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 😉
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?