Opinion: Maintenance free

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Our first home was built in the mid-1930s. Along with it came a ton of charm and a good deal of upkeep. It turns out that 80-year-old windows, electrical infrastructure and plumbing systems can require a bit of attention. Someone once said that living in an older home is like caring for an invalid aunt – lovely and charming but sometimes a bit overwhelming. Regardless, we knew what we’d gotten into and went about the business of looking after the old house with dedication and conviction.

Our next abode was constructed decades later. While we didn’t build it, we came to own it only a few years later. With it, we expected that everything would work, without tweaking, and be largely maintenance free.

In retrospect, it is unclear whether our expectations were more naïve in believing that a pair of 20-somethings were prepared to care for a vintage home or that we, now decades older, could attend to a house, now decades younger. Yes, we discovered, even promises of low-maintenance and long warrantees can be significantly overestimated. Shingles fail and windows leak. Paint cracks and fiberboard fails. Foundations settle and driveways spall. Somehow, it seems tougher to step up and fix the problems when one might have expected a good deal more life expectancy in the materials.

Is longevity ever a reality without some maintenance? Houses, relationships, automobiles and shoes all demand attention. Even well-engineered and perfectly executed designs are vulnerable to the folly of time, exposure and use. Are expectations of maintenance-free living an unattainable fantasy that appeals to a part of us that wants things to be easy?

Maintaining the world around us is an inescapable reality. Ignoring it only allows for it to deteriorate further. And, does resenting it only allow for us to deteriorate as well?


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