Maureen Pratt

When does something become too old to keep?

If we look at ads for clothing, cars or technology, we might think that constant and rapid change is a necessity. After all, “new developments” happen regularly, and upgrades and updates abound.

Yet, the more I delve into the details of “new” things, I find that there is a benefit to keeping what works, what is familiar and doesn’t have a steep learning curve. I don’t think I’m alone in my appreciation for “older” things.

As much as the television ads might seem to contradict it, the average age of a vehicle in the U.S. is about 11.4 years, according to the market research firm Polk. My car is nearly 15 years old and is in excellent condition. I am comfortable driving it. Sightlines, handling, size, shape — they all work perfectly for me. I think I can last a while longer without having a computer-generated voice or dashboard screen providing me with directions.


Women’s fashion is another area where “new” is, in many ways, deceptive. Throwbacks to earlier styles abound, including many things we probably wish weren’t in vogue (high heels with a wedge, for example, or a long, dangling fringe that gets caught where you don’t want it to). I’ve found that if I buy basics, I won’t get caught up in the stampede from one craze to the next.

Then, there is technology. We could spend hours scooping up the most recent gadgets, phones, televisions and other things that have a propensity to be “outdated” the moment they leave the box. But, there is a group of people that clings to old cellphones, older operating systems, VHS tapes and they get along just fine.

I’m all for people developing ways to make our lives better and easier. New technology or designs often have benefits. They might operate more smoothly, use less energy or have new features that unlock additional value. But it’s always best to consider, “Do I really need all of these added features?” or “Is this truly going to make a difference in my life?”

Sometimes, the decision to jettison something comes not from necessity but from giving into external pressure, the feeling that, at a certain point, something old is useless simply because it is old.

I don’t feel less worthy driving my 15-year-old car and I’ve never seen a sign on someone’s suit or dress that says, “Please forgive me, this garment is 10 years old.” Truly, an item’s age need not be the tipping point for trash.

As things we use get older, they might wear down or break. But just as we value old friendships and other relationships that have withstood challenges, it is good to pause and consider the benefits of our “old” cars, phones, clothes and other items.

Does everything need to be new? Could there be something beautiful in appreciating something that has served us for a long time?

There is something to be said for taking care of what we already have before investing in something else.