Avoiding the clutter of high-maintenance purchases

I first learned about the importance of buying things that were easy to maintain years ago, when I had a vacuum cleaner with a bag that seemed next to impossible to replace. Vacuum cleaner design has improved a lot since then, but the lesson remains. Items that are hard to maintain often are unused — or if they are necessities, like my vacuum cleaner, they take time you’d rather spend elsewhere.

I learned the lesson again when I bought an inadequate shredder and spent way too much time pulling jammed paper out of the shredder with some tweezers. That shredder is now gone, replaced with one that never jams.

What qualifies as “too much maintenance” will differ from person to person. Unlike Alex, I don’t like to iron, so I avoid buying clothes or linens that require ironing. Clothes that require hand washing are items that some people will want to leave in the store. “Dry flat” might also be a problem if you don’t have a good place for doing that.

The kitchen is another place where it’s easy to wind up with high-maintenance items. For many people, anything that can’t go in the dishwasher is too much bother. (On the other hand, my kitchen doesn’t even have a dishwasher, so that’s not an issue for me.)

My book club just read a novel where one of the characters doesn’t want the bother of polishing the good silver her mother passed down to her, so she finds another family member who does want the silver.

And then there are the small appliances that sound good at first, but wear out their welcome. Kristin Wong wrote about her juicer on the Lifehacker website:

It was time-consuming to clean and maintain. (At one point, I said, “I’d rather buy juice than ever clean this thing again.”)

When choosing appliances and other items, easy-to-clean may be something you want to add to your list of criteria. For example, Christine Cyr Clisset at The Wirecutter website listed her criteria for picking a kitchen scale, which included this:

Beyond these basics, the buttons on the scale should preferably be covered in a plastic membrane (aka “seamless”), so gunk won’t collect in the cracks and you can clean the machine easily.

For those who dislike dusting, an overabundance of knickknacks might qualify as a high-maintenance item. As Toni Anderson wrote:

When I got married I had boxes full of knickknacks, a few of them I loved, but most of them I just kept because people had given them to me. It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t really want to dust these pieces on a regular basis. Over time I kept only the pieces that were truly special to me.

And then there’s the duvet cover. Mine was really lovely, but I struggled with it every time I washed it, and the instructions I found online didn’t help. I finally gave it away. Now I just place a light blanket over my king-size down comforter (and a sheet underneath it) to keep it clean, and a dreaded task is gone from my life.

What items do you find are more trouble than they’re worth? Please share in the comments!

7 Comments for “Avoiding the clutter of high-maintenance purchases”

  1. posted by laura ann on

    Agree, most my clothes are polyester (active wear) or cotton knits. Retirees earned the right to wear what they want, wrinkled clothing incl. Here’s one issue not mentioned on other blogs like this one: Bed and sofa pillows crammed on beds and sofas. 0-2 on sofas is fine not 4 – 7, etc. On bed, I use two empty pillow shams, laying them on top of bed pillows when making bed, fold at night when going to bed. pillows have to go somewhere at night, and many of us don’t have room, clutter I don’t need. Furniture stores display many bed pillows and sometimes sofa ones. Get the shams wide enough, Q beds get King ones. Full size, use Q shams. K beds may get by w/ two K shams.

  2. posted by Angela Hoxsey on

    Jeri, your writing is great! I enjoy every column more than the last one–u r on a roll!!! Very inspiring.

  3. posted by SkiptheBS on

    Anything which has to be dry cleaned is out of my life. Ditto curtains which require pressing, and anything that won’t fit in a large capacity washer. Allergies require hot water and dryer for most items, so jeans which shrink and take forever to dry are gone (sorry, fashion fascists!).

    I’ll happily maintain a vegetable garden but consider grass a waste of time and space and a weed generator.

  4. posted by ropeball on

    Agree on the duvet cover. I use a blanket or a bigger throw instead, and switching it up depending on my mood.

    I also love a good cashmere or wool sweater, but I don’t love the hand wash part of it that much. Usually I pile it all up, and wash it all, instead of 1~2 item each time. There’s a gadget that suppose to deal with all the hassle, but it is still being develop (indiegogo campaign).

  5. posted by Pat on

    I am with SkiptheBS. Even before i got to that comment, dry cleaning was the thing that sprang to my mind when I started reading the article. Not only is the expense a real problem, but the clothes are out-of-commission and unwearable for so much of the time! They are pushed to the end of the closet rod until I can get to the cleaners and then languish at the cleaners until I can pick them up. The worst are summer things that must be dry cleaned. Light colors. Perspiration. Outdoor summer activities. It’s a perfect storm!

  6. posted by Leslie on

    I love this article. I splurged on a GoPro for my son but we both found it too be too difficult to operate and the movies were a complete storage hog. I also gave away my ice cream maker as I realized going out for ice cream should be a treat and my flavors were never as creative as what I can buy at the local ice cream store. I will now give away my duvet cover which has been languishing in the linen closet as correctly laying a king sized duvet in its cover properly is really too much for a small woman.

  7. posted by Marion on

    Great article. Ditto on the duvet cover (I never understood the appeal of those!) and the dry cleaning (never understood the appeal of dry cleaning either). I also don’t have the time, energy, or desire for high maintenance kitchen gadgetry that has to be stored in a cabinet when not being used and then after use has to be disassembled and all the parts must be washed. Most of those gadgets are outlandishly expensive. It seems that people go all ga-ga over them for a while and then they are gradually forgottened because they’re too much trouble….until the next new thing comes out on the market. Also lots of potted plants I have to water are on the high maintenance list. One or two for me, please!

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