Today, I Threw Out Some Old Underwear

Today, I Threw Out Some Old Underwear

Yes, you read the title right. It’s not a metaphor for anything. Today, I actually threw out some old underwear.

I understand that this information might not seem relevant for you, but stay with me.

I had worn those boxers for a good year and a half I expect. Today, I found a hole in them.

I guess you wear underwear for comfort. Maybe also to contain bacteria, so you won’t have to wash your pants as often.

A hole in those boxers defeated the purpose of both, so I decided to throw them out.

It wasn’t until later that I actually thought about why it was so wrong to throw out those boxers.

Why it was wrong to throw out my old underwear

Those boxers had served me well, but the decision to throw them out was wrong.

You see, it captures well the problem with the mindset of the modern consumer. If something breaks, buy something new.

The problem is that buying new things all the time is bad for the environment and for your savings rate – and if you buy it with debt, it’s bad for your financial situation too.

We have become so used to throwing old things out that we have forgotten and never learned how to repair things.

Those boxers could easily have been repaired with some cloth, needle, and thread. I would have saved some money on new boxers, and I would have saved the environment another pair of boxers ending up in a landfill.

The problem is, I wouldn’t know how to do it. I know how to make complex Black-Scholes calculations for derivative investment instruments, but I can’t even repair my own boxers?!

I’m part of this problem even though I consider myself an environmentalist and, as an example, only invest in sustainable companies.

I’m not alone. I recently checked how the spending of an average household has changed in the past 20-30 years.

One of the categories who had changed the most in relative terms was “repairs”. Repairing clothes, furniture, electronic equipment, etc. has nearly disappeared from our spending these days.

In 1995, the average Danish household spent 1,057 DKK (160 USD) on repairs across categories (excl. cars).

Guess how much the average Danish household spends in 2018?

140 DKK (21 USD). That is a decrease of -87% (!!) in just 20-something years. Isn’t that mindblowing?

We have really gotten so used to this habit of throwing things out that we don’t spend money on repairing things anymore. And I can tell you, our spending has increased significantly in the same period, which just underlines the point.

What I should have done instead

I should of course have repaired those boxers. Just as I should have repaired my old jeans, my winter boots, our kitchen table, and all the other things I have recently thrown out.

If I can’t repair things, I should try to sell it secondhand or give it away to someone who needs it (OK, maybe not my boxers, but perhaps our old kitchen table).

I have made a promise to myself. Before I throw anything out, I have to try and repair it. If I don’t know how to repair it, I have learn how to do it.

If I don’t know how to fix things, Youtube is my friend here. I will spare you the videos, but I can tell you there’s plenty of “repair underwear” videos out there ๐Ÿ˜‰

I will do this to minimize my carbon footprint and to save more money.

Your turn: Do you repair things or throw them out? What have you repaired lately?



sakutam June 21, 2020 - 14:38

Hi Carl, even though the title seemed strange indeed, happy that I have read through your post. I have just finished painting a table anew! Bought it second hand, and while the colour was off, the shape and feeling seemed fit.

So finally took this rainy weekend to repaint it (my very first DIY project of that type) and even though initially was so unhappy with it, the more I look at it (and more I appreciate the time and consideration spent as well as environmental footprint to be spared), the prettier it seems. ๐Ÿ™‚ So will keep it for the time being and if we do not bond well, will give it away for others to appreciate.

Thanks for your blog and posts! Very inspiring and interesting to read. Greetings from fellow traveller along a similar path from up North!

Carl Jensen June 23, 2020 - 11:58

Congrats on your new table! I love how not only aesthetics but also effort and environmental footprint makes it pretty ๐Ÿ™‚

Looking forward to following you!

Claudia June 19, 2020 - 10:13

yes, I repair. I am older than you so for I learn from my childhood. I love to give another chance to an item. Sewing is my hobby so I am glad to see friends giving me old cloths that need a fix.
There is something else to do, before learning/mending holes: buy less. 10-20 years ago I was not ready to say what I am saying now: ” 2 jeans are enough. 5 t shirts are enough”. We don’t need many cloths/items, are staying there can loose the shape/quality/structure (just found an old pair of shoes, not used for a year, as have cracked/broken alone). Having 2 jeans is going better to the nature than having 20 and mending it, and effort is zero.

Carl Jensen June 19, 2020 - 12:46

I am happy to hear it works for you ๐Ÿ™‚ and you are absolutely right. Buying less is definitely another route to go, and I fully agree that we don’t need all the items we have today.


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