Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Growing up in he '50's was a time of keeping things until they wore out, fixing things when they broke, and buying only what you needed. At least that is how it was in my family. Those pioneer roots of hard work, frugality, and thrift came from my great grandparents as they raised 12 children in the early days of the Texas Panhandle. While the Baker house I remember was a large wood frame two story house in Lockney, there are stories of my greatgrandparents living in a dugout. My grandfather told stories of going hungry as he and his brothers drove cattle and wagons to Amarillo as part of the freighting business. While my family was not poor during the Great Depression, that era left its mark on all who lived through it.

When my husband and I first married, we were both students - by definition, poor. As we moved through life and had our children, we always had enough money to do what we needed, but not always a surplus. So in addition to a family background of using things until they were "used up," I also tended to hang on to things because of the reality that if I needed it later I might not be able to buy it. While money is much less of an issue, my first thinking is usually that if it still works, then I probably don't need a new one. But after almost 20 years at the Hutto house, we've slowly but surely been replacing appliances. Last year it was the washer and dryer and dishwasher. The new washer and dryer work so much better than the old one. The dryer finishes a load in the same time the washer takes. It feels as thought the laundry does not take nearly as long (of course there are also fewer of us now.)

I've lost track of how long I've had my current vacuum cleaner, but it has been a long time. The cord is frayed (good thing they put two sets of insulation - otherwise it would have been a fire hazard.) The cord does not retract like it once did. I still have all the attachments and it still vacuums the dirt off the rug. I looked a vacuums last year when I was buying the other appliances, but I could not decide . . . . plus, my old one still worked.

I looked at vacuums on another shopping excursion . . . . I could not help but think that technology was even changing something as simple as a vacuum cleaner. And the most expensive ones were $500.00. I could not imagine spending that much money on a vacuum. But it was time to do some major house cleaning so the house would look pretty for Christmas. My steam cleaner for the carpet has been sitting in the garage for at least five years waiting for me to order a part. So . . . .

I broke down and went to Conn's to look. I passed the expensive Dyson's and looked at the other ones. They all had a modern almost robotic look. I knew I wanted a powerful motor (that is why I chose the last vacuum-it had the biggest motor). The one that appealed to me was one that you could disassemble for "stairs" turning into a small canister. The small rechargeable vacuum I have for the RV does not work well. I picture myself taking this smaller version with us on the road. They only had one steamer - it looked enough like the one I've had that I took it home as well.

I assembled both of them. When I first started vacuuming, I noticed an immediate difference. The new one is more powerful - duh . . . . . could the old one have been wearing out so gradually I just had not noticed?

When I got ready to decorate the Christmas tree, I was pulling out those small "twinkly" lights. The first string I started to work with had one of 4 sets of lights not working. After going through about 10 bulbs with very little luck finding good ones on that bad link, I plugged in some of the other strings. The next two had one group of the four working. No wonder I had not been using them. I had a string of white lights, but I wanted colored lights this year. Now I've heard people talking about just buying new ones instead of trying to juggle bulbs to make the old ones work. I've resisted that idea. But this year . . . . I headed over to the new Home Depot in Hutto. Sure enough, they had new strands of lights (I did not see any replacement bulbs for these twinkly lights). While I have not yet thrown away the old strings of lights, I think I plan to.

And, by the way, I also bought a new shredder this week. I'd been fighting with the older one almost from the beginning. The shredded paper kept jamming. We kept having to take it apart and pull out tiny shredded paper all wrapped around the rollers. When I took it apart the last time, I noticed that the motor was sparking. And there was all that paper dust right near the sparks. Yup, it was past time to have replaced that . . . should have done it a long time ago.

The moral here . . . . there is a time and a place to buy new things - and not just when they are so old they can't function at all. The second part - we've already thrown away the old shredder. Now I've got to be sure the old counterparts of these new things make it out of my house as well.

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