On iPads, Cast-Iron Pans, And Why We Love New Stuff

Like most Americans, I am addicted to new stuff, and I barely notice my old stuff, even when it's amazing. So I started wondering if there was a way out of the "stuff trap."

As I made a Fleetwood Mac station on the Pandora app on my iPad, I admired my new possession. So shiny, powerful--the best of its class. No, not the iPad. That's cool too, but I was talking about my cast-iron pan. Seriously, that thing is awesome. It's a hand-me-down, meaning that it has flavors that have been in my family for years. But this post is not about pans (other than that cast-iron is the best!) it's about stuff.

Six months ago it was the iPad. So sleek and powerful. And yes, I love the iPad. Actually, scratch that, I like the iPad. It's a nice middle ground between iPhone and laptop. Do I need that? No, no one does, but hey, I've got one, and it's great for checking my email and the news in the morning, playing music in the kitchen while I cook and wasting my time in a variety of charming ways. Really, if I had to pick between it and the pan...sigh...I'd probably have to go iPad (probably). Still, at least give me a few months with the pan. It's my latest toy.

This is why we love stuff: every new toy has a glowing halo around it for...two months? Three months? And then the item is merely useful or enjoyable or perhaps useless, but it's no longer magical. Right now, in my home, the iPad is assumed. I use it with a little more pleasure but no more wonder than the washing machine. With the pan, I still marvel at its solidness, how I don't have to worry about sketchy non-stick chemicals, how it imparts a unique flavor. I'm getting excited now just thinking about it.

And yet, some part of me knows that in a month or two, I will be using it without thinking about it. It will still be better than the other pans I own, I just won't care as much.

And that, in short, is what drives our economy and ruins our environment. The dopamine rush from new stuff is powerful, but short lived, and also fairly addictive. We constantly need new stuff to keep the magic going, even if the old stuff still does the job.

So, three solutions. Or at least ways to reduce the tide.

First: take a stuff break. See if you can go a month without buying anything you don't need. Food, transportation, stuff you require for your job, that's all fine. Clothes, apps, almost anything you can get in a mall? Save it for next month. You might actually enjoy it after the initial shock.

Second: write down everything you buy. Start a spreadsheet with these categories: Item, price, date. You can get fancier if you want, but the important thing is to become aware of the steady flow of money out of your bank account. Even for just a few weeks, it's a valuable exercise.

Third: Buy only quality stuff. The cast-iron pan has already been around for decades and is probably good for a few more decades. Decades! My laptop is almost five years old and it gets social security checks. When you pay for quality, you tend to pay less in the long term. And make better stir fries.

View Comments

Recommended For You