Sunday, August 2, 2009

The war on stuff, and a solution they don't want you to know about!

Here in the land of buy this and buy that, the trade-in-a-clunker car program is all over the airwaves, along with really bad news about driving sloshed out of your brain and up the wrong side of the interstate. Turns out that's not life-compatible. Terrible. Truly terrible. There's economic frownie faces splashed all over the news as well, and when we're not telling stories of people slashed on the subway, killed in shootings in Chicago, we are all obsessing about the bottom line.

I don't mind not having a television in Santiago. In fact, it sort of feels like an appropriation of space, a cheat, if you will, that buys me X amount of space in my cluttered apartment. I also don't mind not standing still in a torrent of information, most of it bad (though I did sit spacily through a 60-minutes piece on Wyclef Jean and I love him even more than I did before, he does really good work in Haiti and seems like a very likeable human).

But what I'm really thinking about here is the money saving tips. At Blogher, there were a series of vendors and swag givers who promised to enter you in a contest to win something smashing and fabulous if you would sit down and record yourself giving a great money-saving tip. Tips like: cut the top off your little girls' dresses and put elastic in to turn them into skirts. This is the caliber of money-saving tip being given. And I found myself getting irrationally frustrated, as I gobbled down berry after berry (did you know it's summer here, and berries are in season?), flanked by the unflappable Rosalind and the uber transportable Pam. I was frustrated, because the main reason that we overspend, my friend, is not for failure to cut and mend, it is because we cannot grow the appendages to turn us into real women and men and STOP BUYING.

There, I said it. In all caps, and just as I'm waiting for a code from Blogher to post little adlets here on the side, and as I also admit that I suffer from this purchaseathon, from aquisitivia, despite my repeated desire to celebrate discardia, and banish affluenza for good.

And I hate those snippity little tips because they don't really save you any money at all, you just end up spending less, which is not really the same.

So how can I square my hate of the tips together with my dislike of aquisitivia (hey! you heard it here first) and give a tip that runs not afoul of my grand philosophic pronouncements?

Do not buy any storage solutions. No containers, no boxes, no handy underbed vacuum squeezy bags. None of it.

That simple. Your problem, unless you live on a boat, or in a verrrrrry teeeeeeny tiiiiiiiny apartment which requires copious use of multiple consonants and vowels, is not a lack of space. It is an excess of stuff. By saying no to the overdoor hanger or the plastic crates for the garage or another shelf to put in the entry way, you benefit thrice. One, you don't buy the storage solutions. 2, you do not keep buying more to fill up that space or possibly even 3, you realize you have too much stuff and now's a good time to have a garage sale or put up some ads on Ebay or Craigslist or whathaveyou. I've started my own little charity, which works only when you live in a neighborhood that sees not just a bit of poverty. I call it "debajo del puente," or under the bridge, where I leave bags of tidily folded clean items that will no longer grace my closet. The cartoneros pick up the stuff, bring it home and sort it, and their ladyfriends or wives sell it at the feria. Total win.

So that's my tip. I haven't introduced myself "Hi, this is Eileen Smith, from bearshapedsphere and I write about everything from donkey milk to abortion policy in Chile from an expat perspective" but I will give you my money saving tip. It's very War Games-y (ten points if you saw it in the theater!), Strange game. The only way to win is not to play. Or as I'll crystallize it down for you, since you've read this far is: storage solutions aren't.

And yeah, blogher was great. And now I'm outtie.


kyle said...

So true. That's actually one of the things I was thinking about blogging about when I got around to the sheer amount of STUFF that people collect around here has culture shocked me to my very core.

Pam said...

Smart smart smart. As expected, really.

Stephen said...

Great points. I feel so out of place, and slightly (irritatingly) envious, when I travel back to the states and walk the malls and see all the stuffs that people have.

It makes me sick when I know that where I live people are living in cement cubes with white plastic chairs, a few chickens, and making $5-$7 a day to feed their 10,000 children.

My best money saving tip is: Go live in a 3rd world country for a while. If you even partially human you will realize that what you *want* is almost never what you *need*, and what you need can probably be pared down to.

Fly Girl said...

Oh Eileen, you have me in awe. As I gaze at the mountain of Blogher and TBEX bags and stuff(kids and hubby only claimed a small portion)taking up a corner in my second floor, I wonder why I never thought of donating it. That's a brillant tip. I will also heed you ant-storage tip and stop considering all those neat over the closet door, under the bed, storage solutions. I would love to meet you in Santiago more than NY but NY is a lot closer. Thanks for the shout out,I'm glad I seemed unflappable to you, I didn't feel it and am still trying to recover from that long, activity fueled weekend.

Kate said...

hi! I'm a 26 year old American looking for some advice about living in Chile for a few months. Would you be able to help? I don't really want to post my email on here for everyone though. Is there some way to send you a message? Thanks!

Eileen said...

thanks all for commenting. I could tirade on and on about stuff, and still come home and find out I have too much of it. I admit addiction to several different classes of items, but I also try to follow the strict one in-one out rule or the stricter one in-two out rule for new acquisitions. But I do have too much stuff. Admitting my problem is the first step, they say.

@Kate, without too much trouble, you will find my email address in my profile, or you can add at hotmail to my name (the bear name, not the real name) to find the same email addy. I'll tell you what I can, and you should also check out some of the other great Stgo bloggers on my blogroll.

Still Life in South America said...

I agree with Stephen. When I go home (to the U.S.), I feel simultaneously jealous about all the stuff and relieved I don't have all that stuff.

I am lucky that I am not surrounded by CVS stores down here. That's my downfall. I can find lots of beautiful beauty products that I'll never get around to using.

Annje said...

I love your post and agree whole-heartedly. I buy a few guilty pleasures here and there, not much... but let me tell you, it is so easy to talk about how everyone has too much stuff and people should stop buying and all... but when you add kids to the mix it is nearly impossible, I bet even you would/will be thinking of storage solutions! ;-) Because it ceases to be all about what you buy or not and about what friends/family give etc. I have to store shoes and clothes that won't fit my daughter for another year or 2 and I am constantly giving away clothes, getting rid of toys and such. It is a losing battle.

Eileen said...

@still life, oh! the lip balm. It kills me every time. What's a tube here or there? I mean, I need it, noone wants me to have dry lips, do they? But the tubes of lip balm I have around now could stage a revolt, and they would win! it's sad.

Annje, I know you're right. Kids grow, and they need stuff. I'm not the stuff police, I just think we need to be conscious and conscientious about what we buy and why. That said, I have a techy exception that would cause the whole stuff police brigade to come unto my house and tear it asunder. I would be so embarassed. and I would miss my techy toys so much!