Sunday, April 17, 2005

Planned obsolescence

Most of the time I resist the urge to rant about "the way things used to be", but I noticed something recently I am compelled to mention. When both my parents were gone and I was cleaning out their house, I brought home all the towels, washcloths, sheets and bedspreads they had. I am an only child, so don't be thinking I was stealing from siblings. I have now had those towels, etc. for 10 years and most of them had been bought between the years of 1950 and 1982, after which my Mom was too ill to shop. Would you believe that most of those things are in better condition now than the towels and sheets I bought between the years of 1980 and now? I have been using Mom's towels and sheets since 1995, and they are none the worse for the wear, while the ones I've bought recently are noticeably thinner and in some cases, shredding on the edges.

I have towels that I used at summer camp in the late 40's, and I know this because they are marked with my name in the corner. They are still usable and while they are a little thin, you would never believe they are more than 50 years old. Why on earth cannot the current manufacturers make towels and sheets that withstand the rigors of washing machines the way they used to? That is a rhetorical question, of course, I know they CAN make them, but they don't because it would mean we never have to buy them again unless we get tired of the colors. It is too bad that the work ethics and product standards of previous times have been forgotten - or more likely - set aside for the almighty dollar.

10 comments:

ShoeHound said...

I am sitting here nodding. When I go to my folks' the towels and sheets are the same as when I was a little kid. All in fabulous shape.

I actually stole some of the pillow cases from my old twin bed sets. They are at least 30 years old (I'm 38) and in great condition. They feel like 400 count. They don't make them like that anymore!

Move over on that soapbox! LOL

Here via Michele. :)

kenju said...

You're right, the sheets do feel like they're fabulous European linens and most of them were Cannon Mills or from JCPenneys!

Pearl said...

It's a matter of what the market is willing to pay now as opposed to then. Dollar shop or Walmart and all the biggies are obeying the ultimate criteria - people want cheap.

>what is the stress is caused at home and not at work?

It's the same in any context. The setting aside is mentally setting down the caring about the immediate circumstances, saying, it is safe to have faith in fate. I can worry about it later. Right now I need to let go. That's not to say its as easy to do on the first time as is it to think it. It's a skilled habit to cultivate.

Silver Lining said...

I think the price of the materials has something to do with it also (not that I'm defending manufacturers at all, oh no!). Cotton is a much more expensive crop to grow these days than it was when our parents were young, and protectionist legislation means that cheaper foreign materials can't be obtained easily. So one solution is to lower the thread count in towels, bedlinen etc. Which means they wear more quickly. Sorry. Cotton is something of a hobbyhorse of mine! See if you can find hemp towels - cheaper, higher threadcount and usually more absorbent too!

Michele said...

Nodding in agreement. Many products are not made the way they were in my Mother's or Grandmother's generation unless you purchase high quality items....and then the cost is so very high.

I do love your posts!

brendalove@gmail.com said...

Kenju - the towels don't hold up as well because the washing machines are so busy falling apart after only 8 years.

It makes me so mad I could spit.

ZeNeece said...

How True!
It's all about the almighty dollar. The world is run by the quest for power and money.
A long term item is only meant to last 5 years or so! That's how they figure it now!
We are so wasteful and stupid to do things this way.

Betsy said...

Now you're making me wish I'd have taken my family up on the offer to have stuff shipped to me after my grandmother passed away...

At the time? I thought I had plenty. And since then? I'm betting I've disposed of plenty of things that disintegrated in the interim...

melinama said...

The last time I visited my aunt and grandmother (who was 103 at the time), I asked to take one of their washcloths home with me. They thought I was crazy, but I just love the way it feels. It's wearing out now but it's still my favorite.

Weary Hag said...

I know you'll think I'm crazy but I think it has something to do with the way they make washing machines nowadays too. Long ago, washing machines were gentler on clothes and agitated with less vigor. Everything now has to be built for speed and power. It takes a toll on clothes for sure. BUT I'm with you all the way. I loved the thickness and strength of my mother's old towels.
Neat post!