Archives for category: consumerism

I stood in the pet store aisle considering the object in my hand. It was a brightly colored plastic stick-shaped dog toy. “Scented!” read the copy. “It floats!” said the packaging. I was thinking that this might be great to buy for my upcoming trip with our Shepherd/lab mix Sugar. We would be lakeside for two weeks, and I envisioned myself hurling the toy over and over into Lake Superior as she joyously splashed into the water to swim and retrieve.

But then I stopped and remembered: we will be right on this Great Lake. We have a sandy beach and we are in the forest. What exists there naturally, and in huge abundance?

Driftwood. Sticks. Of all shapes and sizes. Fun to throw, easy to float. And they must smell of fish and animals and insects and earth and rain and sunshine and all the things dogs intensely love to sniff.

I glanced around the store and thought about what else Sugar might need. But other than food and a few necessities, what Sugar needs is not on these shelves or hanging from these displays.

What she needs is eye contact, a friendly voice, a comforting stroke of the hand. She needs a loving home, long walks, and crazy playtime. She needs quiet, regular reassurance that she is a Good Dog and that she is doing the Right Thing.

I put back the chemical laden manufactured product and thought about walking the beach and the woods with Sugar, looking for the perfect piece of natural wood for that day’s play.



I love to get rid of things. If I were more patient about it, I would make a little money selling on eBay or Craigslist (which I do sometimes). I’ve given up holding yard sales as well. As I feel unnecessary objects piling up around me, I get very restless. I feel the weight of excess ownership upon me. So I clean the offending items up and donate them to my favorite resale shop whose proceeds benefit a local charity. (The financial balance is that the donations are tax deductible).

Lately I’ve been focusing on books. To my mind, books are highly worthy objects, so this has not been easy. But as I looked over my overstuffed bookcases, I knew it was time to make choices.

Several years ago, I started discovering book sale sections at local libraries. I would spend hours with these shelves and bring home armloads of books for which I only spent a few dollars. What I wound up with are books about Tolkien and his writings, books about gardening, health, nature, hiking, art, essays, poetry, all the things I love to read about. When faced with personal loss, I picked up book after book about grieving and loss, hoping they would help me process my emotions. But the reality is, I didn’t read most of these books cover to cover. They were simply objects that represented my interests.

And owning these books wasn’t really enhancing my life; it was overkill, clutter.

So this week, I pared them down dramatically. I still have one book, or several, on everything that interests me. I still have my old Tolkien trilogy and my newer Hunger Games trilogy. I just no longer have different versions of these books or companion books or anything else.

I also went through the books I bought through the years for my children. This was especially difficult, but I realized that I was the one tied up with these books, not my kids. I was emotionally invested because I had made the choices in bringing these books home to expand my kids’ horizons on one topic or another. Most books had simply been outgrown; a few never interested them much in the first place. But of course I kept some beautiful classics and old favorites.

When it was all done, I had three big heavy boxes to bring to the store. And looking back to my newly open shelves and more carefully curated book collection, I saw that the books I loved most were no longer hidden in the shadows of the others. They were right there for me, as they had been all along.

Being more a purpose-driven than recreational shopper, I don’t get out that much in the chain retail world. However, on a recent excursion, this item stopped me in my tracks.

Product: Decorative Wine Corks
Store: Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Website description: A stylish way to re-use discarded wine toppers, these assorted corks are great for filling tabletop vases or bowls to enhance their decorative appeal.

Discarded wine toppers? Do you mean corks? So if you love wine (ahem, as I do) enough to want to decorate with wine corks, would you not have the corks from drinking the wine? And if you don’t enjoy wine, why would you want to decorate with wine corks? I guess this product is for an emergency wine cork situation… you need to decorate FAST and have just recycled your corks at Whole Foods…