Selling Mediocrity: Sustainability in an age of transience

Demitasse cups from Eliza Clay

I bought insulated work gloves in mid-November. They were leather, with fleece lining and oh-so-warm. The first day we used them out in the yard they tore, and we’ve been patching them ever since.

At Christmas, my parents gave my husband insulated work gloves from the Army Surplus. Gloves that should have lasted more than a week before tearing.

Now, in January, with a week of cold nights on our horizon, we have two pairs of new, torn work gloves. And I’m not at all surprised.

In the past few years I’ve noticed just how quickly every new item falls to pieces. We’re no harder on work gloves or stove pipe today than we were 8 years ago – if anything we’re less so, but they crumble at the first sign of stress.

My husband made an adorable wood robot for Ilya at Christmas!

In our first off grid winter, my husband worked masonry all week and hauled trees through deep snow on the weekends. His gloves were battered and worn by April, but they held up to the labor. This winter, the gloves aren’t battered, just worthless.

So, am I the only one, or are you noticing a lack of lasting value in many of the products up for sale these days?

To be honest, I’ve honed my perspective regarding purchases. These days, I’m not as interested in ‘spending a little more to get quality’ in the same sense. If I’m going to spend extra on an item, I’ll buy on Esty, or from a friend; giving extra money to a corporation never results in a better product. Never. Whether that corporation is LL Bean or Walmart, the product is essentially the same.

This beautiful, handmade rosary was an unexpected gift.

This sounds pretty disillusioned, I know, and in some ways it is. I bought a pair of insulated Bean Boots last winter and I thought I was making an investment for winters to come. My husband has a pair that are at least 40 years old, still going strong. My boots lasted from January to April, I was barely able to return them for store credit, and now I’m not sure what to do with the credit. I’ll buy my boots at Goodwill instead.

But it’s good to go out into a world of advertising with eyes wide open. It’s good to remember that however well intentioned the people within a corporation are, corporations themselves exist to make profits, not friends; and we, the consumers, have made it clear that emotions, not quality direct our purchases.

Trifted cloth can be used for so many things.

What can we do to more away from a culture of consumable mediocrity?

1. Get rid of the television. TV exists to sell itself and its advertisers. Television also reduces our discernment, it trains us to be merely receptive.

2. Buy from real people! Whether they’re online or right next door, try working with individuals instead of corporations whenever possible.

3. Buy secondhand, whether it’s vintage, salvage, or thrifting, buying used keeps us creative and attentive to detail. You get used to checking seams at thrift shops. Thrifting also gives you access to fantastic fabrics that can be cut down and rebuilt into something new and beautiful.

4. Learn to do it yourself! From candles to quilts you can find a tutorial for anything online. Reclaim long forgotten skills and need less as you learn to make more!

These are some of the ways I’m trying to move a bit further away from all the advertised disposables masquerading as essentials on the market today. It can be a bit of a challenge, but the result is fewer things of actually better quality and a bundle of brand new skills as well!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Gabriel+ says:

    I’m honestly just glad I made it through the day. I can’t even worry about anything else. ☦️


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