Pass on the crapstastic cheapsakes
By Cindy Hoedel
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) A clever turn of phrase is like a carnival ride. It turns your view of the world on its head and makes you squeal with delight.
Like this gem from a column by Lizz Winstead in the February/March issue of Plenty magazine: "The great family heirloom is quickly being replaced with craptastic cheapsakes."
Craptastic cheapsakes! I feel a laughing fit a la Uncle Albert in "Mary Poppins" coming on. What wonderful words to describe the huge inventories of worthless junk Americans are increasingly filling their homes with.
Much has been written about the environmental cost of non-durable "durable" goods. But Winstead, co-creator of "The Daily Show," laments a different kind of fallout from "convenience" products:
"How will all this convenience redefine the heirlooms of the future? I have the sneaking suspicion that 100 years from now, my great-great-grandchildren won't be clamoring through my attic saying, `Oh look! It's one of those vintage Air Poppers. I think I'll make a lamp out of it!'" (Read the whole column at: plentymag.com/magazine/life_in_the_green_zone_1.php.)
It's ironic that relatively affluent, dual-income households today possess fewer objects worth handing down than their Depression-era parents and grandparents. Instead of a few great things, we have tons o' junk.
Think of it this way: Ten $50 purchases from discount retailers (lamps, side tables, folding bookshelves, radio alarm clocks, papasan chairs) that nobody will want when you are gone add up to $500 you could have spent on something your kids would fight over. A goose down comforter, say, or a heavy crystal vase or a hand-crafted porch swing.
Our two teenagers tease me endlessly about buying "used stuff" rather than new. It's not to save money (although that's often a side benefit). It's because household objects made before 1980, broadly speaking, were made with higher quality materials and better craftsmanship.
If I'm going to shell out $500 for a desk, hutch and dresser for our daughter, I'd rather buy a vintage set made of real wood from a local seller on Craig's List (craigslist.org) than new particle board pieces imported from China. The former can be handed down to grandkids one day; the latter most certainly not.
The heirloom angle is constantly on my mind when I shop for anything, from a kitchen timer to a sewing kit or an area rug. I routinely ask myself: "Will my kids want this in 30 years? Will this even exist in 30 years?" Objects from antique stores and flea markets are far more likely to pass that test than new merchandise from discount retailers.
For the sake of your nearest and dearest, not to mention the future of "Antiques Roadshow," it's time to say "no" to craptastic cheapsakes.
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Cindy Hoedel is a columnist for The Kansas City Star.. Send a note by clicking here.
© 2007, The Kansas City Star. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.