Money, Things and Values: Use it Up, Wear It Out!

We live in a world of microwaves when long term success requires a slow cooker and is a journey and ongoing process, not a destination. Our young people in generations of the past wanted to be astronauts or basketball players when they grew up. The youth of today, if you ask many of them, just want to be super rich and insta-famous for no other reason than to be rich and famous. This is due largely in part to the change in our culture and what we see value in as a modern society.
Social media has certainly come with its biases, and we are surrounded by “influencers” that are spread a mile wide and an inch deep as a result. Where is the true value and meaning in men’s body builder muscles and bikini-clad “insta-models” anyway? Now I have a decent following of my content and I have nothing against having a large following or looking like a super hot mamma or stud muffin hunk.
Through our technology, we can have a lasting impact on the world more than ever, but we have seemed to grow as a culture to love things and use people as a result instead of the opposite of loving people and using things.
To that point, we find people neck deep in student loans, credit cards, mortgages and car payments that feel hopeless when they look at all of their debt only to keep up appearances to impress people they don’t even know or like.
The older I get, the less having new and expensive possessions matters to me. I find more value in the experiences I have in my life and the relationships I nurture with others around me as well as the work I do to help the greater good in my life.
Everything within the last several years in our world has come online and on demand. We are a nation of “access” more than ownership in what we view and listen to things these days. The way we shop online, watch TV and movies, and a multitude of other things has all become simpler and more on our own terms than ever before.
That all being said, the one thing that penetrates this on-demand theme is that many things have become disposable and replaceable. I will go as far as to say that I see humans treating other humans this way as well and it is true. Just look around for a moment.
In a world where we can replace things we use so easily and a world that sells us the idea that new is always better, I have a saying I borrowed from a survivor of the Great Depression of the past century:
“Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without”.
During some of the harder times our ancestors went through, a person didn’t have fast food and coffee shops on every corner. You had to work hard to even eat some days and this made for true grit inside the people that went through that time in history. My grandfather never threw away things he could reuse or repurpose as he never knew when he might need them again.
As generations have grown up since the decades since that period of history when the stock market crashed and people struggled to make a living as dirt poor farmers and share-croppers, we seem to forget what history taught us about value and precious resources. We tend to take things like running water, electricity, heating and air conditioning for granted as we have most likely always had these things in our lifetime.
When we visit outside of our normal comfort zones to other parts of the world, we see that around a billion people slept on a dirt floor last night. It is said that 1 out of every 7 people in this world struggles to eat every day while others more fortunate with food availability still have food scarcity at times.
I bring up these facts because comparison is the thief of joy and most of us can be found comparing ourselves to what we lack in comparison to what other people we admire already have. Envy is a waste of time. Chances are you already have all you need to life a reasonably joyful life. But joy, my friends, is a choice.
Gratitude, being thankful in all circumstances, is a powerful tool for an empowered and optimized life. Being thankful for all you that you already had, have and shall have in the future is a powerful way to fight back greed and envy. An attitude of gratitude is key here.
You will find me piling my clothes and other things I use every day which have been torn or have holes or other defects in them so I can repair or repurpose them. Old t-shirts are repurposed into cleaning or workshop rags or gun cleaning patches. Not much that I have goes to waste if I can help it and that was just the way I was raised.
I do not buy new and trendy items or upgrade to newer and bigger houses or fancier cars not because I can’t afford them. I most certainly can afford far more than I have. It just goes back to my value system. I do not find value in financing something I already possess to impress anyone, including myself.
The point of all of this is to say make more of what you have go further instead of disposing of everything once you have had your use of it. Get some extra mileage out of the things you have not just to save money but to extend the value of things. And don’t forget, as The Minimalists duo likes to say at the end of their podcasts, to love people and use things – because the opposite never works.
Another takeaway from this is to seek meaning and purpose in relationships and experiences by not impulsing on worthless “stuff” that will inevitably result in more clutter and even more regret with the credit card statement shows up. You don’t have to spend like a drunken sailor to be happy in life. Stuff cannot bring you joy for long after all. We are social creatures.
We need to put more value in people, not things. We need to deepen our life’s purpose and realign our desires on what we really need and want to accomplish in our lives, not what the world sells us as the most marketed to modern culture in the history of the world.
True value comes from loving people, learning new things, and serving others in need with the resources we have available to us. There are countless opportunities to practice these three activities without looking very hard at all.