By Rebecca Hammond
BACKLASH TO THE BACKLASH. First, in response to organizing consultant and author, Marie Kondo, and her methods for and urging of the purging of possessions: Her new TV show seems like too much excess in regards to excess. Another is a handful of articles that basically say, “No, you don’t have to feel guilty for anything lifestyle-related as regards to the planet. Blame bigger entities!” A backlash against lifestyles and their direct and deleterious effects on the planet and climate and home life is being seen as excessive in and of itself, and is getting lashed back at.
My husband and I clash about Stuff – him having less, me having more – but it’s nothing compared to my inner Clash. Having too much stuff does not feel good. I suspect we mentally carry our excess around more than we know, and this could be the reason people who drastically downsize can gush for years about how good it feels.
Our culture has created an interesting loop of sorts: We’re purging our extras, so thrift shops are full of them. And, thus, we can drop stuff off then pop in and buy more. Thrift shop junk is cheap and each item has a one-of-a-kind quality, making it constantly seem another Unique Steal. We don’t so much buy stuff now as rent it; we keep a sort of circulating library of excess. We rotate our stuff.
I feel burdened with needing to make use of discards, hating to send anything to be hoarded in landfills, which, according to Pulitzer-prizewinner Edward Humes (the author of Garbology) is how we convince ourselves we’re not hoarders. Most of us store our unwanted stuff elsewhere, as a group, en masse, at group expense. We’re socialist hoarders. Hoarders on TV shows are probably more honest.
For almost two decades, I hoarded wool sweaters and made them into purses, which felt (pun intended) both earth-friendly and businesslike, since I sold both the purses and articles about how to make them. It’s easier to be creative if you have excess, because you can compare colors and textures, and you can be ready to strike when the creative iron is hot.
I began getting supplies secondhand decades ago; a fellow spinning-guild member told me to look for used hand-knit sweaters and dismantle them for the yarn. This is surprisingly guiltproducing (someone took weeks or even months to knit that sweater) and gratifying. If you plan to make the yarn into balls, it takes an evening to deconstruct a sweater and wind it up, and this is oddly satisfying. Maybe it goes way back. Surely once upon a time women regularly unraveled holey sweaters they’d knit into yarn for socks and mittens.
When Wendy Shepherd of Mittens for Detroit announced last year that they had plenty of kid’s mittens and needed adult sizes, I saw a way to reduce my stash. I’d made a pattern from a fleece mitten bought at Hudson’s, when there was still such a place, and I figured that in maybe two weeks I could reduce the sweater hoard to nothing. That was last November. I’m still working on it.
Now Heather Rhea-Wright of Painted Lady Trashions has made the Rust Belt corner into a donation station. I’m trying to drop off mittens every other day or so. It’s gratifying to see the warm items people leave: sweaters, coats, hats, scarves, gloves, even some boots, and that they’re picked up constantly. Some of us have so much, some have not close to enough. (Painted Lady Trashions might be the ultimate recycledproducts business. If you haven’t checked it out, you should. Rust Belt Market.)
ANOTHER BACKLASH SEEMS TIED to a notion of excess as a basic right in a materialistic culture, showing up in a few angry articles about environmental guilt. I’m not sure what’s so awful about guilt. It seems a normal human trait. But some writers think there is not only no need for guilt, it’s out of the question to entertain even the idea of the thought of it. Is that indirect enough?
I’ve been baffled by the environmental movement’s ability and willingness to divorce the results of our actions from the consequences of them. A copy of an environmental magazine from a big, powerful group will likely contain objections to rising sea levels, warming temps, and bizarre new weather patterns and ads and offers for world adventure travel, something with a hefty Co2 footprint because of the massive gulp of oil each trip. We finger-point at Big Oil and their wealth and power as if we didn’t contribute to it. This is all apparently supposed to ensure our happiness.
Of course, we aren’t happy. We’re a depressed, anxious, and medicated population. We seem to assume that the “only” downside we face to the excesses of modern lifestyles is a filthy and deteriorating planet. It stands to reason that if de-cluttered houses could improve our moods, a clean planet could. Maybe mammals can’t really psychologically pull off fouling our nests.
Rebecca Hammond walks in Ferndale most days, and wishes drivers would not only stop at stop signs, but would look up from their phones as they approach them. If you opt out of these niceties, please stop being angry at the pedestrians you almost kill.