In Praise of Maintenance

Have you ever listened to the podcast “In Praise of Maintenance” by Freakonomics? In it, the host Steven Dubner starts talking about how much time we put into maintenance—we exercise to maintain our bodies, sleep (a third of our lives!) to maintain our brains, go to therapy to maintain relationships. That’s not including the meetings, memos and apps people use just to track all the maintenance they have to do! The podcast goes on to interview many people who say that maintenance has been overshadowed by invention and innovation, to the detriment of all the good things we already have. Dubner says,

There’s not only a need but a certain nobility in taking care of what you’ve already created.

I thought of this idea again when I listened to an interview with Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, as he talked about how he wishes more people would maintain their clothes instead of just throwing them out and buying something new. He says we should mend the rips, repair the zippers, resole the shoes and keep wearing them. In fact, he places so much importance on this that his company will repair any Patagonia item you own—for free! Their company also has a truck that travels around the country repairing clothes for people, even if they aren’t Patagonia items! He says this helps us be less materialistic, treat our environment better and encourages companies to have better business practices.

Again, I thought of the value of maintenance last week when I took my boots to the tailor’s. I’d invested in a solid pair of leather boots the year before last, but when I got them out this season they were scuffed and dry and limp. I think if they’d been a pair of boots from Target (or anything made with fake leather), I’d have had to throw them out and get a new pair. But instead I took them to the shoe repair shop and the cobbler conditioned the leather, sanded the heel and colored in places where the veneer had chipped, and reshaped them so that they stood tall. I was amazed at the finished result. They certainly looked as good as new, but there was something about the shine and softness of the worn leather that made them look even better than when they first came out of the box. All this for only $5!

I’ve started to pay more attention to ways that I can maintain my clothes and house a little better. I recently ripped a hole in my favorite pair of jeans (right in the crotch!), but I think I might patch them up instead of tossing them. No one will ever see the seam and I’ll have my bestie jeans back again!

What about you? What are some ways that you maintain your belongings? Do you find it burdensome or satisfying? Do you find yourself getting caught up in always getting the newest thing? (I do!) What do you think is the value of maintenance?

(Photo by Sevilla Smith)


Posted by Aanna on Friday, January 6th, 2017


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