I read somewhere… and my head is like a sieve, I admit… but in this article, ‘they’ spoke of saving things for a rainy day as another way of telling yourself that someday, you were going to be EVEN WORSE OFF than you are now, and you would not even be able to afford to buy yourself a new (GIZMO) for $5.00 so you mustn’t throw out said (GIZMO) that is cluttering your life now. It was a bit on the thought-provoking side. (But not so much that I can retrieve it. I know, I know…It’s lost in the clutter of my computer history somewhere.)
It struck me as very jaded, and very consumerist. Which isn’t particularly shocking, being that we live in America, the shopping capital of the universe. But with the economy the way it is, it almost felt like a little backlash against the genuine efforts that people are making, ratcheting back the acquisition of MORE MORE MORE.
Our world is such a throw-away society. Products that in my childhood would have been considered worth saving are now meant to be tossed when they break. When you step back even one generation from there, well!
A simple example: Phones. Remember phones? When they used to come from the PHONE COMPANY?? With a Cord. And a plug into the wall. And you had to sit at a chair, in the kitchen, and spin this spirograph-like thing, and your mother would holler every 5 minutes to get off the phone because she was expecting a call? And you bought a service contract for them? Oh, and one extension, upstairs, and everyone used the same number!
Now, if you even HAVE a landline, you buy the phone at Target for $20, and when the battery finally gives up the ghost, its easier to buy a new phone than find a new battery in the right size.
Your grandparents probably received a toaster, or a blender, or some other kitchen item as a wedding gift, and they probably were still using it when you came into the world. Now, the Kohl’s or the Macy’s ad comes on Sunday and waves this new, shiny, red toaster under your nose and you need it. You probably do, too. If your toaster is over 3 years old, its probably reached the end of its life; you can’t have one repaired. Designed obsolescence.
(Do you even know where there is a shoe repair shop?)
I am a consumer. But I do not think I am a ridiculous OVER-consumer. I definitely over-consume (chocolates, mostly), but when I watch people shop, my jaw hits the floor.
What do they do with their “disposable” income? Purchase disposable clothing, disposable toys, disposable electronics, disposable everything.
Clothes go in and out of style, and what really looks good on you always looks good on you…(Or not. Just because you THINK it looked good on you the first go round… Well, dig out those photos from 1986 before you do your spring clothes shopping. If your kids LAUGH at what you wore then, you may want to forego new clothes this year…)
But should you trash everything every year? Do you know I wore the same dress on Christmas this year as I did on Christmas of 2002? I wasn’t hunted down or taken away in cuffs. (I was indeed the only one who dressed up for the day anyway.) I LIKE the dress. It’s comfortable, casually dressy, not dated, and it still fits.
The color of the pillows on the settee in the foyer, the flower arrangements changed seasonally, this mise en scene, this movie set, is it really your life? Will owning everything that you see in a Pier One magazine ad make you a better person? A happier one?
Is your bath-time a better experience—(is the water warmer, or wetter, do you get to hide longer without interruption?) –because the towels are all the exact shade of sage, (not olive!) as the stripe of wallpaper, which was carefully chosen to highlight the patina on the new sconces surrounding the mirror? You have been led to believe that this, and only this, will make you happier.
But in that house with the corded phone, and limited phone privileges, the couch was probably not a perfect match in color, texture or scale to the arm chair, and the lamps may have belonged to your grandparents, and once they were brought into the house there was no longer the need to go lamp shopping.
Indeed, in that house with exactly one bathroom for a family of five, and three bedrooms the size of what today would be considered an inadequate walk-in closet in a starter home, wasn’t a family raised? (Hey, I am talking rhetorical families, ok? NOT mine. Mine was far more dysfunctional and non-nuclear and… well… And.)
Some people believe more stuff is good, therefore even more is better. In some instances, sure! I’m not about to whittle down some of my things to the bare essentials!! And there are those to whom clutter is truly a problem; I am not even willing to watch those hoarder programs…the clean sweep ones shock me badly enough.
My Aunt Gene’s kitchen counter never met an empty cottage cheese container it couldn’t house. They never threw anything away. I’m not advocating that.
There must be balance.
Anyway, some thoughts to ponder. I work retail. I don’t want you to quit shopping cold turkey!
See where this takes us in our next installment!
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