Category Archives: consumer culture

The Myriad Benefits of Hoarding Junk

DAILY PROMPT
Embrace the Ick
Think of something that truly repulses you. Hold that thought until your skin squirms. Now, write a glowing puff piece about its amazing merits.

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The house was as neat as a pin. Old saying – start over. Let’s say it was zen-like minimalist: sparse, clean, functional. Boring, boring, boring.

Give me a good old hoarder anyday. Ah, the stacks of stuff, the labyrinthine pathways, the decaying paper, plastic, clothing, food stuff, and graveyard of small and large household appliances. What excitement, what purpose!

The hoarder is at the forefront of a strong economy. He buys far more than he can possibly ever use, thereby stimulating us out of recessions. Why buy one shirt when you can buy ten? Especially when you encounter The Sale of a Lifetime. (By the way, these sales happen every other weekend.) If the shoe doesn’t fit, buy it.

The hoarder runs a junkyard business out of her home that could, again, boost the economy. I should say a potential business since she would never actually sell any of her great stuff. Broken coffee pot, it’s there if you can find it. One thousand bobby pins, slightly rusty, got it, right under the kitchen sink. Newspapers* from every day of the year 1966 moldering in the basement.

The hoarder is also the ultimate recycler. We can all learn valuable lessons from him or her. Given enough time, the home becomes a virtual compost heap. The house and its contents will revert back to nature as it decomposes bit by decaying bit.

How many famous dead people alone reside in all those heaps of dust in a hoarder’s home? A little Shakespeare here, a little Gandhi there. A shrine, a veritable shrine. Praise be the hoarding instinct.

*News stories printed in ink on large sheets of paper that were printed each day and distributed daily to homes, businesses, and to a sort of coin-operated vending machine.

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The Butterfly Effect: Wings, Blades, Eyelashes

Layman books on physics litter a portion of my bookshelf. I’ve read some of them and do remember the butterfly effect. A butterfly in Africa flutters its wings and a hurricane develops near the Florida coast. The innocuous becomes the monumental.

If the delicate wing of a butterfly alters events so dramatically, what about windmills? While windmills create a more benign form of energy, they may also alter events on this planet.

Machines and humans live symbiotically. Separation may no longer be possible. Machines keep increasing farm yields to keep both the weak and strong alive. Computers run commerce, governments, medical, and artistic endeavors. Travel, the worldwide version we crave, requires machines that consume vast amounts of energy. Small-tech devices meld with our bodies.

Over 7 billion pairs of human eyelashes flutter today. Nature tries to cull our ranks with bacterias and viruses and we fight back.

The human/machine creatures root for a clean, healthy planet. To maintain both is irrational. At some point, something must be sacrificed.

 

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Non-Scents Rant

I hate this smelly world. I’m not talking about the smell of roses or the cooking smells of a tasty meal. I hate the artificial smells that offend my nose just about everywhere I go.

Years ago, the stores sold a few cans of Lysol, and a handful of Glade solid air fresheners that shrivelled up to an ugly glob when left out too long.

Now stores stock more and more aerosol air fresheners, scented candles, and liquid scents on their shelves. These artificial smells are bent on “improving” the smells of our world. But instead they create a worse stink.

These smells invade other products. I accidentally bought laundry soap that had an intense, cloying scent to it. The clothes stunk when I hung them in the closet, and they kept on smelling when I wore them. I couldn’t stand it anymore so I gave the soap away to someone that used it. I could tell because they always smelled like this stinky product.

I try to buy unscented, less artificial products. Often when I scan the ingredients, perfume is on the list of unscented, dermatologist-approved products. Trying to escape the ingredients that sound like something cooked up in a chemical laboratory is nearly impossible to do.

If anything, exercise should improve my health. I take a class at a place that stocks perfumed lotions and body sprays on their bathroom counter. Notice to the women that spray on Victoria’s Secret Sexy body spray: you don’t smell like “vanilla, orchid, sun-drenched clementine and midnight blackberry” (whatever that is). You smell like a hazardous-chemical spill. I’d rather smell your sweaty selves when you exercise than this concoction. I love real vanilla in my cookies, not the faux vanilla on your body.

While I’m at it, don’t do me a favor by cleaning my exercise mat with a Lysol wipe. It makes my eyes water and burn. I’m rather live with the germs than this anti-bacterial weaponry.

I refuse to cover up cooking smells in my house with the phony smell of a lab-created air freshener made of raspberry/pomegranate/dioctyl dimethyl ammonium chloride. I’ll keep the fish smell over this mixture.

A note to the product development people: you have reached the saturation point of freshening our air with your smelly products. Now you are just adding to the air pollution. 

End of rant. Thank you for listening.

Junk Around the House

Daily Prompt: Clean House
Is there “junk” in your life? What kind? How do you get rid of it?

The junk in my life has few places to hide. I set forth on junk-finding and purging missions constantly. The more stuff I have, the more I feel it controls me somehow. A crowded house is a crowded mind and heart in my viewpoint. I edit at every turn.

The ways I eliminate junk:

Donate
I make a short trip to my local Salvation Army drop off center to donate usable stuff I don’t want. The Vietnam Veterans or Purple Heart trucks also frequently pick up donations in my neighborhood.

Repurpose
I use worn out cotton t-shirts or towels for cleaning rags. I’ve sewn tote bags from old but still useable fabric. Old sheets or shower curtains make a great floor covering during cleaning or painting. That old shower curtain protects the trunk of my car during flower and vegetable planting season.

Throw Out
My city recycling center gets some of the junk. The rest gets thrown out for the garbage men to pick up. Even the trash on the curb attracts garbage pickers that I guess repurpose the junk or try to sell the metal parts off of it.

Sell
The few garage sales I’ve taken part in never seem to make it worthwhile for me. Maybe I can’t talk up the value of the junk on display. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to make my living as a salesman. Although I’ve sold a few things on Craigslist. When all else fails, a posting for anything free on Craigslist is extremely effective. From an ancient 300 pound TV; hundreds of pounds of dead mother-in-law fabric; a pile of rocks, yes, there is a person out there willing to come by and pick up just about anything for free.

Stop Buying Crap
When cute stuff on the store shelves speak to me (like the TV commercials imply they do), I think twice about buying it. Usually that speaking object stays in the store for another consumer. When objects speak, I ask myself: Do I want it, do I need it, and where will I put it? That last question usually kills the desire to buy since I can’t stand the thought of clutter.

Growing up, my mother’s house was an unorganized mess. She never put anything away, in fact nothing had a place of its own. Once she used a pair of scissors, roll of tape, whatever, it got tossed someplace indiscriminately and could not be found the next time she needed it. At that point, the house got torn apart, more disorder, and I was often blamed for losing her stuff. I equate junk in my life as junk from my past that I don’t want to get buried in.

Clearing out junk and, more importantly, never bringing junk into the house, liberates me. I feel more peaceful and happy. The Asian Feng Shui idea suits me better than the one-who-dies-with-the-most-toys-wins idea.

With people like me, the economy will never take off again. Consume less, enjoy life more. Not a catchy slogan for a TV commercial.

A Skewed Bird’s-Eye View

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The concern environmental activists have for planet earth illustrates the egocentricity of human nature.

Earth is special. We are made in the image of God. We must settle on other planets just in case our kind cease to exist here. Human life must continue somewhere, somehow. This is so important since the universe must still revolve around the earth.

If we poison our planet and life dies out, the earth will still go on. It may develop new life forms despite the destruction. If we blow up the planet, there are other planets out there.

If a soul exists, it will merge with the spiritual creator and all will be good. If no soul exists, each particle is still in communion with the whole and all will be good. If none of this is good in our eyes, new cycles and patterns will keep going no matter what we think or want.

I recycle and think it is wrong to be wasteful. But I doubt that recycling will save the planet. Every time I deposit my paper, plastic, glass, or metal in the proper recycling bin, I wonder if the energy and resources needed to reuse this material is, on final tally, worth the process. The best remedy is not to use it in the first place.

Moving backwards, against the tide of progress, may prove impossible. Once you bite the apple, there is no turning back. Until the finite resources are used up and no new ones materialize, people will not willingly stop doing what they do.

A undiscovered source of energy may be out there that can replace oil, coal, and other nasty stuff we depend on today. But most likely it will come with its own demons; knowledge doesn’t come free and clear.

If wind power becomes the only energy source available to keep our cellphones alive, or keep our cars humming, even PETA will look the other way when windmills chop up free-flying birds. Our survival and our desires trump virtue. It’s not easy being green.

My Dead Mother-in-Law Got Me Hooked on Craigslist

If American business relied on Americans buying things that they truly needed, American business would be out of business.

When my mother-in-law died, she left a house full of fabric. It was in the attic, it was in the basement, it was in each bedroom. My unscientific guess (by weighing a few containers) was that she left about 6,000 pounds of sewing fabric. She didn’t sew that much or create crafts. She bought the pretty, bright colored fabric when it went on sale only because it was on sale and the colored patterns caught her eye.

I’m sure fabric stores rely on people like my mother-in-law to keep them afloat. If people only bought what they needed, that would mean 5,995 pounds less fabric for this one woman alone.

Just a small sample of the fabric

Just a small sample of the fabric

And she was not alone. Two weeks after she died, the wife of my manager’s neighbor died. She left a houseful of fabric . . . and 15 sewing machines.

An ad on Craigslist helped us get rid of our fabric. One woman came by after most of it had been snatched up for free by many people. She complained that the fabric smelled musty. Well, it was stored in plastic containers for, in some cases, decades. What did she want for free? Right after coming to our place, she was heading off to another house filled with fabric left by another deceased elderly lady.

Before she left, she still grabbed a good amount of our musty fabric and told us she had buckets and buckets full at home. Note: big fabric giveaway going on at her house after her death. What goes around, comes around.

Virtually every house hunter reality show on television has that woman that complains about the small closets in a house. She says, “That closet will only fit my clothes, my husband is on his own.” Or, “That closet will only fit my shoes.” The older houses have minuscule storage space and that same women is shocked to think about how few things people must have owned back then. Huge shoe collection? Not a thing in the past.

Maybe buying stuff gives people a high. Maybe they keep so much stuff because it might be useful someday. Unfortunately, by the time they need that item, it is lost in the other old junk they saved or new stuff they bought.

I blame ubiquitous advertisements. Can anyone get through the day without an ad overload? Everything we look at or listen to sends us an ad for some product or service. One reason I don’t own an e-reader is because of the ads that pop up on them. Sure you can pay more and not get ads, but I’m sure that someday the ads will still come, outright or in a subliminal manner. My computer is probably sending subliminal ads to me at this moment. Paranoia is a land I’m well acquainted with.

Government, along with business, encourages us to keep mindlessly buying. Buying stuff is good for the economy (and not saving is bad for the economy – go figure).

Both rich and poor overbuy. The less wealthy buy cheaper stuff (i.e., 6,000 pounds of fabric) and the wealthy can buy enough expensive clothes to fill a 1,000 square foot home or more. If we lived a dozen lifetimes, we couldn’t wear out so many clothes or sew with so much fabric.

I’m ready to cross my cultural references and throw my shoe at the TV next time someone complains about a “small” 2,000 square foot house with kitchen countertops that are “not granite.”  Then I’ll be in the market for a new TV. I’m part of the problem.