19 November 2006

Make Mine a Handkerchief

-Consumerism and Accumulation-

Consumerism and accumulation are the seedy sidekicks of materialism. Sad to say, I keep company with all three of those characters far too much.

I'd define consumerism as a Kleenex approach to life. Buy it, use it, pitch it. Repeat.

Accumulation is getting a Costco-sized palette of Kleenex. Just in case.

In contrast, stewardship is a handkerchief approach to life. Buy it, use it, wash it, fold it neatly, use it again. And again. And again. As long as it lasts.

Here's the conversation I've had with myself this week as I've wandered around my home, getting ready for the upcoming holidays:
Hey you! In the mirror! Wipe off that frothy moustache and put down the Starbucks cup. Yeah you. How many times this month did you re-route your errands so you could swing by for your "fix"? Is there perhaps a missionary you know that could buy some Bibles or supplies with that extra money you're plunking down for a Venti Fill-in-the-Blank?

Excuse me. Yes, you. In the mirror. Would you kindly count the number of black shoes in your closet? Now kindly REcount how you recently got rid of a perfectly good pair because they were slightly scuffed and no longer seem to coordinate with your wardrobe. How many black shoes are too many? How many shoes are too many? Wanna talk about purses and bags too? (Ummm... the addict in me says... N O.)

Hey lady. Yeah, I'm talking to you and your cosmetological self. How many shades of nail polish do you own?
Oh, let me count the ways of fancy lotions, smelly shampoos and hair tonics thou keepest near perchance occasion. Seekest thou another fragrance, come Yuletide? Fie! Shalt thou hoard the rainbow? Shalt thou seize the scented fields for thine privy trousseau? A pox upon thee, if 'tis true!

Books- (I LOVE books!) How about, Lady in the Mirror, instead of buying your books new, you see what the local library's got? How about we try to work that interlibrary loan system a little bit? How about we ask friends if they might have the book that we can borrow and return unharmed? ;)
Bibles- How many ya got? How many ya reading? Regularly?

Ahem. Ma'am? Yes, the one shopping for more Christmas wrapping paper. You there, the one that looks like the same lady with all those black shoes. What are you doing on the Christmas wrap aisle when you've got yards and rolls of wrapping paper carefully stowed away? Yes I know, the new designs are so cute this year. Yes, your children would flip for Care Bears frolicking in the snow. But you already HAVE paper. Lots. Loads. Hoardes. Put the paper down and back away, nice and slow. That's it.

You there! In the mirror! What are you planning to do with that plastic tub full of socks, waiting for a sock famine?! Either use them or find someone who WILL.
All of this thinking and self-examination started because I have one daughter in particular that is easily overwhelmed by the amount of clothing she owns. It's not an abnormally large wardrobe in my opinion, but the sweet little thing has a right-brained mind.
Remembering to fold it, to keep it in the drawer, on the hanger, in the hamper... is too much for her to bear. Not being naturally skilled at keeping on top of her laundry and clothing, she's frazzled.
She asked me this morning if we could please pare down the clothing in her dresser. (Have you ever heard a young American girl in 2006 complain that she's got too many clothes?!) For Ellie, I'm doing her a favor when I simplify her wardrobe choices. Her spirit is more at ease when the choice is between 2 shirts, as opposed to 12.
Hmmm, one pair of socks left? That means the other 2 pairs are dirty. Better get to doing the wash. Simple.

I realized have been trying to get her to tackle life like it's a box of Kleenex, when she is far better suited for handkerchiefs.

So I have challenged myself. In two areas.

1) Use-Your-Stash Challenge
What have I got languishing in my pantry? What's been passed over so many times as I reach for the favorite food group, that I just don't even see it anymore? Clam chowder, Saltines, a can of kidney beans, Jello packets. What's lurking in there that is taking up space and NOT being used? Use your stash, Erin! Become a gourmet and invent a recipe that incorporates a few of those "foods of mysterious origin."

I also have a big bin of fabric in my basement that is sitting there, waiting for "someday."
Well, Mr. Big Bin of Fabric, "someday" starts on Wednesday. (evil eye and finger pointing at the overflowing bin in the corner) We're taking our Thanksgiving roadtrip to TN, and that there fabric has a 9 hour date with destiny. Bwhahahahaha!

Anyone else got a stash they want to use? Socks? Straws? Canned ham? Toilet paper? Crayons?

2) Meet my coffee pot

This old girl came to me by way of my mother, who came by it when her church was getting rid of it in favor of a perky new percolator. (Punny, no?) Mom may have even fished it out of the church dumpster... but let's not go there.

Ol' Whitey works perfectly fine, though she's not much to look at. Between you and me, all she does is brew. That's it. No frothing, grinding, steaming, or whizzing. J u s t b r e w i n g.
I've been wanting a new coffee maker for several years now, and thought that this year I might ask for one for Christmas. Something deluxe. Something sleek and shiny. Something that does more than j u s t b r e w. I mean, if I'm expected to give up Starbies to help support a missionary, I gotta have SOME compensation, right?

I think though, that after all this simplicity talk, I'm going to keep the old girl around until she breathes her last Hazelnutty breath. I think I'm going to learn to be content with the coffee Ol' Whitey makes. (It really is good coffee.) I reject the idea that in order to be content I need the latest-and-greatest. I reject that part of my flesh that desires to consume and dispose, consume and dispose, accumulate, accumulate, consume and dispose.

I think, like Ellie, I'm better suited for handkerchiefs too.


Blogger Carolanne said...

I loved your definitions of consumerism, accumulation and stewardship - how very easy to relate to.
The books is my downfall. I own way too many but I can justify it cause the local library doesn't stock Christian books and we do live in a rural area. I also share them liberally. However, I do have to look into how I could be a bit more careful in what I buy.
My son (aged 14) and his friend go through my pantry on a regular basis and find all the food where use-by dates are past and they make .. concoctions.
Thanks for your post. It's got me thinking.

2:21 AM  
Blogger Lance said...

OK Chick,
Time to write a book.

And, uh, could you please refrain from any more Starbucks comments. You're hurting us all!


11:11 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

First of all, writing-wise, I think this is one of your best.
Second of all, ah! She smote me! Right through the heart (yes, I'm singing right now). Cough, cough. I've had a similar conviction stab recently. You see, I've gotten quite lazy with cleaning supplies. (I know some of you are surprised to hear that I clean at all.) I used to use old socks and panties. Then i discovered pledge grab-its and swishers and all sorts of disposable paraphernalia. Not only does that cost more money (although not much), it hurts the environment. So back to socks and panties I go.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Robin said...


Oh, Erin, what can I say? I just read Heather, now I'm reading you, and I'm a bit twitchy that my on-line friends can read my mind, and think my thoughts, and write so stinkin' much better than I :/. That was a compliment, and not even the least big back-handed.

I.want.less. Until I SEE it! THEN I want "it", whatever "it" might be. I'm torn between wanting to give all my STUFF away, and wanting to add more. I have toyed with the idea of using everything in our pantry before I buy anything new (with the exception of milk, bread, and maybe meat). I'm too chicken. And then there's that new Starbucks addiction that I swear, just happened this summer. I think Satan owns SBs and he's laughing out loud at all the IDIOTS who plop down 5 bucks for their favorite venti-du-jour (finger pointed at self...you and your incriminating mirror!) :).

Stewardship is an issue I think God will hold us accountable for; of course He will, that was kind of a dumb statement. What I mean is, in areas we don't typically consider when thinking "stewardship" (merely dollars & cents). I'm talking, generosity with our things, our time, our hearts, our hands.

Ok....I'm supposed to be getting ready for the major family I have coming into town Wednesday. Visits to you and L'chaim were self-indulgent treats.

Ooooooo, btw, tell me again what part of TN? I'm the Chattanooga area, but don't tell anyone. You aren't driving down 75 are ya?

12:26 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

You are freaking me out! Are you stalking me?! LOL

~I kid you not, just today my 9yo son, (whilst redecorating his room with newly aquired antlers, badger pelt, and a bobcat skull, from his uncle) declared his realization that his cousins room looks so nice because it's clean.

~Totally on the same simplifying use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without resourcefulness page.

~I labored (two seperate times) over whether or not to purchase the adorable Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas wrap...resistance successful!

~And remind me to tell you sometime where my Mom picked up our microwave (and how many years it took to air it out in the shed before we used it).

Again great post!

11:50 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

You guys always give me a laugh!

I do NOT want to know what the panties are used for. Nor what your teenage sons create with the forgotten and downtrodden pantry contents. (You'd be proud of me, last night was a smorgasbord of chicken nuggets, tater tots, and the last lingering corndog in the freezer.)

Starbucks seems to be the pet vice of so many of us, doesn't it. I will tread lightly so all you (us) addicts won't feel so violated.

And BADGER PELTS?!?! What an awesome bedroom decor! Man, I needed a beaver pelt, but I would've taken a badger pelt for that homeschool unit.

*Upon further queries, I've gone to the source and discovered that indeed, Ol' Whitey DID come from the church office, and yes indeed, it WAS fished out of that place-we-won't mention. Perhaps that's why my coffee is always so nice and rich...

9:29 AM  
Blogger gramarty said...

btw...your chest of drawers came out of the same dumpster. I have no qualms about saying the word. I was the one standing waist deep in (semi-clean) refuse, handing things down to my knight in shining armor. He willingly took them so...it's his fault!

10:34 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

You know it's sad but too many churches are caught up in the same "consumerism. We attended (quite a few years back) a large church where every time a new nursery coordinator took over all the nurseries were completely redecorated. If memory serves well, 3 times in 6 years...4 nursery rooms. Must the church nursery need to reflect the new overseers "personality"?
We are now the proud owners of a beautiful play kitchen and adorable elephant puppet rescued from the dumpster. The puppet guilty of being homemade and vintage...the play kitchen of having a broken hinge, it was custom made only 7 years prior to that of high quality construction. Why not just fix the hinge? We were also given a little tykes house that had a small hole in the door that occasionally caused the door to come off. Out with the old, in with the new. Tithe dollars put to good use for the kingdom! Sorry, on a rant...it grieves me our American "tithe unto ourselves" mentality.
Alrighty...back to life...gotta practice piano now. :)

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Another great post, Erin! I'm not really wanting to look in the mirror now.

I arrived at Kohl's this morning at 4:57am. It's black Friday. The retailers call it that because of all the positive (black) numbers they get to put in their books. For the consumers, it is more like red Friday for their budgets or, rather, credit-card Friday.

Fortunately for our economy everyone seems to be spending big this year(hear the sarcasm). The line outside of Best Buy before they opened extended the entire strip mall - that's at least five large stores. And the cops were there to keep order. Fortunately, the Kohl's line was short and we all got in with no "incidents." It's crazy when the health of our economy is judged off how much we are consuming. (By the way, I paid cash - and my spending was in the budget.)

One big change we've made has been with paper towels. We used to go through about 3 rolls a week. But I got sick of the waste and bought 2 dozen kitchen towels that I use for everything. It's a small change but a good one. Now we only buy one roll of paper towels every few weeks.

An interesting story about pulling things out of the dumpster... when I used to work in Loss Prevention, one thing I'd have to do is supervise the destruction of returns and outdated stuff. We literally had to go with the department managers and check everything on their list and watch it go into the dumpster. And the worst part was we had a camera watching that dumpster and employees could get fired for trying to take anything out of there! I couldn't believe how much stuff they wasted.

So, um... did you say something about Starbucks? I must have skipped right over that part ;)

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Bev said...

Loved your post. I just spent several hours cleaning up my 7 year old dd's room. She, too, had been complaining of having TOO MUCH STUFF! Amazing. She was the one who kept mentioning how many people could be blessed with her stuff that she didn't need anymore. Ah, to become like little children!

I'm currently in week three of giving up my favorite drink, as well. But, I'm not a coffee drinker - just DrPepper. It's not been easy, but it's saving me at least 5 dollars/week.


11:32 PM  
Blogger rhon said...

Sandi and I have been telling you! This is a book in the making.

Here's my consumerism put in check. We have a company Christmas party every year. Every year I go out and buy a new outfit that I never wear again. Last year, I bought a pair of sparkly shoes and a copper fake lamé top. I've never worn them since. What am I going to wear this year? The same outfit.
Shock and gasps fill the room.
I'm sure there will be at least one person who will notice. I'm dying to find out if someone has the steel to say something.

I'd rather have lunch with Ugly Betty, anyway.

4:37 PM  

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