The More Domestic I Get, the More I Value the Old.

It’s 19 degrees Farenheit as I write this post here in Portland, with wind blowing dry snow perfectly horizontal.  At times, it blows past my office window so sideways I get vertigo.

Our house is old and has no insulation, just some new siding and a thin layer of Tyvek.  As stately new houses replace the little old ones in our neighborhood, a thin streak of envy nags at me:  no chipped paint or layers of wall paper, no floors so humped you kind of have to step up over the middle of our office, just smooth and sturdy newness.

But then, today, when gusts of wind tip over full debris bins taken out to the curb, and I realize this house’s old bones are keeping me snug and warm, gratitude and apology replace my envy.

The more domestic I get, the more I value the old.  I don’t mean the old that’s cool again, like apple-red manual typewriters or anything Mad-Men-esque. I mean old: functional, practical, a color that matches-nothing-modern old.

Like my food processor, it’s brown and orange colors and three-button simplicity won me over, even though I’d craved a professional stainless steel one. (You can see an illustration of it and read my love story about Spike here.)

As much as I (used to?) want things in my home to match, to look modern, to express today rather than a mishmash of forty yesteryears, sometimes old is better.  It’s simpler.  It’s fixable. It’s reliable.

Although even when old requires more elbow grease, I find myself preferring it over new.  Yesterday, for example.  I visited my parents, and my mom made vegan waffles using a recipe from Scatter Vegan Sweets, but things didn’t go so well.

“My grandma gave me this waffle iron for our wedding,” my mom tells me as I use a fork and a lot of muscle to scrape off a waffle completely adhered to the top part of the iron.  “They didn’t make non-stick coating in those days,” she explains, both of us pausing to calculate, and one of us saying aloud, “…over 53 years ago.”

Do I have anything that old in my kitchen?  Would anything purchased today last fifty-three years?  I guess waffle irons don’t get used every day, but still:  five decades?

Vegan Waffle Cereal

The waffle crumbs and pieces that I scraped mixed with some blueberries and a small pour of maple syrup made an incredible waffle cereal–way more fun than a plain, flat waffle.

After breakfast, I admired my mom’s smooth hands as she cleaned the iron, polishing its metal exterior, carefully scraping off a stubborn spot, her wedding ring bands thin as embroidery floss, fifty-three years of married life outliving even gold.

We talked briefly about getting her a modern waffle iron, but I could tell neither of our hearts were in it.

Kind of like in my last post where I realized why I ought to embrace my inner Chummy and give up, once and for all, my infernal efforts toward being something I’m not, I’m realizing that not only is my home never going to look like homes in Pinterest or IKEA catalogs, I may not actually want it to.

Just as I might be more Chummy than Chic, I think my home is more Molly Weasley than Domestic Goddess, and most exciting, in accepting this, I’m starting to see how lovely old and mismatched can be.

Notice the chairs don’t match. Also, while searching for this image, I found a picture of a modern kitchen made to look like the Weasley’s but new, expensive, and totally missing the point.

How old is your oldest kitchen appliance?  Why have you kept it?  How often do you use it?

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About TRISTA

I write and illustrate stationery, cards, customized snail mail (yes, you can receive handwritten and illustrated letters in your mail!!), coloring books, and more. My business name is "Carrot Condo." After teaching English for 15 years (gasp!), I am now a full-time parent and part-time artist slowly, but steadily, building a creative business and life. You can read more at carrotcondo.com or see my products at etsy.com/shop/CarrotCondo. Thanks for your interest and support!!
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6 Responses to The More Domestic I Get, the More I Value the Old.

  1. Laura says:

    My kitchen is all old – but my favorite appliance is still my old school coffee maker! I think it makes the best coffee – even better than my Tassimo!

    • TRISTA says:

      Ha! I have a tiny, white, Gevalia** coffee pot stored in the garage that I’ve not been able to give up for sentimental reasons because it’s comforted me through many life challenges since college. Last week, I pulled it out of the garage to use for a few days–works just perfectly, and it’s sounds bring back memories that are sweet now that they are past. (**Does anyone remember Gevalia? Order a pound of coffee and get a free coffee pot. Turns out to have been quite a deal!)

  2. Carolyn says:

    I can really relate to this post. I have an old brown blender. It works fine but, well, after reading too many home decorating magazines, I thought it was ugly. I bought a new one from the same company. It was such a disappointment. After getting it home and putting it together, I could see places all over where they had shaved a little here and there to cut production costs: the blades are smaller, the gasket is thinner, the lid doesn’t fit as well… and guess what? It doesn’t work as well. Now my old brown one is back on the counter faithfully serving me again. The new one is in the cupboard as a reminder that aesthetics aren’t everything.

    • TRISTA says:

      Carolyn–EXACTLY!!!! That’s what it seems like to me, too: places all over where they shaved a little here and there to cut costs. And I think I know the exact type of brown your blender is. I have a handed down olive green one with a faux silver panel that covers the buttons and shakes off when the blender runs, and a newer white one handed down from a friend that we like so much we named it Chester (friends with Spike the food processor, errr, I mean, wizard).

  3. Rose L. says:

    My old appliances we started off with when wed in 1976 have all passed on (as well as dear hubby). But most lasted far longer than the newbies do nowadays. Things were built to last back then. And it is funny how peoples styles change–stainless steel appliances were really big but many I know who had got them now wish they had not. They now crave black or white appliances!

    • tristac says:

      Yes! Our oven/stove will eventually need to be replaced, and when we did a little shopping to figure out options and costs, I was stunned to learn that “plain, old white” costs MORE than stainless steel, which we really don’t want for our old-fashioned kitchen. Sigh…

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