Updated: Jul 24, 2021
This past Saturday, my husband and I took our old couch to the dump. After 18 years of faithfully supporting our behinds while we watched TV, the old sofa was finally long past its useful life. Not only did it have a faint odor of many years’ worth of children and pets having bladder control issues in its vicinity, but Tivo, our noble greyhound, scratched through both the upholstery and the cushions in his regular quest to improve the comfiness of his 4th favorite place to sleep.
(In case you’re wondering, his first three favorite sleeping places are: the blue chair in my office, the dog bed in my office, and the dog bed in the living room. And yes, he is a little spoiled. Why do you ask?)
Updating old and beat up furniture used to be one of my favorite things. When I was about 14 years old, I was delighted to get a replacement bed for the double bed that had originally been my mother’s and that I had been sleeping on since I was about 6. Buying “real” furniture to replace the cast-offs and secondhand store specials that I had collected in my early 20s was nothing if not a cause for joyous celebration. I wept with gratitude upon buying wooden file cabinets to replace the awful metal one we had been using for years.
But getting rid of this couch, dilapidated though it was, hit differently. And I know why - I remember its entire life cycle!
A Lifespan in the Rearview Mirror
My husband purchased that couch with one of his first paychecks from his first real job. We had only been dating a few months, and his buying the couch was an indicator that I was in a relationship with a Real Grownup ™.
No sofas found on the side of the road or received through parental osmosis for this guy! No, he had the ability and the cash to buy an honest-to-goodness couch that he picked out himself at a furniture retail establishment.
Which makes it all the weirder to realize the expensive furniture that your boyfriend purchased new in 2003 would become dump-worthy junk that you and your husband can’t even offer to the good folks on your Buy Nothing board just a short two decades later!
Nothing Lasts Forever
Of course, I know intellectually that purchases aren’t going to last until the heat death of the universe. But what I consider “worn out after a reasonable amount of time” has definitely changed as I’ve gotten older. Being in the stage of life where I can clearly remember buying something new, no matter how long ago that was, makes me much more likely to harrumph when it comes time to replace it.
“I just bought these socks,” I’ll think to myself, “and there’s already a hole in the toe.”
Then I’ll remember that “just bought them” means I purchased them approximately four years ago.
Theoretically, that should be an amount of time that makes me feel like I got my money’s worth from any one pair of socks I own. It certainly used to be. I’d consider it money well spent if a pair of socks I purchased before leaving for college could still be worn at graduation before the gradually growing hole finally exposed a toe.
The problem is that four years (or 18 years, for that matter) gets to be a smaller and smaller percentage of my total lifespan to date, which means the items may last the same amount of time, but my perception of that time has shifted.
Instead of four years feeling like an incredibly long time—during which peri