Things Fall Apart: What We Do When Something Breaks
My coffee maker broke. As fate would have it, I’d stayed up too late the night before and my toddler woke up an hour early. She then proceeded to poop her pants while I took a quick shower. After cleaning up that mess, I frantically pushed the coffee maker’s power button. I fiddled with every moving part, turning the machine in various positions like a woman in labor. Alas, nothing happened.
What do you do when something breaks, and can’t be fixed?
- Go to the nearest store and replace it immediately.
- Buy one on Amazon that day.
- Compare prices on several web sites and order one later in the week.
- Search Craigslist and buy-sell-trade pages for a couple weeks.
- Hope you find it at a garage sale, hand-me-down, or in the trash.
Choices 2-5 are all pretty good options, in my opinion. But there is another, less considered option that we’ve found by practicing a wait period.
We all know the importance of waiting to make purchases. Give yourself time to think it over, asking do I really need/want it? Can I really afford it? Is it worth the space it’ll take up, as well as the cost? Is it worth the opportunity cost?
When planning a new purchase, we often take time to research it. Maybe you ask around to see if anyone has a lead on a good deal, a giveaway, or feedback about the best brand or type.
But when something breaks, we often reflexively replace that item without thought. If I already owned it, I don’t need to go through the agonizing decision all over again.
Except, why not? There are certain possessions that I’m 100% sure I want to own. Coffee maker is certainly in that camp. Ditto for a phone. But when one of nine lamps in my house broke, I realized…I don’t need nine lamps. Maybe eight will suffice, at least now.
We’ve waited on replacing even big items like cars and furniture as well as smaller items like home goods, clothing, or toys.
Broken or worn out stuff is an annoying inevitably. Yet therein lies the perfect opportunity to minimize, simplify, or deflate your lifestyle. Rather than rush out and buy a new one that day, or asking Amazon to mail you one, implement a wait. Unless it’s super important, wait and see if you really need to replace that object.
Naturally, the very first step is trying to fix it. We love free and broken stuff, which means we love fixing stuff. Okay, Neil loves fixing stuff, and I love cheering him on. But if Neil can’t fix something (or doesn’t know someone who can), I know the object in question is probably a lost cause. The man has skillz.
Your ingrained consumer instinct is to get new thing ASAP. Maybe a better one. As per constant barrage of marketing, broken = opportunity to upgrade. It’s the lifestyle inflation that feels totally justified. After all, you need a new one!
Every time something breaks or wears out, you face a consumption crossroads. You can 1) inflate your lifestyle, 2) maintain your lifestyle, or 3) deflate your lifestyle. Discerning the right move requires a bit of time.
What if you waited? One of these beautiful things might happen:
You realize you don’t need it. One of our glass end table tops broke when a vase fell on it. First of all, who needs a decorative vase? That thing had to go. Secondly, who needs all these end tables? We didn’t replace our end table, and I can’t say I’ve missed it. (It’s twin is still going strong, far away from ceramics armed with potential energy.)
The bigger the belonging, the greater opportunity for savings or lifestyle deflation. Who knows? You might not just save yourself the initial cost of replacement, but the ongoing costs of maintaining and replacing in the future as well.
You get a free one. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted something and then I came by it for free or very cheaply. It happened just last week, though I was replacing broken toys for our church nursery, not my own home. Whether it’s replacing an item, or just a new want or need, free rules! There’s hand-me-downs, gifts, give-aways, and tree lawns. Because we’re not above trash-picking.
You get a great deal. We all know how sometimes during that wait you find a better deal than you ever would have at traditional retailers. When one of our cars broke, we waited a month to buy a new one. While this arrangement might not work in our current situation as it did then, it allowed us to find a great deal on a (very) used car which cost us only $5/month to drive.
You get creative. When I suggested we buy our son a CD player for his audio books, my husband thought he had an old one in his “electronics lab” (read: boxes of cords and broken electronics collecting dust in my basement). He fixed it up by adding a second power plug.
This is just a smattering of examples, and I know I’m not the only one who waits on purchases. Who’s realized they didn’t need something, or found a freebie, great deal, or creative solution rather than going the traditional retail route? Share your stories!