Citizen Consumer

You are currently browsing the archive for the Citizen Consumer category.


If only replacing a fridge was as simple as contact paper (see 2:59)

Last week as I was making dinner I heard an ominous sound coming from our 15 year old fridge; it was of a different tenor than we are accustomed to since moving into our home. As dinner continued, a burning smell rose from some unseen place. It was a less than appetizing aroma, and gave my husband pause as he came home from work. He was careful not to mention it, just in case it was the workings of some exotic stir fry spice I was concocting. When I finally mentioned it we soon discovered that the fridge compressor was overheating, after a bit of troubleshooting we realized we had to either replace the part or replace the whole thing. As we lived without a fridge for a few days I couldn’t help but mull over how these easily forgotten, commonplace things, are so integral to how we function; not only do these appliances become essential, but their eventual malfunction or obsolescence keep us beholden to the companies that have come to create our way of life.

“As we lived without a fridge for a few days I couldn’t help but mull over how these easily forgotten, commonplace things, are so integral to how we function; not only do these appliances become essential, but their eventual malfunction or obsolescence keep us beholden to the companies that have come to create our way of life.”

My first thought was that the right thing to do would be to try to fix the compressor, it would potentially use less waste and keep an otherwise functional hunk of metal and plastic out of the landfill. However, it is Frigidaire, one of the least expensive refrigerators on the market, so replacing it is more economical and stress free in the long run, and it is highly likely that we would end up investing more in the repairs than the cost of replacement. It is a product made for limited durability and adaptability;  to eventually become either obsolete or no longer functional. The manufactures hope that by the end of the product’s life you will have enjoyed it enough to buy a replacement by them. Which we are doing because it is inexpensive and a marginal investment which will probably last us through a decade. I have become cynical about durability and innate product value. Should we have bought a fridge that was double the price? On the hope that it would last twice as long? I’m not confident enough in appliances to think that cost equals long-term durability anymore, and that instead cost in appliances equals more features, greater efficiency and perhaps prestige.

It is the most common things that become easy to forget about, and yet, are so essential to our way of life, for better or worse. Our life has been kind of chaotic while we’ve been waiting for a new fridge to be delivered, we haven’t been eating well and the malfunctioning seems to have created a domino effect of disorder through the house. Now that we have the fridge I feel like I’m finally able to put things back together. The upside to the new fridge is having a clean slate and being able to start from scratch with the food we keep. We had to throw out or compost most of the food we had in there, but luckily I hadn’t gone grocery shopping for the week, so there wasn’t much lost. What I found is that most of what we had in there we didn’t use anyway. Sometimes I think there is comfort in looking in a fridge and seeing it full of food. Looking at the minimal fridge contents now, I feel clarity going into meal planning this week and I want to keep our fridge sparse and properly stocked and clean.

 

For a brief moment I tried to think of life without this imposing machine in my world. How would we live? Would our lives be better? Would I eat only fresh food? It very well could be better. I imagined with this clean slate of a fridge trying to very slowly ween us off of using a fridge and in ten years when this fridge eventually breaks maybe we could be at the point where we have made it obsolete through our lifestyle rather than continuing the cycle of dependence. But maybe that is short-sighted. Maybe the solution to the problem of consistent major appliance failure is asking for a different sort of future for these machines that are integral to our life. A future where machines are easy to fix, where the highest efficiency is the norm, design is paramount while maintaining accessibility and affordability. Maybe one day, meanwhile I’ll continue using this new version of an ole’ icebox.

How would your ideal refrigerator look? Could you live without a fridge? What would your kitchen look like without it?