Dishwashers, Planned Obsolescence, and Letting Go of Our Stuff

Our dishwasher might be dead. Or perhaps dying.

Just over a week or so ago I went to do a dishwasher load and discovered that it wouldn’t run. We took out all of the dirty dishes, washed them by hand, and then I cleaned some of the dishwasher components and checked out what I could (which, admittedly, wasn’t much). After some basic cleaning, I was able to run a rinse load. And then it was able to run an actual cleaning cycle.

Then the next day it failed to run again.

So, once again, the dishes had to be done by hand. No biggy.

The dishwasher was actually a gift from my wife’s side of the family about six years ago. One of her aunts noticed how long it was taking us to wash and dry a day’s worth of dishes from our family of five. She took pity on us.

So if it happens that this particular appliance has reached the end of its life, it has served us well even if not for as long as I’d like. I’ll let you know.

Our things don’t last. They never have, though in more recent decades I think this has become increasingly true. Appliances, like washers and dryers, once purchased to last a lifetime if we’re lucky now last a decade. People often have to replace their smartphones every 2 or 3 years. Cars, too, no longer have the lifespan they had generations ago.

Part of this is due to “planned obsolescence,” the deliberate making of products to expire, wear out, or break so that they need replacing. All to keep our consumer economy going. Stuff isn’t built to last. And it’s by design. In fact, many products can’t even be fixed any more. If your smart TV conks out, either you get a new one or you don’t have a TV (perhaps a blessing in disguise?).

Given this is so, we should buy more wisely. We ought to be more picky when purchasing. For my part, there are certain products (and companies) that I have come to trust over the years because of their reliability and durability. This means I don’t buy these items often (because they last). On the other hand, I am a loyal customer. If I am happy with a specific kind of shoes, for example, I will be a repeat customer even if not a frequent one.

Of course, even the best made products wear out. Sometimes one of our things breaks unexpectedly. After years of being a happy customer, you end up with a lemon. It happens. Nothing made by us lasts forever.

Yet we like our stuff. We treasure it at times. We become possessive of our possessions. We think—or at least live as though—they can make us happy by satisfying our deepest longings. We imbue them with eternity.

In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says this: Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Pursue what lasts. Hold your possessions loosely, lest they possess you. Even if something you own and love wears out or stops working, remember it was never going to last anyway. Let that experience point you to treasure in heaven, the treasure of God’s kingdom, to the treasure that Jesus offers and, ultimately, that Jesus is.

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