When I was working and paying off a mortgage, I bought a lot of doodads. Doodads gave me a little lift for not much money. Each one seemed to promise to make life that much easier, or that much more adorable. A plastic box you put your bagel in to slice it so that you don’t cut your finger off? Must have. A ceramic egg separator that looks like a human head and the whites drip out the nostrils? Must have.
Before the internet, gobs of catalogs came through the mail. I had a postal patron who once received–I counted–67 catalogs in one day. Drop those babies through the mail slot all at once and you could startle urine out of her dog. Catalogs were wonderful. You’d page through them and find just the thing you didn’t know you needed. Wind-up salt shaker that walks across the table, eventually? Must have.
I never spent much for any one thing, so ultimately I got my mortgage paid off and had a fully-paid-for house full of cheap entertaining plastic crap and things that looked useful but never got used, like the plunger stick with fingers on the end that picks olives out of the bottom of the jar.
And now that I can afford whatever I might want, I never get anything. Even if I could make a case for needing it. I can admire a doodad in a store and see how it could be useful, but I won’t pull the trigger on it. I’m horrified by the thought of bringing more stuff into the place. Apparently you can develop a case of late-onset Depression-era attitude even if your background didn’t involve that much scarcity. I don’t even get things I know I could use.
For instance, right now, there are three items I use frequently that all have the same flaw: they’ve come off their handles. The other word for that is they’s busted. One is a cheese slicer that I use literally every day. I jam the slicer end onto the handle and hold it on with my thumb as I peel off cheese. If I don’t press down hard enough the handle comes off. It wouldn’t cost much to get a new cheese slicer, but I can make this work.
A little worse than that is my meat pounder. Handy little item. It’s come loose and slides up and down on its wooden handle too. Plus, water gets in the handle-hole now. The other day I brought it out and an earwig crawled out of it. I just flicked it in the sink.
Which is also how I have to use our mattock. Handy little item. Big old heavy thing with a blade that, yes, now slides around on the handle. You can swing it over your head and bring it down two or three times but then you’d best pound it on the ground to get the blade down so it doesn’t fly off the handle, which is not just an expression.
I could make a solid case for replacing all three of these items. Nobody really wants to be sliced out of the gene pool by a mattock blade to the back of the head. But I can make them work. Hey, don’t throw out that grocery receipt! We can still write notes on the back.
Okay, thanks for listening. I’m going to go finish my flour sack dress. Fetch me the button jar. It’s next to the string jar.
I'm always amazed, when I go to garage sales, at the people who will buy any old piece of crap just because "it's cute" or because their niece might wear it, or you never know when you might need that backup fifth vacuum cleaner. Their houses must be cluttered to the gills (which parenthetically, is why they find cleaning it such a chore.)
Paul jokes that if something hasn't been used or moved around the house in six months, I get rid of it. He's not far off base (usually, I wait a year if it's something seasonal.) One can keep the memories without keeping the mementoes. And the place is easy to keep clean because I don't have a lot of knick-knacks and stacks of magazines that I "will read someday" that have to be cleaned or cleaned around.
But I DO find useful items really cheap at garage sales. Like the time I was wondering what I was going to do with all those tomatoes in our garden, and I came across a pressure canner. Or the time my vacuum died and I came across a working Dyson for $25. (It was just missing an attachment, which I never use anyway.) And if by chance I don't find anything, I generally have some nice conversations with people, which in this era is worth driving around for.
I am never drawn in by garage sales for some reason. Even when I was in the acquisitions phase of life. I was vaguely on the lookout for a cool deviled-egg caddy like the one my neighbor Gayle had. It had two levels and a snap-on lid with a handle. But now that she's dead the woman who is handling the estate says Gayle willed it to me and I'll get it as soon as she can find it!
My mother was a collector – s&p shakers, decorative plate or cups & saucers, pencils, etc. That bug skipped my generation. Mom always found my house "sterile".
Fortunately, when it comes to tools, I know just which hardware store to go to. Over the years, I've had them replace handles on my dad's old sledge hammer (I was afraid I would injure myself using it, otherwise), shovels, etc. I'd rather have a "fixed up" item than a new one, any day!
P.S. Your writing on the back of your receipts brought visions of my grandmother who kept a small brown bag in her dresser drawer. It held the few business letters that she received in the mail, on the backs of which she could write lists or notes.
I do that, too, Cop Car. Receipts from online companies and junk mail (if it has a blank back) goes by my computer as scratch paper. I never have to buy paper for memos to myself (which I seem to need increasingly, alas.)
Unfortunately my writing room desk is full of old envelopes that I jotted notes on when I was in another room so I wouldn't forget the cool ideas or turns of phrase. I can't quite throw them out because they were clearly brilliant, but I can't read my handwriting.
Oh yes. These days I have almost total sales resistance (except for plants and books). The other resident does not. And I write on the backs of envelopes (but not on the shopping dockets which have special offers I will not take up).
I buy books but then I give them away. Almost nothing on my bookshelves. I buy plants, stick them in the ground, and haul them out when they die.
I have a crush on your cheese slicer — mine is so boring by comparison. Wait, I have two??? Oh yeah, one was my Mom's. Since I am still trying to distribute the bits of my Mom's estate that nobody in the family wants (she kept buying from Publisher's Clearing House in hopes of winning that $1,000-a-day-for-life jackpot), I'm 100% on board with not acquiring any new gadgets, appliances, doohickies, etc.
Have you heard of Swedish Death Cleaning? https://youtu.be/yv6fBOZlMgE
I'm starting that any day now. Any day now.
You and I must have bought our mattocks at the same store. Using it is an art form.
It's like a dance.
Hey Murr, I know you can fix that mattock handle easily by inserting wedges into the end that the head is attached to. Dave probably knows how to do this. Either metal or wooden wedges would work. You can make the wooden ones and if you have a decent hardware store in Portland, you can buy the metal wedges. If the kitchen doodads have wooden handles, you can do something similar, but will need to make up the wedges. If you and the resourceful Dave can't figure it out, send the little stuff my way and I'll tighten them up for you. I could do the mattock too, but the postage would be prohibitive.
Heck no, I'm sending you the mattock. 😉 The other two aren't going to take me out.
My dad had driven in so many metal wedges into the handle of his sledge hammer that driving another was no longer an option – needed new wooden handle.
the second wave is starting and in a pandemic it is usually the 2nd wave that kills the majority of people. You baby boomers are all going to die of corona-virus and finally the world will be able to make progress when you boomers are all dead
The Anonymous family is so big! Thanksgiving dinner must be epic.
Well… this year, if they celebrate Thanksgiving together, it may "take out" the elder branches of the Anonymous'. But apparently this particular member of the family doesn't seem to have a problem with that.
I had a similar mattock. It had WPA woodburned into the handle. Loaned it out and she busted the handle. Crap! Got a replacement handle, but it never felt the same.
Aww! You lost your provenance!
Ah, the Mattock of Death! I grew up with one of those, and Dad Downs would fix it every few years by inserting wedges into the end of the handle. Also grew up with parents that saved their junk mail so they could write shopping lists on the blank side. My brother & I would alternately cringe and laugh at such parsimonious habits, until one day they both were dead and we were left with a pretty decent inheritance. The moral of this story? Be sure to put me in your will. 🙂
…the very moral I was thinking of!
My dad's trick when it came to tool heads that fit too loosely on wooden handles (axes, mattocks, etc.) was to soak them in a bucket of water. When the wood swelled up with water, the metal heads stayed on. Worked for a while, anyway.
I was looking at the meat pounder, and the handle won't come back through the hole at the top because it apparently swelled up! I'd have to hack away at it to shim it. Which makes no sense.
Two part epoxy for everything except maybe the mattock. Mix it on wax paper.
No, you! Isn't there some kind of gorilla product?
Gorilla Glue! Paul uses it for everything that needs to stay on permanently. But keep in mind that it expands as it dries, so if you use it on something that you want to look "pretty" again… it won't. The hardened expanded glue kind of seeps out of the edges. But it works better than any other glue.
A little putty should fix those, but I can't guarantee it. Probably best to try the epoxy method or some other very strong glue. My meat mallet is solid metal, no wooden handle to come loose and my cheese slicer is a knife, with a riveted full length tang so it doesn't come loose.
Extra points to River for "tang."
"Not wanting something is as good as possessing it." ~ Donald Horban (Apparently merchants do not want us to know this.)
Mind you, I'm not saving money. I buy lots of good food and good beer.
Hey—was that the pickle fork with the plunger? My grandfather invented that little sucker, so thanks for buying one!
Are you talking about my olive picker? Because it didn't have a fork. It was like one of those things that grobs the stuffed animals in the clear box.
I have one of those 'pickle spears', they're great for fishing out small things that roll under the cupboard all the way to the back when you arm isn't quite long enough and the broom won't fit.
We've got mice for that.
Thank you. That's it.
I used to have a lot of useless gadgets but I purged the vast majority of them during the Great Edit and Purge, which is still ongoing. It is my desire, before I die, to rid myself of excess, it will take several lifetimes I think, but at least the Kitchen Gadget crap is long gone, those were an easy thing to Cull.