Our home and septic system is 24 years old. The system was sized for a family of four. Our kids have moved on, so the usage is about 1/2. We recently had the drain field replaced because the original failed. It wouldn't "percolate" out the liquids. Luckily the drain field vent pipe is lower than our basement floor. I knew the system had problems when we had liquid coming out of the vent pipe (thank God not out of the basement floor drain). Problems are not uncommon for a drain field this old, no matter how careful you are. We had the drain field and tank brought up to current code. Luckily we have sugar sand and not clay soil, so good drainage is possible. The new field is next to the old one and the old one is still intact. Our septic guy put in a diverter valve and said that after a few years rest we could reuse the original drain field; it would rejuvenate. We can't legally not run our grey water through the septic system. A cake of brewer's yeast each month, down the toilet, is good insurance to keep the bacteria happy. By law, we have to have the tank pumped out and certified every three years; I feel that gave our old system the lifespan that it had. I would also test various brands of toilet tissue to see which dissolve easiest in water. Some of that stuff is darn near waterproof. Try not to flush Kleenex down the toilet (definitly no feminine hygiene products). We do have an electric garbage disposer, but only use it for the inevitable bits and pieces left in the sink. Disposers aren't recommended for septic systems, but we compost and are very careful about what little gets ground up.