that I took excellent care of for the 14 years I had it. Always immaculately clean and buffed, it was a beauty and I loved it. The dealer where I bought it told me repeatedly that I invested too much money in it with annual upkeep and doing things like replacing carpets and ceiling upholstery when they didn’t look quite new anymore. In the end of its days it was beginning to look like a vintage car, and people routinely admired its perfect condition. Sadly it was lost in an accident where it was totaled beyond repair, through no fault of my own. I now drive a replacement car that I (also) keep perfectly, but somehow it just doesn’t fill me with the love my old Disco did. Maybe someday…

  6. William Brown

    I enjoy purchasing good quality items, and in addition to using them, take care of them. My shoes, bicycles, cars (when I drove them) all last a long time and look good for years with just a little bit of care. I hate to throw anything away that still has use left in it, probably because for a time in my life I couldn’t afford to replace things that wore out or broke. I can afford to do so now, but I hate to waste anything. I take care of things because no matter what it is, or where it was made, some human put time and effort into making it, and doing it right, and I don’t wish to dishonor that by treating the product of their hard work like rubbish.

  7. Xiong Chiamiov

    I’m all for maintenance, but plenty of “taking care of” doesn’t help the item in question last longer. There’s a huge difference between “looks new” and “acts new”.

  8. Old School

    A pleasure to read such sensible advice.

  9. Rita L Leduc

    Black Lapel’s suits are a bit more than $600 these days.