The Hidden Cost of Things


I was just starting out at a showroom where I first sold oriental rugs and carpets, one of my coworkers made the offhand comment: “The poor man pays for everything twice."

Even though she wasn't trying to be hurtful, her comment floored me. It felt like an elitist joke. I looked down at my tattered shoes. Up until that point in my life, I refused to pay top dollar for trendy shoes. I would wear, replace, and repeat. I did some quick math: instead of buying one or two pairs of shoes I really loved, I’d been paying for new shoes every six months, for years. Add in multiple trips to the store and a substantial psychic toll (after all, I never really loved any specific pair): I was paying more than twice.

The cost of things is tallied with money. It can also be tallied with effort, time, energy, and satisfaction.

Then there’s the cost to the environment. When the planet started warming in earnest, I started to think about where my disposable shoes ended up—and how often. The guilt ate at me—and changed my behavior (I buy much nicer shoes now). Being environmentally conscious is a lesson taught to kids and reinforced annually on Earth Day, but what does it really amount to? After all, almost everyone still consumes in droves.  

The fact is, we live in a fickle, disposable world; things are manufactured with an intentionally short lifespan, so that we’ll buy more—and more often. Ironically, we humans are now finally capable of ensuring unbreakability in the things we make. Armed with that knowledge, we choose instead to take a more short-sighted path.

So why not do that responsibly? Karim Rashid, a designer I love, suggests making cell phones out of cardboard, or another disposable, easily recyclable material. Brilliant. But the problem of fickle consumption is so massive, we’ll need more than one way to change it. 

This all leads me back to rugs. It’s part of the reason we started Swoon Rugs. When you buy a trendy rug, you can pick something easily recyclable, like a cotton dhurrie. When you invest in a wool powerloomed or hand-knotted rug, you know it is made to last. As with shoes, instead of eight disposable rugs in a lifetime, you can enjoy one forever. And if you do grow bored of it, it’s still in great shape to be resold and placed beautifully in someone else’s home.

Behavior is tough to change, but change is possible. And it can start here. Wouldn't life be better if we replaced the numerous poorly functioning things in our lives with fewer high quality pieces? I invite you to buy rugs! Seriously, buy a great rugold or newthat makes you swoon, so you’ll have it for years. Know you’re treating the planet as well as you’re treating yourself. Andas with the shoes I now invest in and adoreI promise you will never look back.