Katie is brilliantly funny, and the article’s a quick read. (So go read it now. I’ll wait.) She got me thinking about…well, stuff. Things. Clutter. The junk in our trunks, closets, and attics.
Whether we admit it or not, we’re largely a species of collectors, aren’t we?
The bottom line is, we like stuff. Specifically, we like new stuff and we like more stuff. Katie mentioned the irresistible draw of the Bath & Body Works sales – no matter how much lotion you have, it never hurts to buy MORE, especially when it’s 3/$5. Right? RIGHT?!?! Walking away is basically like leaving cash on the ground here, people!
While I don’t stock up on lotion (I’ll tell you why in a bit*), I will confess that I cannot resist the siren song of…Kohl’s Cash. Or, as it SHOULD be called, Kohl’s Crack.
Here’s how this malicious marketing method sucks you in:
First, you should know that everything at Kohl’s is always going to be on sale at some point. And by “at some point,” I mean “on the day of the week ending in Y.” Next, coupons. Roughly 100% of the time there’s a coupon somewhere for at least 15% off – in either a mailing, online, or via the store’s app. (Pro tip: Get your spouse, your kid, and/or your cat on their mailing list, too. Come coupon time, odds are good that at least one will be for 20% off, and more than half the time you’ll score the Golden Ticket of 30% off. BOOYAH.)
In the famous words of Billy Mays, “BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!” Periodically (read: pretty much every other week), when you hit the register, AFTER you get your sale price and AFTER your coupon is applied, you get…Kohl’s Cash. For every $50 you’ve spent, they give you a voucher for $10…to use like cash, starting NEXT WEEK.
So next week you come back, scouting sale prices, your 20% off coupon AND your Kohl’s Cash in tow, because you can’t just leave $10 worth of Kohl’s merchandise IN THE STORE, right? That’s $10 of FREE STUFF you are GIVING AWAY TO THE EVIL CORPORATE EMPIRE AND THEIR PROFITS OF LUCIFER AND DAMMIT, THAT’S LETTING THE TERRORISTS WIN. So you pore over the merchandise for HOURS, calculating and re-calculating to see how much you can get for basically nothing. I mean, you can ALWAYS use a candle, right? Or a pair of tights? Especially when it’s FREE?
Smugly, you walk out of the store with your new Vera Wang sweater THAT YOU ONLY PAID $4 for. $4!! You’ve won. Suck it, Economic Slowdown.
And three days later, they mail you a flyer announcing that there’s a Cuddl Duds sale…and include a 30% off coupon.
It’s quicksand, I tell ya. QUICKSAND. DANGER. DANGER!!! One foot in and you’re stuck. (And now need new shoes.)
Is there a Kohl’s Anonymous? Perhaps there should be.
So yeah, we like new stuff, especially at bargain prices. But, oddly, we also seem to be quite attached to the stuff we already HAVE. Even if it’s no more than future landfill fodder – in other words, GARBAGE – we aren’t very good at getting RID of stuff that no longer has value. Whether it’s clothes that no longer fit, broken clocks, or “intimate delicates” that will surely disintegrate when faced with the challenge of the rambunctious digestion of your next overly-ambitiously-spicy meal…for some reason, we’re hesitant to part with this stuff.
I’ve mentioned before that I have an aversion to clutter, largely because my ex – and his parents – collected things. They frequented yard sales, antique malls, and flea markets, and came home with all sorts of things: Cake plates. Tools. Clocks and watches. Printers. Diabetes. (Hey, the Amish can bake a mean Whoopie Pie.)
And pianos. (Yes. PIANOS. My kids have informed me that their Dad recently brought home his fifth. FIFTH. What on EARTH does one do with five pianos when you only have two hands? That’s a rather cumbersome paperweight, friends.)
But in addition to this, they also saved EVERYTHING. Plastic bags, shoe boxes, newspapers, magazines, clothes that hadn’t been worn in decades (thankfully!) but were “perfectly serviceable,” and plastic containers.
Which brings me to The Great Plastic Throwdown.
We all have at least one relative who saves plastic tubs, right? Whether it held Cool Whip, Chinese food, or cottage cheese, these tubs with the locking lids are awesome for freezing soup, storing paint, and sending leftover holiday food home with your guests.
So I get the appeal of saving some of these.
My ex saved them all.
Every. Single. One.
He stashed them in not one, but TWO, of our small kitchen’s cupboards. Stacks of bowls and lids were crammed, shoved, and jammed in there in an attempt to fit more and more into the space. And you know what happens when you make something FIT without looking at the space’s FUNCTION, right?
Here’s a chart to illustrate:
One day, I wandered over to the cupboard to pull out something to put soup in.
You know what’s coming, don’t you? It’s the cat jumping on the table during Round 16 of Jenga.
I opened the door.
And this happened:
TupperWars. IT’S ON.
Working at a heated frenzy that should have fused most of the offending objects together, I began to sort. Stained bowls, out. Lids warped from the microwave were Frisbeed into the trash. I declared that every bowl needed a matching lid, or it was being evicted. But the eclectic collection mocked me, much like the laundry nightmare of black, dark brown, and navy socks. NOTHING matched. NOTHING.
After about 45 minutes of ranting, cursing, and organizing, I finally had a small collection of bowls and matching lids. I stacked them neatly in the cupboard. It CLOSED! I had EXTRA SPACE! All was well. Until…
My ex confiscated the rest of it – ALL of the mismatched, stained, twisted-beyond-recognition pieces – and moved them to the basement. Because, of course, “he might need them someday.” Because OBVIOUSLY the lid that held the hot and sour soup you bought in 1998 is irreplaceable. The bends, twists, and dents in the lid from repeated reheating? Custom, one-of-a-kind ART, yo.
When we separated, I didn’t take a single one.
Thankfully, the current hubs isn’t like that. Other than a mild predisposition to hoard cardboard and food, we’re largely in the clear.
However, I have to admit that I’m not immune, either. While I routinely declutter, and take bags of excess to Goodwill, I do hang on to some things entirely too long.
But we’ll save that for the next post. 🙂
* Oh yeah, the lotion. In addition to the clocks and watches and pianos, my ex couldn’t resist the semi-annual Bath & Body Works Stock-Up Sale, either. He kept every “free sample” of lotion he got since probably college, AND hung on to those little bottles of lotion from hotels, too. We didn’t travel a ton, but after ten years of marriage, I had probably three dozen of those little bottles, PLUS myriad samples AND all the stuff he’d bought over the years (or received as gifts, because “obviously you like Bath & Body Works.”)
Suffice it to say we had an ocean of lotion.
The kicker? HE WOULDN’T USE ANY OF IT. He only liked Vaseline Intensive Care. But of course, we couldn’t discard or donate “perfectly good lotion.” Because (sing along, you know the chorus) “we might use it someday.”
Finally, I had had ENOUGH. I made a plan. And I waited.
One Saturday morning, he was out with a friend, undoubtedly at yet another auction to buy more stupid watches. Perfect. It was time.
I gathered my supplies. The miniature army of lotion bottles stood staring at me, waiting for battle. I reached for the nearly empty warehouse-club-sized bottle of Vaseline. I unscrewed the lid, setting it gently on the sink. And, one by one, I poured in every little hotel bottle, free sample, and mostly-used-but-not-enough-to-throw-out container of lotion we had in the house.
Nearly an hour later, I replaced the lid on the “Vaseline,” gave it a good shake, and discreetly disposed of the evidence.
And to answer the question you haven’t asked: Nope. He never noticed.