May 6, 2014

Going Obsolete: Part 2–Appliances and Wallpaper




 Obsolescence isn’t limited to technology.

The green philosophy constantly informs us It is our responsibility to save our earth and it is in our hands to save the earth.

We are constantly bombarded with messages that to fulfill this responsibility we must reduce our carbon footprint.  We must “green up” our lives.

Thus, I find myself obsessive-compulsively placing every scrap of plastic, paper, metal, and glass into the proper bag for recycling, directing every plant-based food scrap to the compost bin. Clutter accumulates in my home in order not to fill landfills with useful stuff.


This winter our 35-year-old stove ailed, with no possibility of resuscitation. It required immediate replacement to keep our lives safe, so off my husband Monte and I went to purchase a new appliance. As we looked at the shiny white and metal stoves a clerk asked “Do you have any questions?”

“I do,” I said, concerned that when we’d purchased a washer and dryer a couple of years ago the store had delivered used appliances.

“If we purchase a stove will you deliver a used stove?”

“It will come right out of a box,” he said.

“I have another question. What is the obsolescence life of this stove?”

Shiny new stove with a life expectancy of 6 years

Shiny new stove with a life expectancy of 6 years

He hesitated. My first question clued him in that I had an attitude problem. The look on his face told me he was considering how to answer my second question.

When he finally answered I was totally surprised.

“Six years.”

Six years? The stove that died was likely more than 35 years old. Six years certainly didn’t fit in with my idea of living green.


This wasn’t my first brush with obsolescence.

When we moved into our current home the former owner noticed I’d hung a second shower curtain over the wallpaper in our bathroom shower. I did this to ease the cleaning task.

“You don’t have to do that,” she said. “I haven’t washed that wall once in 35 years.”

The wallpaper that had been hung in the late 1970s looked new.

Historic wallpaper debuted, then exited

Historic wallpaper debuted, then exited

“You mean…this is that wallpaper that never dies?”

I recalled that when we were building a house in the late 1970s there was new wallpaper that never needed cleaning and never wore out. By the time I was shopping for wallpaper it had been taken off the market. It was too good. Its obsolescence life was too long.

Although my bathroom needs an overhaul I am reluctant to part with this wallpaper.


It is a classic. In fact, it’s so much of a classic that no information can be found on it. It’s like it never existed, like I imagined this glorious product—except it is pasted on my bathtub wall. And, another woman said she purchased some that has never been cleaned.

My bathroom wallpaper is a piece of history, albeit a small—no, a large—piece. Is it no wonder that I hesitate to upgrade our bathroom?


It’s well-known that technology items are obsolete when they are purchased. That’s how fast-paced technology items are advancing.

IMG_4564E 140503But short-lived appliances and removing a great wallpaper from consumer’s reach…is it necessary? Are they advancing that much that they have the same obsolescence as electronic devices?

Our culture presents us with many mixed messages. To live green but not have access to goods with reasonable life spans is just one.

At what point will the message of responsible environmental living and irresponsible distribution of goods with limited life spans merge, creating the opportunity for responsible living? At what point will our brains be considered awakened, will our brains no longer have to deal with this conflict?

We should be able to purchase stoves with a life beyond early childhood, and wallpaper that doesn’t require changing every few years.

Yet philosophies conflict. Allegedly, economic needs demand that we buy buy buy, and obsolescence fulfills that mandate—if products don’t die, then they don’t need to be replaced.

Green living ideas are our key to creating a better future for both our families and our planet. This has meant rethinking the way that we live and learning to be more conservation minded…

Read Going Obsolete: Part 1, Technology.



11 Facts About Earth Day

Earth Day 1970 Leads to Slippery Rock, PA, Recycling Center

EARTH DAY 2010: Being Stewards of the Earth



  1. Just got off the phone with a plumber, because my 15 year old water heater sprung a leak. They now offer one with a 6 year warranty on the tank and 1 year on parts and labor. How’s that for progress? Not to mention, where are they going to take my old one…the landfill????

    Comment by David Walker (URlite) — May 6, 2014 @ 9:16 am | Reply

  2. A friend of mine bought a house at a great bargain price because the decor had not been “updated” – the green and gold wall paper were from the 70’s era, but was in excellent condition and the patterns were very conservative – in fact it is still up because my friend liked it, even if it was “out of date”.

    Comment by Grace (&Fred) — May 6, 2014 @ 9:45 am | Reply

  3. Interesting from yesterday’s paper.

    Comment by Pam — May 18, 2014 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Pam. Now about those new light bulbs that are touted to last forever—how often do you replace them? Ours deffinitely do not last forever.

      Comment by carolyncholland — May 18, 2014 @ 9:37 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What is your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: