How to make our stuff last longer


When we see the hoard of old stuff we’ve accumulated during Chinese New Year spring cleaning, it makes us think, can we do things in a more eco-friendly way?

The first obvious step is to buy less stuff, to simplify our lives by not piling up clutter.

Another option is to make what we have last longer, so that, once again, we spend less money on new things and lower our impact on the environment.

Here are more tips from the Green Living group of the Malaysian Nature Society to lengthen the lifespan of our stuff.

1. Toys

– The fewer toys a child has, the better he or she is able to care for them. Buy only the best quality toys available and rotate toys regularly (e.g. store a box away in your closet, ensure child has no more than 30 toys to play with at each given week and switch the toys around when he/she is tired of the existing ones).

– Create an incentive system to encourage your child or teen to part with his/her old toys. Have him/her clean up and repair/restore old toys and locate missing pieces and parts.

– Put the toys up for sale via social media, online forums or a yard sale. Your child/teen gets to keep an agreed percentage of the proceeds of sale. This will motivate him/her to keep toys in good condition and ensure parts and pieces do not go missing.

– Unsold items can be donated to charitable organisations. Too often, toys donated to charity are broken, dirty, torn or incomplete.

2. Backpacks, handbags and bags

Use protective spray (from the shoe shop) to protect your leather bags. – Filepic

– Try to keep backpacks and bags dry and out of the rain. Use leather protector spray (from the shoe shop) to protect handbags, briefcases and leather bags.

– Clean your hands before rummaging in your bags. The fewer cleaning products you use on your bags, the longer they will last.

– Don’t put your bags on the floor. Keep them clean and away from hot, wet, dirty or rough surfaces.

– Don’t leave bags in hot cars, as fabrics and fibres break down more rapidly when exposed to heat. This is especially so for the plastic and non-woven cloth shopping carrier bags. Keep reusable shopping bags in the trunk, glove compartment or under the car seat instead, or better still, at home by the door, ready for your next grocery shopping trip.

3. Mattresses and pillows

– The main reason mattresses and pillows are ‘donated’ is because they are stained, wet or damaged. This is impolite and insensitive. If you are not willing to sleep on such a mattress anymore, chances are, homeless folks and residents of welfare homes are not, either.

– Donate only items that are still usable but not suitable for your purposes anymore, for example, it is the wrong size for your new bedframe. Stained, wet and damaged mattresses belong in a landfill. As such, try to keep your mattresses out of landfills by taking better care of them.

Flip and rotate your mattresses periodically to help them retain their shape longer. – Filepic

– Do not jump or stand on mattresses as this will put unnecessary strain on them. Do not put heavy items, e.g. packed suitcases, on mattresses either. Avoid sitting on the edges of spring mattresses.

– Each time you change the bedsheets, flip the mattress over and/or rotate it 180 degrees so that you sleep on all sides. This will help it retain its shape longer.

4. Electrical Appliances

– Unplug your refrigerator and clean the compressor coils at least once a year to keep it running efficiently. Same goes for fans and air-conditioning units. Regular cleaning will help them run more efficiently and prevent breakdowns. As a general rule, wipe down all appliances after use to prevent dirt, dust and pet hair from clogging up vents and moving parts.

– Microwave ovens can last around 10 years, given proper care. Clean out your microwave after use before the grease and food bits solidify and harden, which will increase the risk of sparking, which can seriously damage your microwave oven.

– Heat up a bowl of water with a slice of lemon or lime in it in your microwave until the water boils. The steam will loosen the grease and food particles and make your microwave oven easier to clean.

– Read your appliance manual and warranty documents to find out the proper way to care for and service your appliances.


Wong Ee Lynn coordinates the Green Living Special Interest Group as a volunteer of the Malaysian Nature Society. More tips will be published in the coming weeks. You can contact her at or

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