The Marketplace of Ideas

I like to think of myself as fairly easy-going, but I don’t cope well with garage sales.

Over the years, I’ve prowled my share and even found a treasure or two, like these mint condition Woolenius tiles manufactured in Berkeley in the early 1900s. But artifacts of the Arts and Crafts movement are hard to come by, and the thought of hours spent pawing through plastic soap dishes and mismatched cutlery no longer appeals. People with growing children in need of clothing or toys, inveterate readers, Ebay resellers or folks with truly limited income no doubt have a different perspective.  But I’m not a shopper, and I’m trying to simplify my life.  In my world,  garage sales rarely meet real needs. They provide little more than a few hours of distraction and an indiscriminate pile of “stuff”  to be hauled home and squirreled away before being “repurposed” by sending it off to Goodwill.

Unfortunately, my mother adored this ritual of getting and spending we call garage sales and she could lay waste to any number of Saturdays nosing around the tables. She enjoyed the social aspect – the banter, the haggling, the sense of unspoken competition for “real bargains” – as well as the feeling of possibility, the hope instilled in every Antiques Roadshow enthusiast that the next $50,000 etching might be buried under that hand mirror with the broken frame. Given the chance, she would have foraged through the neighborhoods every weekend. But since I did the driving, she knew better than to press her luck and eventually we came to an agreement.  She didn’t whine to go out on a weekly basis, and I didn’t gripe when we did.

The last time I took her to the huge island-wide garage sale in Clear Lake Shores, a small village not far from our homes, she spent nearly four hours digging through piles of detritus like a dog on a good scent. I sat around petting assorted four-legged dogs and cats, watched nesting night herons, listened to people griping about night herons, and thought it all over.

The truth is we’re suckers for apparent bargains.  We don’t need that cactus cookie jar with the 10-gallon hat for a lid. We don’t need the beer bottle dryer, the ceramic owl pot-holder-holder, or the box full of old-fashioned metal ice trays, but there they sit, and we bite.  We convince ourselves we’ll find a use for it, or that it will make a lovely gift.  When the cost is so low (Three snakeskin belts! Only a dollar!) we can’t help ourselves.  They’re selling, and we’re going to buy.

A couple of years ago it occurred to me that the American marketplace of ideas has devolved into precisely this – an intellectual garage sale, a psychological close-out, a swap meet where the illogical meet the uninformed. Nothing has changed my opinion. No matter which neighborhood you roam, authors, commentators, neighbors, journalists, family members, politicians and self-appointed experts are ready to do business.

Spreading out their wares on kitchen tables and internet sawhorses, they grin like fools and say, “Make me an offer.” They’ve got it all: worn-out attitudes, mismatched perspectives, kitschy opinions and old-fashioned prejudice ready to be recycled and promoted as the latest thing. We may not need their intellectual trinkets, but when they’re spread out in front of us with the seller starting cheap and ready to dicker, it can be tempting to pick up a second-hand opinion or two.

Over the years, as I began absorbing the wisdom of William Morris’ words – “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” – I became less enamored of the impulse buy. Beauty is one thing – I do love my tiles! – but usefulness is quite another. Standing next to that cute ceramic goose or the pie plate with the bluebonnet decal, I sometimes asked my mother and often asked myself,  “Do you need this?”  “Do I need this?”  “Do we need this?”  “Do we know someone -anyone – who needs this?”

Today, my usual answer is, “No. I don’t need that.”  Unless I’ve recently thought, “Gracious!  If only I had a beer-bottle dryer!” there’s no reason to pick one up simply because it’s cheap. The same is true at the various venues currently passing for the marketplace of ideas. “Sorry,” I say. “I’m not buying.  I’ll be happy to hear your judgments, your opinions, your attitudes and perspectives, but I’m not going to purchase them whole and on impulse.  I’ll make do with what I have, thank you very much.”

It’s not that I don’t need to make changes to my mental décor now and then.  I understand that attitudes can benefit by evaluation and revision. Old biases sometimes need to be replaced, and I’m not averse to adopting new ideas or a different perspective.  But before I buy, I need to know what I want, and be certain of what I need.  Especially in the marketplace of ideas, I want to have the freedom to examine my purchase. I want to know I’m getting quality, not second-hand junk.  I may pay more initially, but it won’t cost nearly so much in the end.

Written when my mother still was alive and now revised, this post is one of my favorites. It evokes some memories, and its larger point still applies. To leave a comment or respond, just click below. And please – no Reblogging. Thanks!

88 thoughts on “The Marketplace of Ideas

  1. What a nice post and tribute to your mother. William Morris and the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau Movement are amazing testaments to excellence in arts. I enjoyed your post. Z

    1. zeebradesigns,

      You may have noticed my avatar and other decorative bits here are from Mucha’s work. When I began the blog, I placed his “Poetry” at the top of each entry, but then decided it wasn’t smart to use the same image each time. Now and then I’ve thought I should use my photo as an avatar, but I like what I have so much, I can’t bring myself to give her up. So I don’t.

      Excellence is the word, isn’t it? We have too little of it these days – I’m happy to point people toward its exemplars whenever I can.

      So glad you enjoyed the post!


  2. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”

    I totally agree with your sound judgement about abstaining from buying stuff just because it’s cheap or cute. Physical things as well as intangibles can be chintzy and useless as you correctly stated in your blog post. Recently my wife uncluttered several of our bedroom closets and found piles of stuff we had accumulated over the years which had no functional use. They had been “squirreled” into those crowded spaces, just because they were a good deal or could be used in the future. We forgot about them immediately and kept on buying more unnecessary stuff.

    As we age, we are discarding all that we don’t need. Even our clothes are only the ones we wear on a daily basis. All the rest has been donated to our church and Good Will associations. My collection of old and dusty college books were also donated to our local library. We have learned not to be enthralled by cheap junk.

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, said Leonardo da Vinci. I echo with his words and yours Linda. Thank you for giving us an insightful and inspirational message to be treasured for years to come.



    1. Omar,

      I have a little hunch that those new bits of symmetry hanging on your wall might have been found in the “unsquirreling” of your closets! And even more fun than the forgotten and non-functional things we find are the absolutely unrecognizable. More than once, my mom and I would look at each other and say, “What is this?”
      She had a hard time letting go, but even she was willing to acknowledge that if you don’t know what it is, you probably don’t need it.

      Of course, some things are worth saving, but that’s a different issue. Old dresses that become quilts, button boxes, scraps of yarn that become scarves, magazines and postcards that become Christmas cards – those things were a part of my life for decades. Now, with the quilting, sewing and knitting no longer a part of life around here, all of those supplies have gone elsewhere – to people who will put them to use.

      As for those libraries – I’ve moved too much, both geographically and otherwise, to have held on to those. The professional libraries went to students and schools – now, I have only the books that are truly important to me on the shelves. The rest I can read online or get at the library.

      A couple of posts ago, I mentioned Janis Joplin’s wonderful lyric – “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. Sometimes I think she’s right and sometimes I think she’s wrong, but I can tell you this – there’s a lot of freedom in not having all that stuff to insure, tote, rearrange and puzzle over! Simplicity, indeed.


  3. I’ve been feeling, more so lately than ever before, that I’ve heard all the news I need to hear. It’s all a rehash, whether it’s Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, same same. I saw a political “cartoon” not long ago where a woman was kneeling down in her garden and said to the person waving the news over her head: “I’m suffering from outrage fatigue.”

    Anyhoo, I enjoyed this post. I am not a fan of garage sales of any nature, and have been trying to live by the Morris adage for many years. Life is better when lived simply – not to say I don’t have my own perhaps more than fair share of personal treasures. But I have become much more discerning, at last I like to think so, of what I “buy,” in every marketplace.

    1. Teresa Evangeline,

      And that “sameness” you speak of is only amplified by much of the social media. I can’t speak to Facebook, since I’m not there, but I do have a sense that it’s much like Twitter in the sense that something “hits”, and then is repeated ad nauseum.

      I laugh every time I hear the announcer on our local “news” station say, “Whenever information breaks, we’ll be there!” Breaking information? Perhaps there is nothing new under the sun, so we’re having to make do with the recycled, rehashed – and in the case of Twitter, the re-hash-tagged.

      In any event, “outrage fatigue” is a good phrase, and gardening – or any form of getting away from it all – is a good antidote. There are times our current events remind me of the soap operas of my childhood – leave them for a couple of weeks, then come back, and you’re in exactly the same place.

      As for those personal treasures, discernment clearly is key, and a firm sense of our own values. I have a few treasures my dear mother thought ought to be sent straight to a garage sale, if not the trash – a couple of birds’ nests, a copper basket full of rocks, and so on. But they’re filled with memories – which alone make a treasure, I think.


  4. Thoreau wrote: “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances…”
    and, “I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of.”

    As a boat person you know that living with limited space forces one to constantly ask oneself “do I really need this, and if I buy this where will it live?” I lived on boats for a long time and spent six years on a 26′ sailboat. But still the detritus of life crept in.

    A lot of people retiring to Panama, as I did, ship whole container loads of their former lives with them. Something I can’t understand. Betty Wilson in her book, “Away From It All,” wrote, ““If we’re really going to start a new life, we have to kill the old one. That’s why most people never really start anything new. They’re claimed by old lamps and bureaus left to them by their grandmothers.”

    I walked away from a pile of stuff when I left the States. I came here to Panama with three duffel bags and a carry on. Two years later I still have a duffel and a half that I could have left behind.

    As for ideas…well, I have mine and others have theirs. I generally stick to mine.

    1. Richard,

      There was a shipping container that followed me to Liberia. When I think about it now, I’m sure anxiety played a large role in my taking so much stuff, although I will say a goodly portion of what I took stayed in country when I left.

      Still, Betty Wilson’s point is well-taken. I’m not in favor of killing the old life – what has been is a part of me, and some concrete reminders of the past are dear. But most of the accretions that build up around our lives aren’t treasured family heirlooms as much as barnacles on the prop. If we’d chip a few off, we could get going a little more easily!

      And there’s no question that living aboard sensitizes a person to these issues pretty quickly. Of course, around here all of your admiration for the disciplined sorts who keep a tight ship can evaporate pretty quickly when you discover they have a couple of garages or storage units that they’ve tricked out as combination closets, workshops and catch-alls. They’re useful, if sneaky, workarounds for the stuff-lovers among us!


  5. Great analogy!

    So these photos are the tiles you found? They are very inspiring to me – so glad they became a part of your musing. I really appreciate your thorough and artful exploration.

    1. C.C.,

      Yes, both the Woolenius tiles and the second tile made by Batchelder were “finds”. I have a small clutch of other tiles and intend to do a post about them all – probably sooner rather than later, now that I’ve got the photos taken. In fact, I have a series of four posts outlined – all examples of Morris’ philosophy.

      I thought about your tiles as I was creating this post – now you know why I was so excited about them! And thanks for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.


  6. Boy, do I relate to your garage sale examples. Coming from a family of refugees, it’s very hard for my family to part with things even when they no longer function (witness the broken refrigerator, microwave, and phone in my parents’ garage). So often, while shopping with my roomie, we’ll come across something pretty and even useful. But we always stop to remind ourselves that we’d have to *store* it. Most of the time, the item doesn’t pass that last hurdle.

    I hadn’t considered your comparison to ideas – useless, extraneous, dust-collecting, and even ugly. There’s something about coming from another culture (and sort of living bi-culturally) that forces one to do mental interpretations on the fly.

    1. nikkipolani,

      I suspect your parents and my mother would have understood each other perfectly. Though not a refugee, she was a child of the Great Depression, and knew all too well what it means to “be without”. It took me years to understand that some of her buying was done for the sheer pleasure of it – having the money to pick up this or that, regardless of need.

      Of course, there’s something else at play here. I grew up in a time when things were built for endurance, and were meant to be repaired. Families worked on their own cars, replaced lamp cords, rebuilt motors. I still have the Sunbeam mixer that sat in the kitchen when I was in grade school, for heaven’s sake. It’s been repaired at least twice that I recall, but works like a dream

      Today, cheap, breakable, disposable and tawdy tends to be the rule. Thank goodness there are those who dedicate themselves to the “real” – hand-crafted furniture from real wood, home-cooked meals from fine ingredients, home-schooling that truly educates and creative thought. I’m all in favor.


  7. First, William Morris would have loved those tiles. The leaf looks like something he might have designed (the other is too cool for words).

    Second, your analogy is spot on. Some “ideas” have become cheapened by overmisuse and basic lack of understanding. But these days, it is so much easier to “communicate” via sound-bite, rather than serious discussion.

    Thanks for doing your bit to promote serious discussion.

    1. ds,

      The top photo actually is four tiles, scootched together. The individual tiles are about the size of the photo. And yes, the leaf on the Batchelder tile does look Morris-ish. I love the feel of them, as well as the design. We’ve gotten so used to glazed tiles, and it’s a real pleasure to find these other treatments.

      Sometimes, “sound bite” is good. I was looking at the radar of Tropical Storm Debby tonight, thinking that “Run from water, hide from wind” pretty well sums it up. Beyond that? A few more well-chosen words could be helpful, not to mention a little less yelling. So much of what passes today for “discussion” on radio and television – and internet forums – sounds very much like the discussions that used to go on in my grade school years: “Did not!” Did SO!”

      Eventually, we’d get around to sticks, stones and broken bones, not to mention mothers and combat boots, and that would be the end of détente. So it goes. ;)


  8. Well you know me, I don’t go to garage sales, but the annual Book Sale at our Crossroads Market is a must. I can do without antiques and other things, but books are my ‘Achilles heels’ if you will. And yes, I’d gone back two more times in the past weeks.

    But of course, you’re not writing about garage sales only, and I’ve appreciated your extending it to the marketplace of ideas. I’m afraid the Internet and social media are the convenient venues for such bargains… no money down, no credentials needed to sell anything, and, no need to prove or authenticize. Free speech just may not be free after all when we consider the costs: compromising of accuracy, opinions treated as facts and faulty argumentations. But, isn’t this the ‘democratizing’ of opinions?

    1. Arti,

      I’m so glad to know – for certain – that you went back to the sale. I suspected you would. Actually, I couldn’t imagine that you wouldn’t. I can’t wait for you to post about what else you found.

      The “democratizing” of opinion? Well, perhaps. On the other hand, I can’t help remembering the cautionary words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Currently, there are quite a few people beating up other people with opinions formed not from facts, but from other opinions. That sort of thing can degenerate pretty quickly – and does, on a daily basis.

      I could offer a multitude of examples, but I think I’ll pass. What I do wish is that more people could understand that repeating a lie doesn’t make it true, even if you repeat it a billion times, and yelling at the top of your lungs doesn’t make a falsehood true, either!


      1. I don’t think I’ll post again on what titles I’ve got, but I can quickly tell you I’ve got some good classics and contemporary fiction, book I’ve wanted to read or to keep: Evelyn Waugh, Willa Cather, D.H. Lawrence, Camus, and some up-to-date award winners all for $1.50 Since this is their last weekend, and tomorrow being the last day of the sale, they’re going to have a big event. So yesterday as I paid for my haul, I asked the person “What’s the big event this weekend?” He quietly answered: “Everything will be 50% off on Sunday. Get your truck here.”

    2. Arti, I just found a good example of what I was saying re: opinion and fact. I’ve followed Vivian Paige since my earliest days at WordPress, at least partly because of her ability to deal with politics in a civil manner. Look at this post she’s written regarding the mess at the University of Virginia.

      1. Thanks for the link. I’m not surprised anymore about the fusion of facts and fiction nowadays, even in ‘prestigious publications’. ‘Creative non-fiction’?
        But this one from the L.A. Times is fact and no fiction… you’ll be most amused if you haven’t read it. She’s gone viral now, a Twitter sensation. The first sentence of the article, the “snow-crested corner of Alberta, Canada, is … ta da… Calgary.” I’m still dreaming.

        1. I finally read it all last night, and I must say… Well, I don’t know quite what to say. I found some of her tweets mildly amusing, but not quite up the some of the adulation that’s out there.

          Grandma always said it’s better to be a candle than fireworks. ;)

  9. I’m like you I never much cared to go to garage sales and buying other people’s junk isn’t my idea of a fun outing on a weekend, but my son is like your Mum. He loves to go rummaging through other people’s cast offs and even when he was still at school he’d take his bike round the neighborhood sales each weekend and invariably come home with that something “he thought” was wonderful like a typewriter (that now sits in my closet!), a record player and many records…

    1. dearrosie,

      Oh, I’ve had my time of collecting! One of the delights of putting on a few decades is being able to say, “I used to enjoy that, but now I enjoy this.” When I was much younger, my needs, my wants and certainly my taste were much different. For my friends and I, those garage sales and thrift stores did just fine for decorating dorm rooms and first apartments.

      But there again – just as things used to be built for repair, not replacement, the “stuff” at garage sales used to be of much better quality. One of my best finds ever was a solid walnut gateleg table with a drawer and some square nails in it. It was sitting at a sale out in the country, with a price tag of $35. I felt so badly about stealing it I tried to offer more, but the lady wouldn’t take it. She said, “I just want to get that thing out of my house!” Who knows what that was about?


      1. Ah yes. Love that. I continue to aspire to simple living. And in truth, we live fairly simply. But I thumb my nose at the garage sales that line the road to my house each weekend. I haven’t been to one in years.

  10. When I do go to yard sales, I’m almost always drawn to the boxes of books. Usually I end up not buying any, but once in a while there’s some treasure that’s too good to pass up. It’s not that I need more books, but you know how it is.

    Even as a teenager—when the pre-equivalent of a yard sale was the Salvation Army store 3.15 miles east of where I lived (I know the distance from my bicycle’s odometer)—I remember being fascinated by the signatures and inscription I sometimes found in old books. What had become of those people? Now, with the existence of the Internet, I’ve occasionally found bits of information about a few of those long-gone people. I have to wonder how long the words and pictures in our blogs will live on after us.

    1. Steve,

      I do know how it is, and I can be tempted by estate sales, moving sales and farm sales because of their difference from most garage sales. They’re often poignant, because big life changes are involved, the people selling had real connections to the items, and there’s no question there are marvelous things to be found – like books.

      When I still lived in Iowa, farm sales were frequent, and boxes of books were plentiful. I’ve no idea where the stereotype of the dumb farmer came from. Most of the farm people I knew were voracious readers, just like their parents and grandparents. Many of the books to be found at the sales were first editions, or leather-bound, or in beautifully illustrated sets.

      Best of all, they often were sold at prices like $3 per box. Unpacking those boxes could take some time, though. It was hard not to begin reading in the process, especially if there were entertaining comments in the margins.

      I have no confidence whatsoever in the survivability of blogs and photos in the cloud. One of these days, something will happen and all that information is going to precipitate out, just like rain. That’s why my big summertime project is going to be making a hard copy of all this. It just seems as though words belong on paper.


      1. I’ve made a hard copy of the blog up through January. I need to get back to it. I do not want to lose it, especially because at least one family member has thanked me for documenting much of what transpired with my mother over the years.
        Your writing is beautiful and you tell wonderful stories that should not be lost when whatever it is happens and all the information “precipitate[s] out, just like rain.”

        1. Isn’t it the case that so much in life needs nothing more than focus, discipline and a proper setting of priorities? I need to be better at all three. And thanks for those kind words about my writing – truly.

  11. I’m curious as to what might have given rise to these thoughts just now, whether there was something particularly that triggered the train of thought–not that there need have been, of course.

    I from time to time experience variants of this issue. Particularly when I am exploring new terrain, whether it be poetry, art, or music, it’s hard to identify reliable guides and guidance from within the fast-moving polygot marketplace out there. I often feel we need a return “slow thought” every bit as much as a return to “slow food.”

    1. Susan,

      There wasn’t a singular event. But I’ve been increasingly distressed by a number of things: the shrill tone of public discourse, the increasing dependence on ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments, the substitution of opinion for fact and so on. When all of that is combined with other factors like the anonymity offered by the internet and the ubiquity of the 30-second sound bite, it feels like the cliff’s edge isn’t too far away.

      I know part of my distress comes down to a concern for values, particularly the value of the individual and the need to respect others.We may not yet have come to the point represented by the Egyptian plumber who beat his wife to death for voting for Mohammed Mursi, but it’s clear there are some among us who understand the impulse.

      For about three years now I’ve had an on-going conversation with Arti, who commented above, about the concept of slow blogging. From the beginning of my blog, I’ve had an intuitive sense that thinking and writing belong together. That necessarily slows down the process, particularly since I’m continually asking myself, “But what do I think?” Sometimes the answer takes a while.

      “Slow thought” is an expression of the same sort of conviction. Perhaps it’s just our way of restating in a new context what our parents and grandparents so often said: “Think before you speak”.


  12. During my freshman year in college, my creative writing teacher gave sound advice: “Show me.” Preaching doesn’t make anyone change from the inside. SEEING for ourselves that we need to adjust to reality does.

    I think a lot of people are like the lion in the wizard of Oz. If they keep saying “I do believe in spooks” over and over to you, they can make sense of things to themselves. Repetition of a ready-made theory when there is so much conflicting evidence all around them will make everything OK.

    1. Claudia,

      The last few years of my mother’s life, I was sure she was in the grip of severe dementia. She’d keep saying, “You’ll never guess what I heard on the radio last night”, and then she’d proceed to describe things that – surprise! -I never would have guessed. Eventually I discovered she was listening to Art Bell and George Noory – I’m sure you know “Coast to Coast”.

      I started listening to snippets now and then, just to know what coming apocalypse I was going to have to fend off. One night, Noory hosted a convocation of folks who knew no American astronaut ever had set foot on the moon. Their explanations varied slightly, but their certainty was absolute. One of them actually said, “If we just keep telling the world, eventually they’ll come to the truth.” Sounds pretty lion-like to me.

      I suppose it has to do with what the sociologists call structures of credibility and plausibility. The most incredible things – unicorns are running rampant on New Jersey freeways – can seem plausible if everyone around you believes the same thing. In the same way, something perfectly credible – astronauts walked on the moon – can seem implausible if no one you know believes it happened.

      I suppose it’s one reason we have the “echo chamber” effect. Too many people seek comfort by never allowing a real response into their lives.


  13. Ah, the garage sale. Some areas of town are better than others. And you can pick up a treasure now and again. The trick is only buying the treasure – not everything you see! (We’ve got a huge collection of Legos bought for practically nothing – recycling toys: great idea) Also picked up a couple of beautiful molas for pennies. But never had much time to seriously garage sale shop – some people do make a career practically of it (and resell the items).

    Liked the analogy with thought and philosophy. Good comparison. Seems like recently there’s a lack of logical thinking – too much emotional knee jerk reactions. A bit more quiet analysis and willingness to listen would be great. It would be nice to agree to disagree and still be friends – not insist everyone believe one way.

    With garage sales and ideas, you are right: buy into quality – and expect it to last a long time.
    Great post

    1. phil,

      Ah, yes. Just like Halloween – head for the good neighborhoods. (There’s a reason some folks just turn off their lights and head for the back room.)

      But that’s giving and getting, not selling and buying, and you’re right – at the sales, discernment is everything. I will confess that if I came across a set of pre-Lego building blocks to complement the set I still have, I’d probably buy – toys and tools are some of the great bargains.

      But some people do make a literal career of it, and those blocks I just linked to easily could have been picked up at a sale and plunked onto ebay. It’s a great system – makes a profit for the seller and saves me the hours spent cruising the sales.

      As for agreeing to disagree – it takes a certain degree of maturity to do that, not to mention a sense of security in one’s own beliefs. It also takes a little effort – far more than is needed to level “cheap shots”.


  14. In a real coincidence, yesterday I went to the first garage sale I’ve been to in over twenty years; and probably the last too because I probably won’t make it for another twenty. And ironically, I did make three purchases, one that actually saved me a two hour drive because I was about to do that to buy a very similar item, one that I have wanted for some time but couldn’t otherwise afford, and well, I’m sure I’ll get $5 worth of use out of that double-ended choker cable before I’m through using logs for firewood.

    1. montucky,

      See there? I just mentioned to phil, up above, that toys and tools often are the great bargains at sales. I still have a socket set I picked up years ago. Like your choker cable, it’s not something I use every day, but it surely is nice to have when I need it.

      I suppose part of the reason I don’t “make the sales” any more is that my needs are so few. If I needed a socket set – or choker cable – I might get out and about more, just to see if I could save a few dollars. But today? My “needs” are pretty much down to groceries, gas and varnish – well, and cat food. ;)


  15. Wonderful post/essay… We always lived by these words, growing up in the military — out of sheer need and lack of access. Moving to the States, it was interesting (sad?) to see the discrepancy of consumer culture. Buy, buy, buy! Credit, credit, credit! Even if you don’t need it, grab it!

    We became sucked up in the mentality for a bit, for the newness of it all, but I quickly reverted to how you beautifully quoted Morris’ philosophy. I do believe it’s better for the body, mind, and spirit to live as such. Thanks for sharing — and, AMAZING finds with those most beautiful Arts & Crafts tiles! (Jealous!!)

    1. FeyGirl,

      On Father’s Day, Yoani Sanchez mentioned in her Twitter feed that the root’s the same for “pater” and “patria”. As she put it, how you raise your children is how you build your country.

      I was reminded of her tweet by your comment about today’s incessant encouragements to buy, often on credit. The same spending habits that leave families on the financial edge now are doing the same for entire countries. Sometimes I think the biggest divide in this country isn’t between black and white, young and old, Republican and Democrat, but between those who were raised to never buy anything unless they could pay for it, and those who use one credit card to pay off another. But I suppose that’s another post. ;)

      There is something deeply refreshing about simplicity. Even an occasional cleaning of the mental and spiritual closets can do us good – who needs all those ugly, useless grudges and irritations, after all?

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your lovely comment. You’re always welcome!


  16. Quite the display of ideas here. I will take the one about the ephemeral existence of records posted to the “Cloud”.
    I too have a feeling that this wondrous facility will transform into the next level of communication soon. Only sentimental fogies will spend their time reading, thinking, typing and posting. Actually I’m a bit worried that the transformation has already taken place.

    1. Ken,

      Clearly, the transformation hasn’t taken place. After all, you’re here, and so I am. New gadgets will proliferate, and the fads will come and go, but I suspect that the old ways will endure – not from sentimentality or from old fogeys clinging to the past, but because there is real value to be preserved.

      I always thumb through my new copy of “The New Yorker” when it arrives, just to check out the cartoons. There was a fine one in the recent issue. It showed a woman sitting in an armchair and holding a book. She’s saying to an invisible questioner something like, “I’m seeing if I can remember how to do it”.

      It may be a very small, perhaps infinitesimal sign that the old ways will endure, but that’s how I’m choosing to see it.


      1. Linda:
        Strangely enough I have recently finished two very different books – one was a murder mystery ( I have probably read fewer than a dozen books of fiction in the last 30 years.) and the other a detailed account of a Canadian Medical University team exhuming and examining the bodies of the first sailors to die during the Franklin Search for the North West Passage disaster. Maybe reading is like riding a bicycle.

        As far as Junk goes my weakness would be old tools. Yesterday I went to purchase a switch for my oft repaired 25 year old skillsaw. Though I have rebuilt many switches for it the one that I had to replace was cooked too badly. While waiting I checked on the shelves for a “slide compound mitre” saw I had seen there 5 years ago and tried to buy. It is the same model as I use every day which I have kept running because I had a “spare parts” saw. The tool was sitting where I had seen it so long ago – one of the owners of the shop had meant to repair it for himself – so I offered the other owner $50 and got away with the saw. Now I have 3 identical issues of the one saw and lots of spares. This item was a big purchase new in about ’88 and you can not find as good a tool now so I will swap parts and may the best saw go on working. It does mean I have to store the “parts” saws as well but it is worth it to me.

        1. Redundancy is a wonderful thing – especially when it comes to parts and tools. One of the first lessons I learned when I changed occupations is that hand tools rarely wear out – but they sure do go overboard easily! And i learned my lesson with my orbital sander. Sometimes they just quit working and have to be repaired. I’ve got a nice, new one sitting in the closet that is insurance for just such times. It can keep me working until I figure out how to fix #1.

          Beyond that, there’s something immensely satisfying about keeping something old, useful. But as you’ve noted, parts can be a problem. That’s one reason those sales are so helpful.

          1. Linda:
            You are the first to know:
            I now have two of the three “slide-compound-miter” saws working! And I need ’em both today.

  17. Fantastic analogy, Linda! And of course, poignant as ever! And secretly I’m wondering what prompted this . . . . a heated political discussion as of late? Keep those fingers typing, lady!

    1. Wendy,

      Oh, watching the political scene always is good for a reflection or two, but if I had to pinpoint the genesis for this post, it would be the afternoon I walked into my bedroom closet and finally “saw” all the junk in there. Through the process of cleaning out that closet, closing out my mom’s apartment after her death and opening up some space in my days by dumping Facebook and such, I’ve done a lot of thinking about wants, needs, and the American penchant for buying and selling a whole lot of crap.

      From there, it was just a short hop across to the marketplace of ideas. Truth to tell, watching some of the hucksters trying to sell America on this or that is one reason I tossed the tv!


  18. I saw your comment in Arti’s blog and came for a visit. I enjoyed your post on garage sale and read all the comments. I don’t go to garage sales but will go to an estate sale if close by. When we moved to Georgia I found some good furniture this way.

    I also go, once every 4 to 6 months, to the huge Atlanta Antique Sale. I go mainly as a distraction and to see people. I also like to look at the antiques. My grandfather was an antique dealer in Istanbul and my father used to constantly go to the Drouot Auctions in Paris and would bring things back – we had two cabinet full in our Paris apartment.

    Books are my weakness and I’ll go to book sales too or visit every second-hand bookstore I see in new cities. In a way I like paper – books, prints, lithographs, postcards (mostly vintage postcards.) I like old books – I mean from the 1800s and enjoy the old style English in them – but I have too many.

    I read at the end of your post “and please – no reblogging.” I have no idea what this means. You mean someone using your post and posting it on their blog? I have seen this happens, but more often I find my photographs being used by others.

    1. Vagabonde,

      How lovely to see you. I’ve read your comments at Arti’s and Ruth’s, of course, and at other sites as well. I always enjoy them.

      One of the pleasures of an estate or moving sale – at least for me – is the sense of history surrounding an item. When a friend’s mother moved into assisted living, she wandered her sale saying things like,”That was my first dining table after we married”, or “I found that in Topeka on my first trip out of Texas”. All of those memories! It felt less like a sale than an adoption agency – the money changing hands was less important than making sure those wonderful treasures had new homes.

      For many people I know, the same impulse lies behind collecting ephemera. All those messages on postcards, in letters and autograph books. I have postcards sent among family members in the early 1900s, and I’m amazed every time I read them. There’s such detail, such insight into daily life.They’re truly marvelous.

      “Re-blogging” is a possibility introduced by the WordPress gurus. I think they were trying to “twitter-fy” or “tumbler-fy” this blog site. If someone clicks the reblog button, my post appears on their site, in whole. At that point, my name is still attached, but if it’s reblogged a second time, it appears to be the next person’s work. Some people don’t care. Some people – especially those who create original content – ranted on the forums and demanded an end to the practice, but it did no good.

      I’ve grown accustomed to finding my posts selling shoes on posts coming out of Tunisia, but those can be dealt with. I do prefer prevention over cure, though – hence, the polite request to forego reblogging.

      Thanks again for stopping by. You’re always welcome!


  19. I was basically going to leave the same comment as Bayou Woman. Loved this analogy. I get frustrated by certain opinions, certain stuff-it-down-your-throat commentators, so I like the idea of saying no thanks. Keeping this space free of clutter, thank you very much. :)

    1. Emily,

      Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course. They’re entitled to express it, too. I grew up in the days when the hometown newspaper emblazoned the famous quotation (mis)attributed to Voltaire across the top of their editorial page: “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it?”

      Unfortunately, too many people have come to believe they have the right to beat other people over the head with their opinions. If there are a few bodies left lying about when it’s all over – well, war’s war, even if it’s only a war of words.

      Perhaps we need to remember another precious freedom we have – the freedom to stop reading, change channels, or turn off the blather completely. To paraphrase that quotation, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death my right not to listen to you!”


  20. Your final paragraph says it all. I agree.

    But then, I also feel that there is nothing new under the sun, how could there be; we’ve seen it all, heard it all before. Human nature is fixed. Some centuries are kinder than others, we learn a few things, like how to fly to the moon, but, basically, we repeat ourselves endlessly.

    I like the junk analogy, although, sometimes, just sometimes, we find a gem; among humans and on the junk stall.

    1. friko,

      I can just see you and The Teacher, under a tree in that verdant countryside of yours, trying to decide if it’s a time to walk or a time to talk. To everything there is a season, indeed, and you’re right – there is very little new under the sun.

      When I think back to my childhood, it’s clear there was just as much gossip. There were just as many uninformed opinions, just as much nastiness and certainly just as much mindless chatter. But it was limited by the natural limits of our lives – the neighborhood, the congregation, the school, the family. Today, thanks to our new technology, information, meanness, opinions and gossip wash over us like a tsunami. That’s why our choices about realities like Facebook, entertainment media and so on are critical. We can stem the tide a bit!

      And despite it all, I certainly agree with you about the gems that can be found, human and otherwise. I must say, one reason I love the internet so is that, When any of us finds one of those gems, it’s easier to share it around with others!


  21. When we were first married, I loved antique/junk shops. Thanks to our parents’ castoffs and junk stores, I furnished our house. I still have most of that stuff and still enjoy it, but times have changed. I need nothing and want almost nothing. I’m going in the opposite direction now – giving stuff away, selling it or trashing it. I’m into simplicity these days. I remember when Dad was giving everything away. I couldn’t understand it. I finally get it. Having said that, I never say never. If I need a certain piece, I may look for it and find it and purchase it, but only if it’s exactly what I NEED.

    As for the “marketplace of ideas,” I like the analogy. It’s exhausting – all this competition for our … our dollars, votes, approval, etc. They seldom just want to give their opinion. They almost always want something from us. Of course, there will always be the occasional idiot who lives only to hear himself set forth on every single thing.

    1. Bella Rum,

      I might have been more patient with Mom’s garage sale shopping if she’d ever been willing to get rid of a few things. She wasn’t in the position of those poor people on “Hoarders”, but she was seriously reluctant to turn loose of anything. Eventually, that meant my closets filled up with her stuff – and when we started paying for off-site storage space, the mother-daughter discussions commenced in earnest. ;)

      Now, I have enough of her treasures with me that I think she’d be pleased – but everything I kept is embedded in memory, one way or another. Some things she used, some things are family heirlooms and a few are simply beautiful pieces that she loved. But the garage sale purchases, the “stuff” accumulated on those weekends together? Gonzo.

      And “exhausting” is exactly the right word. As you say, it’s never (or rarely) just “Here’s my opinion”. It’s usually accompanied by “Now give me your (money, approval, agreement, vote). It almost makes the self-proclaimed oracle refreshing!


  22. Hello, my friend! How have you been — I’ve missed your visits! This post resonates to the max. You will be pleased to know that over the weekend during our neighborhood garage sales I simply didn’t stop. (I did slow down, but I didn’t stop!) I am in stuff-overload, longing to figure out how to deal with it and beginning to think that the garbage can is the best way — certainly the easiest. We tend to have a system — get it and then when you tire of it, take it to the lake. When that house fills up, dump it. Well, that’s not working for me anymore and unless it is sheets, towels or something that will enhance, I’m so done with over accumulation. Now, I don’t mind finding a great deal on a book I’d like or a piece of furniture that will replace something worse. But buying to buy? Been there, done that!

    My friend Richard has a motto — if something comes in, something goes out of equal size/weight. It’s a good system — you can’t unload another cute cat figurine for a desk.

    You may find it interesting to know that when I was in Europe, I came back with mostly gifts or edible things. A couple pieces of jewelry, a calendar, a couple of tree ornaments for next year, a scarf. But nothing major. And it was such a relief!

    So, reading this is both timely and a good reminder. I should probably copy the link and look at it before I ever go junking without purpose!

    1. jeanie,

      I just was startled to read that, by 1214, medicare premiums will increase to $247 and change – more than double what I pay now. If that’s so, it will mean the end of my going to any sales – ever! Well, so it goes. The good news is that there isn’t anything I’m desperately in need of, although if a really cute cat figurine happened by, I probably could be persuaded!

      I laughed at your “system”. It’s so much like what Mom and I had going on. She’d buy, and then shuttle the excess down to my place. I lived with all that yarn in my closet for years. Now, I’m really paring, partly because I know there will be a smaller place in my future. I don’t like that thought one bit – I love where I am. But I may not be able to afford it forever. If the sorting and dispersing’s already done when the time comes, it will be easier. But I’m no fool – I’ve got enough needlepoint supplies to last me the rest of my natural life!

      I shop much the same way when I’m traveling. Christmas ornaments, jewelry, ethnic or local treats, small books or journals are best – light and easy to deal with. I still remember my first travel gift from my Dad. He’d gone to New York for a meeting, and when he came home, he brought me a small package of Drost chocolate in the form of wooden shoes. After – at least 50 years! – I still can see them and taste that chocolate. Wonderful.

      I know this – stopping the accumulating and starting the process of “getting rid of” is like losing weight. Once you start feeling lighter, it’s ever so much easier to keep going!


  23. When I first started decorating my now overburdened apartment, my idea was that it should be like a museum – where something rare and marvelous would be waiting for me around every corner.

    I think I’ve succeeded, but some museums are very large! I have over 250 framed photographs, but they are all vital. I’m a careful buyer, believe it or not, and often I’ll come home from a flea market with nothing more than a necklace! Aggravating!

    More and more I’m asking myself if I need the items I pause over – especially when I see them going to Good Will a few months after I purchase them.

    1. aubrey,

      I suspect you’re among the most careful buyers I know – if not the most careful. You know your likes and dislikes, but even more, you know real value when you see it.

      About three years ago, I came to the conclusion that, treasure or not, if it was living its life in a box or a drawer it needed to be reassessed. Today, despite tons of selling and giving, I’m still surrounded by many objects that give me great pleasure – perhaps the best of all possible results. And best of all is that I have a little extra closet and drawer space – which I’m going to try very hard not to fill.


  24. When we were selling our center-hall Colonial and buying the townhouse we’re in now, we were asked if we wanted a basement under this place. We thought about what was in the basement of the Colonial. We thought about the months we spent getting rid of all those things we must have needed, or else we wouldn’t have bought them. We thought about the 1,900 pounds of useful items that we sent to the recycling center in two-and-a-half truckloads. We said no to the basement. And then we talked the kids into limiting their gifts to things we can consume and therefore be immediately rid of.

    Opinions have been masquerading as facts for a long time, but the nature of communications in our time has given pseudo facts much more power. I think it has always been true that more people than not would rather hear an opinion that validates their own viewpoints than a fact that might require them to look more deeply into the topic. This is certainly true in the field of religion, where I spend most of my time. This, of course, is encouraged by authoritarian religious “leaders.”

    1. Charles,

      I remember basements. With two parents who were devoted collectors of this and that, the basement was important. Where else to build and assemble all those shelves to contain all that treasure?

      Of course, the best reason for avoiding a new basement is the well-known corollary to Boyle’s law. Just as work expands to fill the time available and data expands to fill available storage space, “stuff” expands to fill up the attics, basements, walk-in closets and drawers of our lives. We all know this, of course. You just were smart enough to do something about it.

      “Pseudo facts” is a perfect way of phrasing it. With enough repetition, they become accepted – and occasionally the basis for ill-conceived policy. That hoary old saying – “I’ve made up my mind. Don’t bother me with the facts” – comes to mind. We do like our comfort, and the infusion of fact into the realm of mushy opinion can be danged uncomfortable at times.

      Speaking of religion, isn’t it ironic so many people believe those words about “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” are directly from scripture? There’s a basis there, of course, but I think Finley Peter Dunne and his Mr. Dooley is just as acceptable a source.


  25. Love this post!

    I think I fall into the category of “wannabe treasure hunter”, but it conflicts with my “live simply” attitude that I am adopting more and more each day.

    We actually had a neighborhood garage sale in April and it felt SO GOOD to get rid of some things that just sat in the garage collecting dust. Now if I can just convince my wife that there are about a hundred other items that really need to go, I might finally have a decently organized garage! :)

    Ultimately, the thing that keeps me from treasure hunting more is that I have no interest in parting with my “treasure”. Therefore it’s hard for me to imagine anyone else parting with theirs.

    1. Larry,

      Those dust-collectors are something, aren’t they? When my mom moved from Iowa to Houston, she brought her snow shovel with her. I kept suggesting that perhaps we could ditch the thing. But it stayed in the closet for years. If the Great Texas Blizzard ever appeared, she was going to be ready. Unfortunately, (and fortunately!) we had the Christmas Eve snow, and that was the end of that. She was forever justified in having a snow shovel in the closet.

      But to your larger point – yes, it does feel good to get rid of those things that clutter our lives and take up space. It does simplify life, in a multitude of ways.

      What I think’s most interesting is your comment that your own affection for your treasures makes it hard for you to imagine anyone else wanting to turn loose of theirs. I’ve never heard anyone express that before, but it makes sense. Of course, that brings us around to the old saying about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure. Where one person might see only an old board marked 50 cents, I might see a piece of teak big enough to cut a hundred plugs. A box of old letters might have an account of Hurricane Carla. You just never know!


  26. I’m smiling. I used to go to yard sales and auctions. Then I got tired of stuff. I try to keep it simple. I loved how you expressed this, Linda, slipping in ideas and worn-out attitudes. I’ve been out of treasure hunting for a long time.

    You wrote: “A couple of years ago it occurred to me that the American marketplace of ideas has devolved into precisely this – an intellectual garage sale, a psychological close-out, a swap meet where the illogical meet the uninformed.”

    Indeed. It is everywhere from the street to the Internet. I have termed it as regurgitation. As far as the question, “Do I need this?” I admit that I am a book hound and usually surrounded by books. My keeping it simple flies out the window when it comes to books.

    Great writing and well put, Linda. I enjoyed reading. :)

    1. Anna,

      You don’t need to go searching for treasure, at least in the form of “stuff”. You roam around in the midst of it every day – and create a little of it yourself! I keep thinking of that photo at the museum in White Cloud – there’s a lot of real treasure in that place!

      I like regurgitation as a description for so much of what is taking place today. It used to be an almost entirely negative way of describing people who passed on whatever they’d heard, without thought. Now, not so much. One fellow I know does little but “re-tweet” messages on Twitter – pass on other people’s little posts. When I asked him why, he said it was just easier. I suppose it is.

      I was thinking tonight about Friko’s comment that “there’s nothing new under the sun”. I suppose that’s true, to a degree. It may be age or creeping old-fogey-dom, but there’s a sense in which I don’t mind that at all.

      OH! This is off topic, but you just have to see this. Greg Peterson of the Peterson family was interviewed today on the AgLine site. They’re from Assaria, in Saline County. Who says Kansas farmers can’t get it on?


      1. LOL LOL!!! I just cracked up watching the video “I’m Farming and I Grow It.” That definitely looks like what we photograph. Well, of course, I don’t photograph strapping, young farm boys. Except. LOL One time at an Ag Fair parade, I photographed this guy on a toot-toot green tractor looking all cool and in control with his torn off sleeves T-shirt. I posted that photo and titled it: “I’m Too Sexy For My Tractor.”

        Oh, ye gads, there is so much re-tweeting that you read the same darn thing over and over in the Tweets feed. I just cross my eyes. Blah… blah… blah.

        By the way, I may steal this video to go with some photos I’ll be posting. I got such a kick out of the video. Good ole’ Kansas farm boys. I’m still chuckling…..

        1. I knew you’d like it. Apparently they’ve gone truly viral and landed on Fox News or some such a couple of days ago. I’ve been so busy I haven’t kept up, but I’ll poke around a bit later today. I do love stories like this – maybe because they remind me of all those schoolgirl crushes on the farm boys back in Iowa.

  27. Since the advent of sending many of our production and manufacturing jobs to foreign lands the US economy has been based primarily on retail sales. From retail to garage sale Americans love shopping. It’s a primary pass time for many men and women, tantamount to an active economic recreation event.

    The result is that too many Americans own too much useless junk. That some of the more useful things might get recycled in a yard sale is OK with me, but the hordes of junk that ends up in our waste stream a year or two after it was purchased stinks of economic and ecological abuse.

    As you say, the William Morris quote ““Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” should be a new American mantra!

    1. Wild_Bill,

      Of course you’re right. And certainly for many people, the “power” in the phrase “purchasing power” is most important. I’m convinced that’s why so much stuff piles up – it’s the act of buying that appeals, rather than the object itself.

      Of course, the job of the merchandisers is to get those juices flowing, and they do a magnificent job – witness the craziness over assorted (glorified) tennis shoes and the stupidity around Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas. Beyond that, I’ve heard several people mention the need to break the shopping “habit”. It’s quite as easy to get addicted to spending as to anything else, and you’re equally right that the consequences aren’t particularly happy.

      I’m with you on the mantra. It should pair nicely with “quality over quantity”!


    1. Lynn,

      Thanks for stopping by – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. There’s a lot of interest in this world of ours. I do enjoy poking around to see what I can see!


  28. Oh, my – what a lively salon this blog-comments-space is becoming! We’ve just hired a lively young woman to stop in a few hours a week to help us pitch stuff out of our overstuffed house – starting with cans and cans food past the use-by date (sometimes by 8 years). But 27 years in the house, of which many were spent going to yard sales and used book sales and video-store-going-out-of-business sales and what not have created a glut of highly interesting clutter. It’s both a physical glut and a glut of ideas, of all the trains of thought or possible areas of investigation that one doesn’t have enough lifetimes to pursue.

    (And thanks for the solstice greeting!)

    1. Mary Ellen,

      Your mention of the glut of ideas, the “trains-of-thought” clutter, just made me laugh. I finally pitched a stack of torn-out articles that had been piling up for years – along with all those unread New Yorker magazines. Yes, I’m sure there were wonderful things in there. Yes, I would have found something to enjoy. But my gosh – there barely are enough hours in the day as it is. And I must say – it’s rather nice not to see that stack in the corner.

      All of this started becoming easier for me when I realized that, about a week after I’ve taken something to Goodwill or whatever, I have no idea what I might have taken. Not only do I not miss what I get rid of, I can’t even remember it! I suppose that’s the best testimony of all to the truth that less may not be more, but it’s certainly less, and it can’ be very refreshing.

      I hope your summer’s going well, and that it gets uncluttered enough that you really can enjoy it!


  29. I really like that “marketplace of ideas” concept, Linda, and of course, there’s no need to buy the ideas, either, although it seems to me that ideas are often harder to resist than the physical goods…

    1. Andrew,

      I’ve got a friend who says, “If rent-to-buy furniture’s ok, why not rent-to-buy ideas?” That’s pretty funny on the face of it, but perhaps a grain of truth there, too.

      You may be right about ideas being hard to resist. One thing all the marketers have in common is packaging, though. Wrap it up in enough tinsel and glitter, and everyone’s ready to buy!


  30. i’ve only been to (1) garage sale in my life and didn’t buy anything. i figure i have enough “stuff” as you put it to last me a lifetime. on the other hand i love estate sales, but that’s another story. recently, i talked myself into actually having my own garage sale and was just as quickly talked out of it by a few close friends who informed me that my stuff wasn’t garage sale stuff, but was “good stuff”. i have antiques i no longer need or have space for and i was going to part with it, but for now they’re still in storage. i do like the tiles you found. if you want them for more than just looks, they make for terrific hot plates on a dinner table for company. enjoyed the read.

    1. sherri,

      I can’t bring myself to use the A&C tiles for anything, but I do have some nice California and New Mexico glazed tiles I use at table. That was the genius of Morris’ little epigram. Beauty or usefulness are both good, but if you can combine beauty and usefulness, you’ve got yourself something.

      I’d as soon be drawn and quartered as have a garage sale. I’ve went through that process a couple of times with Mom, and it just isn’t worth it. Again, I think my mom and her friends considered it a purely social occasion – days of tagging, marking, labeling, recording. My goodness. I kept telling her my time was worth something, too.

      My salvation when I was trying to settle her estate was a local high-end consignment shop. Because they only accept “good stuff”, they get higher prices and split 50/50. You take your goods in, and collect your check at the first of the month. What’s not to

      Glad you enjoyed it. I need to really think about the follow-up pieces that have been rattling around in my head.


  31. I agree with your comparison of pre-owned objects and pre-formed ideas. Abundance and volume seem to be the criteria, and usefulness takes a back seat. At the same time, I like those tiles, too. How much do you want for them?

    1. bronxboy,

      I ought to give you one of the tiles for reminding me of something that’s missing in all these comments and responses – not a something, actually, but a someone. Second Hand Rose! I haven’t thought of Streisand or “Funny Girl” in ages, let alone Fanny Brice, but it’s the perfect song for contemplating all this! Sometimes, a little more volume is good!

      Thanks for stopping by – and congrats on your FP, by the way.


  32. You made me smile several times and this was a wonderful tribute to your mom. We used to call it marathon shopping and inadvertently, I wound up teaching me daughter. It’s just so much fun.

    1. Jenny,

      I love bringing smiles! And aren’t mother/daughter experiences and traditions just the best? Your mention of marathon shopping somehow reminded me of the days when I still was in school, and we’d head off to Des Moines or Marshalltown (in Iowa) and spend the day shopping. But we didn’t just shop – we dressed up, and had lunch at a tea room, and giggled and gossiped along the way.

      It was a lot of fun. I’m glad you’ve had your share, too! And thanks for stopping by my blog – you’re always welcome.


  33. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

    I love this quote. It’s a great gem of wisdom to live by.

    Your post made me smile, because your Mom reminded me so much of my Mom who loves to shop, haggle, and bargain. When she was still living here in the Philippines, she liked haggling with the shopkeepers in the city market. Now that she has immigrated to the US she has developed a new-found passion: going to garage sales!

    I, myself, am not a shopper and I’m glad that Jojang isn’t, too. We believe in the value of living a simple life. If we don’t need it, we don’t buy it. I don’t like the clutter of having unnecessary things in our house. Besides, I believe that we should use some of our savings in helping people who are less fortunate than us, rather than in spending it to buy stuff that we don’t need.

    ~ Matt

    1. Matt,

      My goodness – how did this escape me? I love your comment about your Mom. Mine was a haggler, for sure. It was the thrill of the hunt that appealed to her most, I think. But it gave her pleasure, and that was the real value.

      More and more people I know are beginning to talk about these issues. The difference between wants and needs can be considerable, and learning to differentiate between the two surely is another step on the path to wisdom.

      Beyond that, I’ve found a very real correlation between uncluttered space and an uncluttered mind. Slowly, slowly, I’m working on both!


      1. So true: as far as I am concerned, too, there is a direct relationship between uncluttered space and an uncluttered mind!. That’s why I really find it difficult to live and work in a place that’s cluttered and untidy.

        No wonder I’ve always gravitated to the idea of living a simple and uncluttered life. I’ve always had the intuition that life isn’t about accumulating stuff that we don’t need.

        But to decide to live a simple life in our narcissistic and consumeristic society is quite a challenge. I’m glad, too, that quite a number of people are now. at least, talking about these issues.

        ~ Matt

  34. This must resonate with so many people! I go through phases of one extreme or the other – amassing vast collections of things I never needed or that never really fitted, and then phases of emptying the clutter – trying to find an empty shelf, and a little more breathing space… it is a very poignant, lovely piece… but does sort of start an itch to clear out my space again

    1. katiejand,

      It’s a never-ending struggle, isn’t it? They say nature abhors a vacuum, and apparently my increasingly empty closets look like a vacuum to nature! As soon as I have some space, it begins to fill again.

      Of course, the whole of the American merchandising establishment has just one goal – to convince us that more of anything is better, and more of “their” anything is the very best! So off we go, shopping and garage sale-ing and ebaying and Craig’s-listing, until we sober up and declare, “No more!” Sometimes I last as long as a month or two before I have to start having discussions with myself again!

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the lovely comment. You’re welcome any time!


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