The Cults of the New and Old   2 comments

One of the things that I see a lot in discussions about living frugally and/or eco-consciously is how important it is to avoid the cult of the new. The cult of the new is when you always have to have new things, and when you always have to have THE new thing. For example: replacing a phone that is only a few months old for the sole reason of getting a newer “better” phone. It is a very enticing cult. I know I am certainly not immune to the charm of shiny new as opposed to the plain-ness of slightly used. Generally, though, it is considered more frugal/eco-friendly to buy used, and only replace something when it doesn’t work any more. The problem with that, though, is that you can flip into the “cult of the old”, a new term that I am coining. I have a family history with the cult of the old, and I can say from experience that it’s not healthy. If you don’t replace an old appliance that still works, you could miss out on newer appliances that work faster, quieter, with less energy, with less water, or otherwise more efficiently. If you don’t replace your blanket/sofa/lipstick/clothes then you risk becoming an island of no-change in a world defined by change. And I’m not talking about being unfashionable. I’m talking about the subtle ways in which your self image shifts when the image in the mirror changes, or when the spaces around you change. Life involves constant change, whether it be seasons and aging or inventions and new advances, but the cult of the old can involve an unhealthy resistance to change.

This musing was brought on by the purchase of a new skirt this weekend at the Spring 2010 San Francisco Green Festival. This skirt will replace one that is currently in my closet. In a sense it is a bittersweet day because I love the skirt that I am replacing. However, I have owned that skirt for at least 15 years and it is just time to move on. The old skirt is beautiful, fits perfectly, and looks good on me. It works great in my wardrobe, is easy to dress up and down, and I love wearing it. So why am I replacing it? Because as much as I love the skirt, I need a change. It is one of the last articles of clothing that I still have from my teenage years, and it is time for me to let it go. Hopefully it will find someone who will get as much enjoyment out of it as I have. And hopefully the new skirt will live up to the bar set by the old one (I’m optimistic).

This is the first time that I have replaced an article of clothing that I like, fit into, and haven’t worn out, hence the soul searching. I want to be sure that I am not just entrapped in the cult of the new by buying the new skirt; and at the same time I am afraid that keeping the old skirt would eventually trap me in the cult of the old. I have noticed as I gradually replaced my old wardrobe that it is absolutely invigorating to find new pieces to love and to let my image (and hence part of my self-image) evolve over time. Hopefully this step will continue that evolution.

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Posted April 11, 2010 by mayakey in frugal living, musings, shopping

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2 responses to “The Cults of the New and Old

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  1. I went to my closet after reading your post just to see what I had from 15 yrs. ago. I found 2 items that are more like 20 yrs. old. A mexican dress that I use in the house only. I like it, use it only 3-4 times a summer and I am not ready to throw it out. The other is a white Land’s End sweater that I have had a hard time letting go off and I don’t know why. At the beginning of every winter I decide that maybe I will use it. That has happened for 5 yrs. so I guess that one gets tossed.
    The Goodwill box does not fill up as fast as it used to. I have whittled down my belongings quite a bit.

  2. I think I’m the official Kool Aid pourer in the cult of new. I have one shirt (the DA – think about it – date shirt … no, I don’t know either) that I won’t part with and some assorted t-shirts that I intend to make *something* with someday. Other than that, I feel free to let things go. I buy what I want and get rid of it when it no longer suits my fancy. I’m the complete opposite of you…but we knew that 😉

    Carmela Chavez Liberman

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