Wearing Things Out: Lessons learned from my see-through swim trunks

shortsUse it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

My back sucks. Partly due to bad posture. Partly due to an aversion core-strengthening exercises like sit-ups. Partly due to the unhealthy ergonomics that come with using a kitchen table and wooden chair as a desk.

A while ago, I decided that my mattress wasn’t doing my back any favours either and finally broke down and bought a new one. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know how much I don’t like buying new stuff. So the decision to get a new mattress did not come easily.

And trust me when I tell you, I needed a new mattress. You know that expression “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”? Well, I have a bad habit of taking the “wear it out” part to an unhealthy extreme.

My old mattress is a good example. I had it since 2006. And like most of the things I own, I got it used. I’m not sure how long my friend owned it before I took possession, but I do recall seeing it throughout our university years. And I’m pretty sure some of the mattress coils where already collapsed at that point, most likely as a result of numerous drunken wrestling matches.

And that’s nothing! The mattress I had before that was the one I was conceived on. Shudder…

Yeah, let’s move on.

Another example: a pair of swimming trunks I had since I was a teenager. In fact, knowing our family, they were probably hand-me-downs from an older brother. They were so sun-faded and worn out that they were almost white, a far cry from the navy blue I remember them being as a kid.

I wore them to the beach a few summers back, and as soon as the water hit those threadbare trunks, they became completely see-through. I might as well have been skinny-dipping for the privacy they offered. At least they didn’t dissolve, which was a legitimate possibility considering their advanced age.

There are plenty of other examples from my childhood. As a kid I remember wearing plastic bags over my feet because our winter boots were so full of holes. My brother Nicholas used to walk around the house wearing t-shirts with the entire back and both armpits torn out. My Dad and step-Mom’s last car had 452,000 km on it before they retired it. My grandma still has a plastic sippy cup from when I was a kid, complete with teeth marks of more than 40 grandkids.

What can I say? It’s in my genes.

Moral of the story

sl-post-image31Admittedly, I take the “wear it out” philosophy too far. But that said, I still think Western society is too-often guilty of not taking it far enough. We live in a very disposable culture where it’s often cheaper to replace a broken lamp than fix it. It’s a face-paced world where the hottest jeans today can be unstylish tomorrow and where the near-constant rollout of new smartphone models pressure us to upgrade our devices and toss last month’s perfectly good version in the trash.

Skills like darning a sock, patching a bike tire or shimming a wobbly nightstand have been going the way of the dodo as we become increasingly blasé about how long our consumer goods last. And while it might be appealing or simpler to replace something rather than repair it, embracing more of a “wear it out” philosophy can translate to less strain on the environment, a greater appreciation of the things we have, more self-sufficiency and less stress trying to keep up the Jones’.

Moral of the story #2: Think twice before agreeing to go to the beach with me.


Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.


Josh is the creative force behind Badge of Awesome, where he noodles and doodles about life and the lessons learned from it. He's the author of Simply Blunderful and creator of The Overcoming Obstacles Toolkit.

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