Last Christmas I was in Hobby Lobby, desperately trying to find something that was:
- Blue and white to match my mother’s kitchen decor
- Either a rooster or a rooster design, also to match said kitchen
- Useful (does something more than collect dust)
As usual, I wondered just how much profit is made by items which I consider to be pure wastes of money. “Please, let it be pretty AND useful”, is my fervent prayer. As I wandered through the store, my inner committee was once again debating:
Miss Math: “Well, it HAS to be 300% or more profit, because they always have something marked down by 40%, 50% or 60%. They can’t do that all the time and stay in business.”
Mr. Grumpy: “Who the heck buys all this useless stuff anyways?”
Granted, I’m not what you would call a good home decorator or even a passable shopper. Put me in the farmer’s market, a nursery or second-hand bookstore and I can outshop Paris Hilton. (She shops, right? I have to be careful – because there are a lot of current events I’m clueless about – she looks like she spends a lot of time shopping…. and Paris, if you’re reading this, please understand I don’t personally begrudge you your lifestyle and choices – I just needed some point of reference and I thought you would be a good one…)
Back to my original story. I did find a blue and white rooster. That just sat there. Didn’t hold cream, sugar, salt, tea or recipe cards. Just sat there and collected dust. $36 for something that doesn’t do anything except cause more work.
Understand I’m on a time-crunch. Responsible people give great gifts, on time and Christmas is only days away. The rooster recipe box I wanted to order online is out of stock until sometime AFTER christmas and by then, what’s the point? I can’t show up with a gift-wrapped, printed screen capture of the item and it’s “Out of Stock” label; as a good daughter, I’m not going to make my mom wait til February to have Christmas – Trying to be good and responsible in a culture that places value on the unnecessary can create a lot of stress…
(Oh, I know what’s afoot – they just want me to spend twice what I planned on – my civic duty in keeping our economy going…buy something now and then buy what I really wanted later. Two prices paid for one goal.)
It’s not that I’m against Christmas. I just think we need to restructure it some. I tried to talk my family into getting together, sharing a meal and spending the day together. And then taking the money we would have spent on each other and gift wrap and going shopping at the after-holiday, before inventory counting sales instead. That way, everyone gets what they really want/need, at a good price, there’s no hurt feelings when someone finds out you either exchanged what you got, or heaven forbid, the ‘perfect gift’ you found Uncle Tom is produced as the white elephant gift next year…..
It would solve a lot of problems, plus, it would give me back what I love about the holidays the most – food, laughter, family stories and the chance to be together, having fun. I have been unsuccessful so far, but I’m thinking economic troubles may add credence to my plan…
Sorry – back, again, to the story –
In my wanderings around what has become more of a home decorating emporium and less a place for crafters, I saw a beautiful large bound book covered with maps and old time ships. Aha! Perfect for my brother. And it’s on the sale rack. I pick it up and about throw it through the roof. Quite a bit lighter than I expected. Turns out it’s made of material just a shade heavier than poster board. I turn it over to peek at the price tag. I’m sure you won’t believe me (I hardly believed it) but here’s what it said:$40.00 Made In China
If they marked it down to 99% off, I might have been tempted to purchase. I mean it did have cool graphics. As it was, there was no way it was worth $40, $20 (sale price) or even $5, at least not to me. If something has been invented to clean the dust off of poster board that doesn’t stain or ruin it, I’m not aware of it. And yet, here sits a poster board fake book, at the unbelievable sales price of $20.
I could get a real book about ships at my local bookstore for that.
In an instant, I could see the business lunch where it all began played out before my mind’s eye:
Foreign CEO1 – “See? It’s perfect. Not only are they raised to expect a higher standard of living, but they are convinced that to have a ‘nice home’ you must decorate it. Extensively. And you should re-decorate every season or so. And put out extra decorations for holidays. And in their culture, it’s a sign of prosperity and abundance if you have lots of expensive useless things sitting around, waiting to be dusted. If we make them out of posterboard or lightweight ceramics, they will deteriorate or break easily – so they’ll have to be replaced often. We will make a fortune!”
Foreign CEO2 – “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this opportunity. What do you think?”
US Politician (who owns controlling stock in an advertising agency and a popular magazine on Lifestyle): “Wellll, it will take some groundwork, but I’m sure we can convince people they really need these things. If we make regulations and taxes stiff enough at home, they’ll have to be manufactured abroad. Yes, I think we can make it happen.”
Okay, I’ll admit, that’s probably not the way it really all came about. But I couldn’t get that picture out of my mind.
I left without purchasing a single thing.
Back in the car, I monologued to my husband my disappointment in a craft store becoming a home decor store, the ever increasing space given to over-priced, non-locally produced junk, which just proves how many people buy this @#!$ because if no one was buying, they wouldn’t keep stocking more of it. I ranted on about this being an example of why things in this country are going to you-know-where in a handbasket.
This was all received with eye-rolling and the ever-patient commentary, “Why do you let these things upset you?”
Bless his heart for sticking with me and my soapbox.
(Bless mine for not pounding his head with a baseball bat while yelling, “This kind of obliviousness is WHY we’re in a mess….”)
But that epiphany changed me. I really got, at a deep cellular level, how much of the idealized American way of life is steeped in the constant consumption of the non-necessities. Of how our culture of prosperity is, at it’s roots, the accumulation of the not needed.
I’ve put off doing ‘home decorating’ most of my adult life, for the simple fact that my early attempts proved it’s not one of my natural talents, as well as the fact that while I enjoy pleasant surroundings, I’ve always thought non-utilitarian goods were way overpriced.
Once married, it got delayed even further, given I’m a native-american-cowboy-wildlife-wood fan and Hubby is a rock-n-roll-technology-black-and-chrome fan. A visit to our house will show you the initial blending of our two households with very few changes. AC/DC and Chris LeDoux in concert together, if you will… I’m not willing to dust a lot of black household items and not selfish enough to just do it all the way I want it.
But I’m ready now. I’m going to decorate my house in plants. The only additional furniture I need buy is perhaps some more shelving units. Quick, easy, multi-purpose and available from local suppliers.
I can grow the colorful, the edible and the healing. I can benefit from their air cleaning abilities and they get the benefits of turning from an annual into a perennial.
I can pretend I’m sleeping in nature without enduring the discomforts of no toilet, bear attacks or exposure. They get to live where they needn’t overcome the trauma of hail damage.
And if it’s really successful, I’m going to start dressing with plants too. (I think I can weave a mini-skirt out of the potato stalks dead via hail stones….)
If I’m lucky and perform my activities correctly, I shall always have new plants or seeds to replace those who live out their cycle and return to dirt. I needn’t worry whether they are in style, have re-sale value or need to be upgraded in 6 months or so. Dusting them is worthwhile because it’s Health Care and Maintenance, not a useless activity designed to make something look good.
I’ll be closer and more aware of the cycle of life and maybe not so overwhelmed with shock when something dies.
Yup, I’m thinking living in a green house is just the thing to do.
If I find a plant that comes in black and functions as a wireless router, I’m sure Hubby will be on board with my plan too…