Too Easy To Toss Our Stuff

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is CINCH.

Since few people ride a horse today, the first definition of CINCH: a strap that fastens around the horse’s belly and holds the saddle of a horse, is not so commonly known.

The second meaning, something easily done, is still in use, but other expressions have crowded in. You’ll often hear, “It was a breeze” or “a snap,” “easy-peasy,” “a cakewalk” or “a piece of cake.” Merriam-Webster lists one I haven’t heard, “duck soup.”

I can’t imagine what’s so easy about duck soup, but no one asked me before making it up.

I do know one thing that has become far too easy— I was reading a post about it yesterday. It’s a shame to us in North America just how easy this has become.

Our North American dilemma: What to do with the clothing we’ve worn five-ten times and now it’s SO out of fashion we have to get rid of it?

Oh, that’s a cinch! Donate it to some second hand clothing store like Value Village, Goodwill, or some charity shop. And feel good. “Some needy person…” and all that.

Sad to say, only about 20% of the clothing that’s donated is sold. So what do they do with the 80% of the used clothing  they can’t sell? Easy-peasy. Bundle it up and send it to some third-world country. And feel good. “Some needy people…etc.”

According to this article — Click HERE to READ — the U.S. sends away over a billion pounds of used clothing every year, mainly to East Africa. And having been manager of an MCC Thrift Shop myself, I can verify that here in Canada we aren’t doing anything different; what we couldn’t sell we packed up and sent to the local Value Village, or to one woman who collected our stuff, bundled it up, and sent to her African home country.

It’s not hard to grasp that countries like Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda are feeling SWAMPED and are actually considering banning our stuff. Oh NO! If they won’t take it, we’ll have to make more and bigger landfill sites.

Many voices are raised in protest against pollution and global warming, but we are the recipients of, the ones whose lifestyle is supporting, all this pollution. I read an article a few days ago about the industrial wastes produced in China — and dumped into a huge toxic tailing pond — to make the components for our cell phone and other electronics. Yet the demand continues around the world for newer and better.

I’ve read many articles insisting, or wailing, that “The government needs to do something…” But I’m thinking the answer to cutting back on pollution may be found where we don’t want to look: in our own personal budget. Cinch it a bit. (re: def #1)

Do take time to read this article. I think the writer is giving a good overall picture, plus some practical answers with regard to choosing clothing for long-term wear. And I don’t want to discourage anyone from recycling by making charitable donations; this avenue is definitely worthwhile. Sales generate income for various charitable organizations.

The bigger problem I’m seeing is that we’ve built our world on consuming. Things aren’t built to last. And what would stores do if they couldn’t sell us all that stuff we’re going to throw away? Businesses would go bankrupt; workers would be laid off. Even a short-term dip like production in China slowing down because of the Coronavirus has led US and Canadian banks to drop interest rates in order to stimulate the economy.

How to get back from this point, that is the question. Would a grassroots movement work or wreak havoc? Could each of us do more to stop pollution by buying less new stuff, without throwing the country into a major recession? Important questions to ask. Yet it seems most of us have the vague sense that somehow, someday, our consumption-driven society is going to crash.

Are You Boxing Today?

Good morning everyone.

We woke up yesterday morning to a delightful fluffy blanket of fresh snow and a calm, mild sort of day. This morning it’s -15° C / 5° F and a serious wind from the NW, reducing the temp to -21 C / -11 F with windchill factored in. a person doesn’t want to be out side long in this “invigorating” weather.

And it’s Boxing Day here in Canada. While this day hasn’t no spiritual significance, it was traditionally a day to at least think of the poor. Back in Ebeneezer Scrooge’s Day folks would have packed up boxes of food and goodies as a special treat for the poor. Of which there were many, as the Ghost of Christmas Present reminded Scrooge, including Ebeneezer’s own clerk, Bob Cratchett.

When it comes to charity, some folks are truly giving and kind, no strings attached, bless their dear hearts. When they give a gift, it’s a quality item. Others have agendas of buying friendship or affection, and still others use this as a way to feel good while getting rid of outdated, unwanted stuff. I managed a Thrift Shop for a year and could write lots about this. 😉

And there was a generation that saved everything and passed it on. My Aunt-Mom grew up in very poor circumstances and never wanted to throw away anything that might be useful. She didn’t hoard, though; she passed it on. After I was married, she’d pack and mail big Christmas parcels for us with all manner of things like cookies they couldn’t eat, blank menu sheets from the restaurant they sold, stamps they hadn’t sold at the post office, or Grandma’s old dresses for me to make into girls’ aprons. I still think back with affection on Mom’s grab-box parcels, but I can’t say much got used.

Mine is the generation that’s had to move those dear old parents and grandparents into small apartments, which meant helping them downsize. I’m sure a lot of you can tell about an endeavor of that sort. While I’m trying to declutter for my children’s sake, I still have that mindset that “This might come in handy if / could still be used for…” Yes. they’ll still have a lot of stuff to deal with when we move on.

Back to Boxing Day. I doubt anyone’s packing boxes for the poor today. Christmas hampers are generally given out ahead of time by a number of charities these days. Boxing Day has come to mean SALES! Advertised well in advance. Two weeks before Christmas we got a “BOXING WEEK SALE” flier from some store.

Traditionally, stores here in Canada have been closed on Boxing Day, though some are pushing it and some provinces are allowing store opening today. In one way, Boxing Day is our Black Friday, except that Christmas is over, the pressure is off, and there’s no scrambling over each other to get to bargains. Boxing Day/Week sales are simply the way stores get rid of surplus inventory — especially seasonal and/or perishable — before the Easter sales start in February. Sigh…

And now I shall treat myself to a cup of fresh hot coffee and think about my day’s work. We aren’t having our family Christmas until Sunday, which should give me time to scrounge through my closets and come up with a nice box of misc-this-and-that as a special treat for my grandchildren. Then they’ll have something to tell their children about Granny’s Christmas parcels — and my daughter will be that much ahead when it comes time to deal with our stuff. 😉

Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning: SPIRITUAL
Daily Addiction prompt word: TREAT

With A Few Repairs

The Ragtag daily prompt this morning was VACANT
And the Word of the Day challenge was OCEAN

Here’s my response:

With A Few Repairs

“Now this second property, as I said, is more in the price range you’re looking at. At least, I’m pretty sure if you make the owner an offer, he’ll seriously consider it. I assure you it’s structurally sound, but it has been vacant for a few years and needs a little work to bring it up to par.”

house-3039127_640

The salesman waited for the young couple to recover from their initial impression before launching into his sales pitch. “I’m sure you’re thinking it looks a little run down, but the repairs needed are simply cosmetic, replacing windows, flooring, wallpaper, and so forth. The beams are in good shape, floors are level, doors and windows all hang straight.”

He pointed up. “The roof has no major leaks and shouldn’t need replacing for a few years yet. As you can see, the outdoors needs serious work done, but I can see you’re an ambitious young couple; you’ll soon have things under control. Considering the size of this property, in time you could have a lovely flower garden surrounding the house: roses, hedges, fruit trees, flower beds. Can’t you just picture it? For, say, $300 grand?”

He glanced at the young couple to see if they were buying the dream. Their mouths had dropped open and their eyes were glazed. He’d better try another angle. “There’s one more really great feature of this property: you’ll get an amazing view of the ocean within walking distance. See the trail that goes over that hill.” He pointed toward it. “Just a kilometer farther along it ends beside a little bay. I can assure you that the view is spectacular, especially at sunset.”

“Is there a dock,” the wife asked. “Could we keep a boat there for our use?”

“Err… well… I imagine you could, though you might have to be careful launching it. There are a few rocks in the bay.”

Sunset.bay

The young couple wandered over to the house and he gave them a few minutes to consider it. “So what do you think? Does this look like a project you’d enjoy?” He tried to keep his tone neutral. “As I said, it is in your price range. Or shall we look at the third property that’s a possibility?”

The couple exchanged a silent look and the husband finally spoke. “Perhaps we should check into how much money we’ll can afford to spend on repairs before make an offer. We, uh, weren’t expecting real estate to, uh, involve quite so much work. Our jobs, you know. How much time can we spare?”

“Well, everything costs money these days. The more you can do yourselves, the more you save, but you can have a contractor take a look and give you an idea.”

“Yes.” The wife sounded relieved. “Excellent idea! We’ll definitely think about all this.”

The realtor sighed as the couple walked back to his car. He could read them like a billboard: no way were they buying this place. Like everybody else, they wanted a fully-finished property for the price of a fixer. Just as well they didn’t see the bay.

He glanced back at the house one last time. Would he ever find anyone who’d take this derelict off his great-uncle Norman’s hands?

Disillusioned!

I’ve heard that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, so maybe this article isn’t true. Maybe this lady doesn’t really post five-star reviews on Amazon for stuff she’s never tried. The article is fiction — or at least distortion of the facts.

But maybe it is true. Maybe she does. And maybe there are dozens of others like her?

If today’s writing challenge were the word Dismayed, Dishonest, False, or even Phony, I’d have an easier time launching into this. But the Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is PASSAGE.

Well then, I’ve just made a swift passage from credulity to incredulity.

When I turn on my computer in the morning I get a selection of interesting news articles to choose from. This morning BuzzFeed News offered an intriguing headline about  someone who writes fake reviews of products and posts them on Amazon. READ IT HERE.

Those of us who write and have books listed on Amazon know how important reviews are. Potential readers scan the lists of books in their genre and decide — often based on reviews left by other readers — whether the book is worth their reading time. And I know there was a time when friends, relatives, and fans of this particular writer would load Amazon with glowing reviews. At times, having read the book myself, I’d shake my head and scroll down a page, where I’d see more honest reviews. “Poorly written,” “needs editing,” “grammar mistakes and typos,” “limp characters.”

Amazon has weeded out a lot of these reviews by ruling that only VERIFIED PURCHASERS may review and NO REVIEWS IN EXCHANGE FOR a free book or an equally glowing review of the other writer’s book. There was a time when small companies could make a profit by selling reviews to authors. Now the rule is NO PAID REVIEWS.

But I gather from the article I’ve just read that there are loopholes and some people are finding quite lucrative ones. Free products and even financial reimbursements from the advertiser, lots of freebies that make good gifts for friends.

While she may make some negative comments, the Reviewer in this article gives five-star reviews on all products, not matter what she actually thinks of them — or if she even tries them. But one day a co-worker asked about a product she’d reviewed and she admitted this is simply a way to get freebies and make a bit on the side. The coworker was disappointed that the review wasn’t honest.

“I definitely feel like I have to keep it a secret from people who have strong morals,” the Reviewer told the article writer.

She admits that for safety reasons she’s afraid to try some electrical devices from lands afar, but gives them a good review anyway. Her boyfriend’s a chemist and has discovered toxic ingredients in some skin care products, so she’s leery of trying them.

According to the article, a lot of her business is with small businesses in China—often claiming to be family-owned. Companies want to get their products taken seriously on Amazon and some are willing to cheat to do it, reimbursing purchasers and even paying a small fee. Sadly, where not-quite-honest people are looking for some small passage through the tangle of rules, they will find it somehow.

Oh, buyer beware!

Those Seasonal Sales

Today’s Word of the Day prompt is WRINKLE. Coupled with the inspiration from my recent shopping adventure, I’ve composed this poem. (You may call it a consumer rant if you wish. 😉 )

Seasonal Sales

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
another sale—limited time offer!—
kicks off with spectacular
savings you can’t miss.

First New Year’s sales, then Spring
with its end-of-winter-clearance,
followed by ready-for-Easter sales
with prices so low you have to
spend and stock up.

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
summer sale are upon us:
holidays, barbecues, cottages;
you need to buy all kinds of stuff!
Suntan lotion, insect repellent
by the gallon, at low, low price!

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
the back-to-school sales start
abutting nicely, while you’re there,
with end-of-summer clearances
that lawn mower you wanted
back in spring, now price-reduced
and ready for that fall clean-up.
Yes, you can spend—and save big time—
all in the blink of an eye.

Parents shopping for school books
are greeted by goblins, masks
and shelves of lanterns, because Halloween
is just around the corner. And fall’s the time
to plant those shrubs and bulbs
now on sale at half price.

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
Thanksgiving adds pumpkins, pilgrims
Black Friday and pre-Christmas sales
to keep the economy afloat.

Up go the calendar displays,
offering convenient gifts to please
those “impossible-to-buy-for”
bosses, uncles and aunts.
At the Super-Fall-Clearance table,
shoppers eye a book that offers to explain
how to reduce clutter and stress—
“Half price this week” —and sigh.

In the blink of an eye,
the wrinkle of a brow,
Christmas season’s upon us;
trees and lights go up and last year’s
decorations are on sale for a steal
and merchants pray for snow.
“Remember those folks on your lists,”
competes with “Jingle Bells”
to jingle tills, while shoppers
wander the aisles in a daze.

The first week in December
Boxing Day fliers arrive, awash
with after-Christmas bargains on
those gifts not bought, left-over
boxed cards and wrap, 60% off!

Eyes blinking, brows wrinkling,
and wallets seriously depleted,
consumers take a deep breath
and wait for the New Year
and the next onslaught of sales.