designed to last
November 19, 2010 5:44 AM   Subscribe

What can I buy that is not Designed for the Dump? Is there a "Buy This Not That" resource for this type of thing? Also, I'm poor, but I'm willing to invest if it really will last.

for instance, my friend was telling me that leather-soled shoes are much better because the leather sole lasts a lot longer and you can get it replaced if you need to.
posted by rebent to Shopping (13 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
You can buy secondhand. This is an easy and economical way to avoid the currrent consumer cycle. The obvious sources:

1. Thrift stores
2. Garage Sales
3. Estate Sales

With thrift stores you really do run the risk of just getting more crap that barely works. I would highly recommend, depending on where you live, estate sales.

Estate sales are awesome. I live in Chicago and there are a ton in the area. I've got a mental list of the tools and items that I need and am always on the lookout when at an estate sale. Why buy a new rake at Home Depot when you can get one that's lasted 25 years at an estate sale and get it for a dollar?

I bought a table fan last year made in 1938. The thing is solid, runs like brand new. It takes OIL. A table fan. That was back when things were made to last.
posted by allthewhile at 6:01 AM on November 19, 2010

Response by poster: So what you are saying is, things that have been manufactured before 1980 will last longer?
posted by rebent at 6:07 AM on November 19, 2010

So what you are saying is, things that have been manufactured before 1980 will last longer?
Not necessarily. There have always been things that are cheaply made and not built to last; the things which are still in working order have simply survived the test of time. That said, the older you go the more likely the device is able to be repaired simply and cheaply.
posted by nathan_teske at 6:16 AM on November 19, 2010

In some cases, yes. Labor was cheaper (which is generally the most expensive part of the manufacturing process - why do you think most products are made in China, Bangladesh, etc.?) That table fan was probably made with mostly metal parts which break less frequently than a table fan now which is mostly plastic parts - built to work now but unuseable and unfixable when the smallest part breaks.
posted by joyride at 6:18 AM on November 19, 2010

One metric I like to use is "Could this be re-sold on Craigslist?" If its value is, after leaving the store, so close to 0 that nobody in their right mind would drive to my house to pick it up no matter how great the discount -- if it is that undesirable, that impractical, the price that artificially inflated, the materials that worthless -- I should not be taking it home with me.

Look carefully at materials involved in manufacture; an acrylic sweater will fail the Craigslist test, but a well-cared-for cashmere sweater will retain value for a very long time. With that in mind -- hit the secondhand stores. You may want to hit secondhand and antique stores just to browse, and mull over: what lasts?

Another metric you can use: "Would I have this repaired?"
posted by kmennie at 6:21 AM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

How does one find estate sales?
posted by Wink Ricketts at 6:34 AM on November 19, 2010

Response by poster: I've been to antique shops and they are So Expensive. Like, for junk. A busted old door, or some trim, or bathtub feet, and all of that stuff. One place I walked around in had about 50 of the same huge secretary desks, and they were over a thousand dollars each, even tho they were crammed into the back of a dingy old barn. Actual useful things - tables, rocking chairs, couches etc, were even more incredibly expensive.
posted by rebent at 6:42 AM on November 19, 2010


Buy them used, and buy them hardcover. Sell them when you're tired of them. ( and Amazon make it *ridiculously* easy to do this). If the book doesn't need to be sitting on your shelf for an eternity, consider using your local library instead.
posted by schmod at 7:07 AM on November 19, 2010

My favorite Ask thread for this is Samuel Vimes' boots theory of economics inspired: "Investment china vs. paper plates"
posted by deludingmyself at 7:08 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Antiques are different than "stuff from estate sales." Estate sales are like garage sales after someone has died. Antiques, in theory, have extra value because they are rare, have an important "brand" name, or are very, very old.

(You can find estate sales in the classified ads, and I'm sure there are internet listings of local estate sales. There are also often signs up a week in advance on the property itself saying when the estate sale will be.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:10 AM on November 19, 2010

I second thrift shops.
Not "antiques shoppes".
Just for the hell of it, my vow this year is to buy nothing new but food and underwear, everything else used from Goodwill, Salvation Army, yard sales, estate sales, etc. So far so good. A Braun immersion blender that works great on bean soup--three bucks. A linen Armani jacket. An all-wool USN peacoat. I've even bought used palm trees. There's not a piece of "new" furniture in the house.
Tools are a great buy used, although you take a risk with battery-powered ones. I only buy from the guy I can look in the eye and question about them, and even then I've been fooled. But hey, that's part of the fun. Part of the human comedy.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 8:13 AM on November 19, 2010

I don't know where you are, but the midwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois) is crammed with "antique malls", where there is furniture at all price points. I bought a pair of library chairs for $50 at an antique mall; they're not heirloom quality, but they've been diverted from landfill for a few years.

Don't buy tools at Home Depot. The name brands produce cheaper versions of their tools under the *same name* for HD.
posted by endless_forms at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2010

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