Friday, July 25, 2008

Elbow Grease, Anyone?

I've been wondering lately how many things find their way to the landfill for no reason other than the owner didn't want to clean them or otherwise care for them.

When our neighbor moved recently, he put his deep fryer out with the trash. Having seen him use the fryer not long ago, Shane knew the fryer worked, so he asked Zach why he was throwing it out. Zach said he'd spilled some oil down into the compartment where the heating element is, and didn't want to clean it. He said he'd just get a new one instead.

Shane brought it home and cleaned it up. We tried it out a few days later and it worked just fine.

Last week, Shane's foreman Steve bought a new HD television. He wanted one, and that's fine. But his "excuse" was that the picture on their 46" projection screen TV was "getting dark". He thought about selling it, but decided to just give it away instead. Shane said he'd be glad to take off Steve's hands. He brought it home last night and while it worked fine, the picture seemed a little hazy rather than dark. Shane took the back panels off and just as he suspected, the projection bulbs were covered with a thick layer of dust. After cleaning them (and vacuuming out other accessible areas inside the television for good measure) the picture is clear and bright. A projection TV isn't the latest in technology, but it's an upgrade for us; we've been using a mid-90s 28" console TV for about eight years now. And the price was definitely right.

These and countless other examples have been food for thought for me lately. I wonder when we begin equating dirtiness with uselessness. When did we decide that buying a new whatever was easier than tightening a loose screw in the old one? When did we decide that throwing something away makes more sense than taking care of it?

These castoffs turn out to be a good deal for us and others like us who are willing to do a little work to make something useful again. In addition to personal savings, keeping useful things in use not only keeps them out of the landfill, but also reduces the demand that new ones be made. That might make our carbon footprint just a little bit smaller. Unfortunately we can't "rescue" everything. I wish we could, both for our sake and the sake of the environment.


Donna said...

What fanTastic deals!! People look at things these days and if it needs cleaning...they throw it Out!!! GEEZ!! Happy night sweetie!!hughugs

DadGuy said...

Congrats on the good deals.

I think wal-mart has made this a reality. It's cheaper to go buy a new one than to get whatever it is fixed. This isn't always true, but for the most part seems to be nowadays. I've been bugged by this for a few years now, ever since I realized it. People are lazy, and so we get cheap less than quality stuff more and more commonly instead of things that are built to last.

Sarah said...

Just the other day I found an amazing coffee table in the trash by my sister's house. Its the kind that has the 2 huge drawers in it. I took it home, cleaned & painted it a bit, and now I am hoping to sell it on Craigslist! Every little bit helps - someone else's trash just might help me get out of debt!

Lisa said...

I see it everyday since I work at a trash transfer station. There is so much of it that all of us employees couldnt possibly bring home all of it.... but we do try real hard at it.

I need to post a pic of my dumpster diving finds I have found in the last month. I brought home a HUGE box of mixed sized screws, two boxes of 22 rifle shells, a kitchen hutch/cabinet, a couple different cooking pans, 5 tomato cages, and about 25lbs of Oxi Clean, plus other misc stuff.

The U.S. is such a disposable nation.

I love re-purposing thrown away stuff.

Sharon said...

I LOVE this post! I'm the one who is quick to dispose of things because they aren't working properly, but my husband spends a little time fixing, cleaning, etc. and they are just like new again...I LOVE that! I'm trying to do that more now. Our refrigerator is acting up...I'm concerned we will need a new one soon, but my husband is keeping it alive. I don't want to contribute to the landfills either!

Tug said...

YES. My daughter used to throw away garbage cans (kitchen & bathroom) because they got DIRTY. Garbage cans! OMG I gave her a bad time... My TV is from when I was in Vegas - early 90' laquer console, but it turns to face where I'm sitting, it works, I love it. I've taken apart VCR's & gotten them to work again. I think my daughter was switched at birth. ;-)

Annie Jones said...

Donna: We're pretty about the fryer, Shane about the TV. ;)

Dadguy: It is usually cheaper to buy something new if you have to pay someone to fix the broken whatever. But to just not clean it? Also, we always figure that if something quits working, we have nothing to lose by taking it apart and trying to fix it. If we can't fix it, we've lost nothing but a few minutes of time. If we can fix it then we've saved some money. (Usually Shane is the fixer, but I am able to fix things, too, sometimes.)

Sarah: I read how you sold the end tables you cleaned up. That's what I'm talking about!

Lisa: Would it sound weird if I said I covet your job? LOL!

Sharon: Thanks for visiting. When we DO have to call someone in for a repair, if Shane is home, he watches and talks to the repair man. He's learned a lot about fixing appliances that way.

Tug: I once trash picked a trash can someone else threw away! It was in good shape and had wheels. How could I pass it up? ;)