true cost :: buying handmade and the national health care debate

white mexican ceramic piggy bank by fruitflypie
mexican piggy bank by fruitflypie

last night, i posed the question: what prevents you from buying handmade on a day-to-day basis? on twitter and facebook.

the two answers i got the most were price and planning.

understandable. often, buying handmade – especially clothing, toys, casual jewelry, and stationery – is more expensive. if you don’t have a local handmade gift boutique, you certainly must plan your purchases in advance to accommodate for the time it takes to produce an item or shipping schedules. often, you must plan for the price of the handmade item you’re going to purchase – gotcha both ways.

it struck me that both of these reasons for not purchasing handmade, independently designed, or locally produced goods remind me an awful lot of the central reason for the national healthcare debate in the united states: what is the true cost of where our money goes?

true costs

few people disagree that the american health care system is broken. we pay too much for health care that is often dictated by corporations and not by doctors. we are treated like cogs in a machine of cookie cutter care. innovation is discouraged. quantity is rewarded over quality. the poor are ignored and the rich can buy whatever they want. in the middle, there are choices – many revolving around prevention, just getting by, or emergencies.

because of premiums, copayments, and high deductibles, we’re often forced to consider the immediacy of our dollar instead of the long-term effect it can have, the true cost.

in the current system, the rich pay for themselves, the government pays for the poor & the elderly, the middle class pays an arm & a leg, and the uninsured pay for it with their lives. if we choose to invest differently in health care – individually or as a nation, you support preventive care, you support quality care over quantity of care, and you support the livelihoods of each level of the healthcare system, not just bigwigs padding their wallets, saving money in the long run. the true cost becomes improving your health and the health of the community!

what does the true cost of health care have to do with the true cost of handmade? when you choose to buy in a big box store (and don’t forget that buying manufactured goods is a choice too, not a given), you are often paying to support shoddy materials, throw-away culture, cookie-cutter style, unfair working/living conditions, and bigwigs in suits who pad their wallets with your hard earned cash (sound familiar?). before you write your hate mail, let me be clear: i shop at target and i’m very much like you. but i’ve also been sourced with the task of furthering this conversation, so please hear me out.

pricing & planning

while there are plenty of deals to be had on the handmade marketplaces, when you’re dealing with a craftsperson who knows her business, her product, and her market, you’re probably going to pay more. but consider carefully what you’re paying for:

  • quality – generally, we don’t dispute that goods made with quality materials and well-trained craftsmanship are of higher quality
  • scarcity – in a good way! you’re paying to make sure you’re not the 5th girl in the room with the blue old navy dress on
  • efficacy – you’re often paying for a product that you’ve had input in its creation. not something made by the hundreds of thousands that will only marginally meet your needs
  • livelihood – you’re supporting someone living and working in a free society with higher costs of living

planning, well that’s tougher. here are some ideas for helping you plan your next online handmade purchase:

  • use your calendar to not only mark birthdays, anniversaries, or weddings, use it to mark shipping deadlines too. generally, two weeks is plenty of time!
  • consider purchasing household or personal care items in batches. need cleaning supplies? make up? soap? make a list of those things you need on a regular basis and purchase them all at once. reducing impulse shopping by avoiding places like target will help you save the money you need to purchase in batches. you can also use this technique for hostess gifts or stationery.
  • use your weather forecast. want to buy handmade or independently designed clothing? consider the first weather change of the season as a sign to take inventory of your wardrobe and purchase accordingly.
  • updated: purchase locally when possible! scout out your area for gift boutiques, mom & pops, & other small boxes. check out khristian’s series best of the bricks for ideas.

when you purchase handmade, locally produced, or independently designed good, the true cost supports people in your own community or one like yours.

so what does health care have to do with buying handmade?

i work really hard for the money i earn. my husband does too. i know you work equally as hard whether it’s at a desk, in a factory, in retail, or on your craft. instead of sending my money overseas or to people who just don’t need any more money, i want to send it to people like you and me. i want to support environmentally friendly materials and sustainable business practices. i want to support prevention instead of emergencies. i want to support quality over quantity. i want to support doctors, nurses, craftspeople, creative businesses, and other people who care about dollar signs as well as (not instead of) my family. i want my money – whether i have a lot or a little – to help shape the world i want to live in.

the price of healthcare and the price of handmade isn’t so great – the investment of time & planning isn’t so great. the true cost is not that much, not when you can change things for the better. next time you go shopping, stop & think – what is the true cost of what you’re purchasing? where are your dollars going?

48 thoughts on “true cost :: buying handmade and the national health care debate

  1. This is just the sort of thing I was thinking about and trying to put into words yesterday, but you’ve done a much better job! Thank you for helping me to clarify my thoughts about buying handmade… even as a maker and seller of handmade, who has spent a lot of time thinking about the value of my work, I sometimes pause when considering the cost of buying handmade, and that is always when I am thinking in terms of short-term/instant gratification. My space is full of cheaply made, disposable *stuff*, which I then spend time thinking about how I’m going to get rid of and de-clutter. I would rather be surrounded by less that is of higher quality and intended to last…. and it is posts like this that help me to remember this and make this a part of my everyday thinking.

    1. hi shannon! thank you. luckily, i have neat-freak husband who helps with my tendency to clutter with disposable stuff! but after quitting my job when my daughter was born, we got used to living with so much less. now that i have income again, we think twice before we spend it and definitely opt for quality over quantity. the whole experience was a great lesson for learning to buy handmade!

  2. Thanks for the great post Tara!

    I would add one thing to your problem of planning. Get to know the brick and mortar indie boutiques in your area. Then if you’re pressed to find a last minute birthday gift, you can still get something that day.

    If we support indie b&m stores, that goes a long way towards making the planning issue a non-issue. This is why it’s important that makers wholesale their goods (those stores need products!) and that everyone supports movements like the 3/50 project.

  3. Thanks Tara for initiating this conversation in such a do-able- thoughtful kind of way.

    It won’t take many of the little things like what I experienced this morning to change our ways. It was a simple thing. I opened a pack of birthday balloons [its bens b-day]— I sniffed, and thought, “that’s strange.” They smelled strongly of diesel fuel. I blew a couple up- it was so strong I had to put them outside and throw them all away. Diesel Fuel??? What is up with that? Made in China.

    I know my little experience was just a little thing- but I think these “little” things are happening more and more. We’ll get there- and a little speedier thanks to thoughtful posts like this one. Thanks again Tara!

    1. thanks kate! and i didn’t even get into the health hazards of not buying handmade 😉 i think as we become more conscious consumers, we run into instances like that more & more often. when we buy mindlessly, we don’t even think about the money we’ve wasted on purchases like that. thanks for real world lesson!

  4. Interesting article. I’m living in the UK right now, and although we have national health insurance, we’re sadly lagging behind in the internet crafters movement. I looked at both etsy and folksy the other day for people in the UK who make liquid hand soap, and found nothing. Hopefully there will soon be a change in the US healthcare system and the UK indie craft movement.

  5. tara–i’ve only read about 2/3 of the way through this post and i just have to say: BRAVO! this is spot on, incredibly insightful and you have distilled everything that i think and feel about this subject (both health care AND buying handmade) into a well-thought, well-put post. amazing.

    okay…i’m going to go back and finish the rest now 😉

  6. I really enjoyed reading this. The line “i want my money – whether i have a lot or a little – to help shape the world i want to live in” struck me particularly. That’s just how I feel.

    I personally buy handmade (or make them myself) gifts and items for our home. I want my gifts to be thoughtful, and to me that’s all about quality and uniqueness. Not everyone in my life has responded positively to my handmade approach though…some view me as “too cheap to buy a *real* gift”. Oh little do they know…. (It makes me cry real tears.)

    I’m sticking to my ideals though. Handmade for everyone!

  7. I ABSOLUTELY AGREE! and I’m glad you said it. If we look beyond the immediate issue of paying more, most don’t want to do it. But, if we consider shopping handmade as the investment it is towards our overall economic health, then it starts to make a bit more sense!

    I’m ready to start that campaign! (-;

  8. Planning your handmade purchases is definitely a sentiment that resonates with me. I live in the middle of the continent and there is little to choose from locally in terms of handmade. A lot of it has to do with the fact that my community’s planners aren’t small or indie business-friendly. It’s sad, really. As a result, I often scour the internet for the handmade things I do want and generally end up purchasing a lot at once. It does add up pretty quickly!

    I do shop locally at every opportunity. I believe that the $-retained ratio in my community is $0.68 for ever $1 spent at a local business, where only $0.43 out of every $1 stays in the community if spent at a big box store. If I must visit a big store – I choose to do so at stores that have a good reputation in the areas of corporate and social responsibility.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I wish more people truly understood the long term costs of the health care crisis we are in. I pay for my own health insurance (I’m a graduate student), but I don’t have dental. I can’t afford to pay for routine dental care, and if I could, I would be too frightened to hear that I need a root canal or something I definitely couldn’t afford on my own. And, so I procrastinate on this basic, preventative health care in the hopes that I’ll have coverage in a year or so.

    Thank you for the reminder that I do not need to procrastinate on buying handmade. I definitely do not need another Old Navy dress that will fall apart within the year. But if I can break the cheap+immediate habit and save for a little while, I’ll be able to buy one of the gorgeous handmade pieces I’ve had bookmarked forever.

    1. Thank you for the reminder that I do not need to procrastinate on buying handmade.

      Brilliant!! I mean, thanks for giving me credit and all (lol) but the way you turned that around is just brilliant. Thank YOU for the insightful comment, Jillian!

    2. Jillian, I’m in your boat as well. I can’t pay for dental because my medical is so high. I was so afraid to go to the dentist and when I did, all of my hard earned money was spent. I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone on the dentist thing:)

  10. Great article Tara! As a giver and buyer of handmade goods, I love the fact that these things we make/buy are made with intention, they’re made to last, they’re made for the love of making.

    When you draw a parallel to health care…the difference I see there is that most of us have very little CHOICE when it comes to health care. The stakes are higher too. How can we get this choice back – and then choose for quality and making a difference?

  11. Thank you, THANK YOU for this insightful article! As always you’ve fueled some amazing discussions. You’ve clearly defined what you’re really getting when you purchase handmade and I think a lot of people will benefit from seeing that spelled out so well.

    Being a young family we have a very strict budget that doesn’t allow for much free spending so I definitely struggle with buying handmade vs. buying from budget retailers. It’s soooo much easier to go to Target and Old Navy and grab a dress for next to nothing. Problem is, the dress does become nothing after a few wears and washes… So my hard earned money ends up in the trash. I’m learning that I’d much much rather do without lots of cheap, disposable things so that I can save and purchase quality goods that were handmade with care. This is something that I’m trying to pass on to my children which is incredibly difficult when marketers are targeting them at every turn to ask for cheap, plastic junk. I’m so glad that there are so many other like-minded people that are beginning to turn away from this “disposable” culture. Not only have I started committing to only bringing handmade or second-hand goods into my home, I’m really thinking about where our food comes from. Yes organic, locally grown produce may be a little more expensive (pennies more when you actually boil it down) but like Tara said, if you look at what you actually get for your dollar it’s VERY worth it!

    The parallel to the health care problem are striking. But as Candy pointed out many of us do have very very little choice. That’s definitely something that needs to be rectified, I WANT a choice when it comes to my family’s care and would be willing to spend those extra pennies to get something of real value.

  12. Excellent post!

    I challenged myself to only buy used and handmade items for myself and my home for one year (the Dottie Angel challenge) and it has made me ponder every purchase I make. I still go to Target for consumables like toilet paper, but I leave everything else behind. This has really made me consider every dollar I spend and has even changed the way I buy groceries (farmer’s market anyone?)

    I’ve come to believe that slowing down our lifestyle and consumerist habits puts us in a healthier state of mind which leads to a healthier body and less need for healthcare.

  13. Thank you for the great and passionate post. :) Couldn’t agree more.

    A long time ago, when I was just a young girl trying to work my way through college, I realized one important thing: “I am not rich enough to buy cheap things, and I am not interested in cheap things that will fall apart by the end of the season.”

    I want the things that are high quality and that last, I want them on a human scale, with a human relationship behind it. Be it a dish detergent, fashion accessory, or a health care.

  14. Beautifully said! No matter what side you are on, it’s definitely food for thought and starts a fantastic conversation – which is much needed. I really identify with what you’ve said and I agree. Thanks for taking on this topic :)

  15. Good Morning Tara! I am someone who depends on health care on a daily basis. I pay through the nose for independent insurance and over time I’ve paid more than I’d like to share for hospital, emergency, drugs, and doctors, just to keep breathing and staying on this planet. I’ve realized through my experience that Doctors that truly care about your well being and not the bottom line are hard to come by, I’ve also realized that the pharmaceutical and insurance companies have all of the control. And the reason is because they have us trapped. We all want to stay alive and be healthy and in order to do so some of us have to rely on medications and good insurance. We’ll pay any price.

    Now, big box stores have us trapped as well. Sometimes I think, how could these shoes be made for $10.00? I can’t wrap my head around it, but when you are paying through the nose for healthcare, a $10.00 shoe is hard to pass up.

    So what do I do on a small budget where 75% of my money goes to healthcare? I consume less. I realized after about 25 that I do not need lots of clothes and shoes. The money I save from consuming less I’ll spend on a few items per season that are handmade or used, that I love and I know will last more than a few months. Seriously, I wore the same handmade sweat shirt all week, all winter long and had complements every time I wore it. I spent a lot on it but its so well made that after all of the wear it looks the same as when I first bought it.

    Well, thank you Tara, you got me thinking this morning and thanks for letting me babble on!

  16. Fan-freaking-tastic post, Tara!! Your analogy is tremendous, and I will def be taking your advice to heart on planning! There are varying price levels in handmade, just as there are in chain stores, and I’m willing to seek out those that match my pocketbook…if I leave myself time!

    My former job at our local hosp. was marketing research analyst. My primary task was calculating market share by hospital, by doctor, by county, by gender, by insurance, by zip code, by service line, by quarter, by year….any which way you could turn the data on its head. A service line would be oncology, cardiology, orthopedics, etc. Hospitals use this data for big picture items like marketing (where to place a billboard), for stratetic planning (new outpatient facilities), but they also use it for small things like how to garner more joint replacement surgeries, how to get more open heart surgeries out of patients who present with certain symptoms…it goes on. And that was the primary reason I left. I couldn’t be a party to this type of business….where patients are thought of as market share points and not individuals with unique problems. It’s a frightening scene, and I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Given that, I’m thrilled that we are moving in a new direction with nat’l healthcare. Take the power back.

    1. Daisy Jane, your comment about the marketing done in hospitals is making my blood boil. Thank you for the insight. Whenever I have to get a procedure done, I try and get a second opinion. Isn’t it sad you can’t even trust your own doctor?

  17. Excellent conversation and I couldn’t agree more with you. With the economy the way it is, planning is more crucial than ever. Even the little thing, planning dinners each week and then planning a grocery list can save not only time but money. You are more likely to eat at home than just pick up whatever after work. Planning is everything.

  18. This is awesome! I am currently thinking of a few things I want for the summer and I like the idea that I can search unique styles, choose what I want and then in a couple of weeks have something original, as you mentioned. Also, as you stated so well, when I think of the cost of buying any number of items that aren’t just right, holding out to buy the one piece that is just what I wanted actually balances out. I also love that when you buy you are buying from a real person with real dreams that you help make a reality. You said all of this, I just wanted to say…I agree!!

    This article is beeeautifully written.

  19. tara, what a thought-provoking and interesting post to read. i so enjoyed our conversation last night on twitter, too, and there are so many facets to think about when making the choice to support handmade. I am so thankful that there are people like you who bring it to light and make others realize the possibilities!
    I am like you, of course there are times that i am out for a bargain and i shop at old navy or whatever, but the independent makers, the unique handmade items, they’re all so amazingly wonderful that I always feel better when i buy that. It’s a choice, really, and while it’s not always the “affordable” one, it is so nice to know WHERE your money is going, into whose pocket, and that is so important to me. I am lucky to have several wonderful indie-handmade-supporting shops locally here, that I am often able to find something last minute, which is great when you are relying on cross-border shipping more often than not. I also get a real thrill when I introduce someone who had never bought handmade or vintage to the world of etsy + local indie shops. It’s nice to help newbies embrace the culture!!

    Thanks for the thoughts, Tara!!

  20. This was a great piece. I have just discovered the wonderful world of Etsy and other sites like it. This post made me think about how buying handmade actually can help the world we live in. Never thought of it that way before! I think there are a lot of us out there who would be really happy to start buying handmade, if we know it exists and are educated about the broader benefits to our society by way of supporting artists and crafts persons.
    Thanks Tara for a great article and the courage to talk about health care, too!

    -Kristen

  21. Any time someone talks about health care in the US it makes me want to scream. I came to US 10 years ago and whenever I suggest that I am for health care reform some Americans think that I am an immigrant and there I am, complaining about how things are done in “there” country. The truth is that no one can argue that health care is a right and not a privilege and yet there are millions uninsured and just as many are denied in treatment. Of course those that currently have insurance feel soft and cozy and are afraid of change. They don’t realize that they can be dropped by their insurance because they any time.
    In my opinion, there will be no real change in the health care in the US until all private insurance companies are GONE.
    I can’t tie this whole thing up with buying handmade as brilliantly as you did Tara. You are so inspiring!

  22. hey tara – thanks so much for this – awesome post. i especially like your notes re: planning ahead. it’s something i need to do for sure to up my spending on handmade goods :)

  23. Thank you for an intelligent post on supporting the little guy (or girl) trying to make a go with something they make with their own two hands.

    I make my own mineral makeup and posts like yours give me the hope that some people appreciate the love and care that go into my products.

    “efficacy – you’re often paying for a product that you’ve had input in its creation. not something made by the hundreds of thousands that will only marginally meet your needs”

    This is especially true for me. I have been asked by several customers to create a shade or tone just for them. Some of my products came into existence for this very reason.

    Thank you for your wondeful article.

  24. Thanks for this great post! I work in a Congressional office part time and sometimes I find it really difficult to explain to constituents how exactly this health care bill will affect them, or even how the current health care system works (sometimes because it’s so complicated and sometimes because they just don’t want to listen). This is a really interesting way of thinking about it. Though we’ll never all agree on how it should be run, most of us can probably agree that supporting small businesses and independent artists is something we should all try to do just a little bit more. I’m definitely trying, though it is hard sometimes, due mostly to the reasons you mentioned here. It definitely gave me things to think about.

  25. what a great article. I had to do a lot of scrolling and reading of the comments as well, so I would say it is timely and important. Love the way you tied in the health care reform, I haven’t been following it that closely as I am Canadian… however, you made some really good points.

    I would add that the handmade movement goes beyond just fabulous products, but can and does include food, housing, just about everything… if we take the time to source out products that truly reflect our beliefs then we have cast a lot of votes in favour of the type of world that we would like to live in… what about that local farmer, or builder, or any other skilled trade… we should support them just like we would like to be supported… it’s the Golden Rule.

    Thanks for this great discussion, I think I need to get Twitter figured out, it sounds like I missed a great conversation…

  26. Thank you Tara! I was thinking this today as I got hit with a $175 bill for my daughter’s doctor’s visit today. Last year we paid $30 a visit and this year each one averages about $150. It made me realize how we are truly at the mercy of the big healthcare corporations and the drug industry. My husband has over $500 a month taken out of his teacher’s salary to cover our family of four..and yet we still have to meet an insane deductible before any costs are covered. With a destructor toddler in the house and an accident prone 5 year old, we are simply out of luck. Like you, my husband and I work hard for our money and not only pinch pennies, but saw them in half and try to convince clerks that they are the new currency called “no-dimers” but we haven’t had much success. I love handmade and the artists behind the scene because in a way it is my chance to root for “the little guys.” I sold my soul by working for the “big-guy” corporations for far too long. I hope now that I can pay-it-forward and help the under dogs out for once. The economy has hit several of my family members and friends and I only wish I could give more to help support them. Small business owners are the future . My few dimes that I have left after doctor bills and every free moment of my time is dedicated to helping out handmade business owners. I’m with you, I’m tired of low quality mass produced items. I sleep better knowing that my money goes towards a farmer at the farmer’s market or a grandmother working from home to support her grandkids. Target Boutique has it’s place, but quality craft-manship will soon be the next “must-have” item.

  27. You pay $500 a month for healthcare and you STILL have to pay $150 for a doctors visit? Are you serious?

    I try to stay out of the healthcare debate for the most part because I am Canadian and I end up running into a lot of people who feel that I am dissing their country if I bring it up… but for anyone who is unclear of what universal healthcare even is, or are sitting on the fence about it, I urge you to educate yourselves… REALLY educate, not just soak up what the drug companies (and for that matter the doctors who are paid by them) tell you… and figure out what it really means!

    My story: When my son was two and a half he fell fifteen feet off my sister’s deck onto the cement below. I wasn’t there and a neighbour called an ambulance. I met them at the hospital, they didn’t wait for me to get there to sign him in, he was in cardiac arrest and they spent five hours stabilizing him. The team of doctors and nurses were amazing. One nurse stood and held his head the entire time because they were not sure if his neck was broken but couldn’t take the time to have him Xrayed. We live in a small town of 10 000 and our runway doesn’t have lights so by the time he was stabilized and they were ready to airlift us out it was too dark, so they ambulanced us the forty minute drive to the next airport where they had to detour at the hospital to stabilize him again before the flight. We were then ambulanced from there to the airport and in Calgary from there to the children’s hospital. We were in the Children’s hospital for over two weeks where he had to have extensive work done. Not only had his head been cat scanned and xrayed and drugged to who knows where… but because they couldn’t move his head when he was intubated his trachia was damaged and they had to do three different camera scopes over the week to make sure that scar tissue wasn’t growing and that he would be able to breathe when we left.

    In the end, Rowan was just fine and not a day goes by that I don’t remember how lucky we are to still have him with us because of these amazing people… but ALSO because of our amazing healthcare. Because there was no debate over my situation (I am a single mom with two boys who gets no support from my ex at all, who at the time was employed by a company whose insurance ended up not having anything to do with the entire thing except to cover $12 of the “accepted” medication he had to take to keep the swelling of his brain down for three weeks after)… there was no time wasted to figure out which category I fell under, which hospital would accept me, how I would get there, no forms to fill out, NOTHING for me to worry about except my son’s condition, I am absolutely certain that if we lived in the US he wouldn’t have made it. I didn’t have to pay for one penny of the entire ordeal. I pay my monthly amount into healthcare which is $150 for my family of three, and if I were lower income it would be free. I can tell you that there is no way anyone can tell me that that is too much NOR can they say that low income families should not be riding on my coat tails, because if that had been someone else’s two year old on the table that day, I would pay whatever I could to keep them alive. You can’t tell me that somebody could ever take that situation for granted.

    Anyhow, not to take up all this space in a not really political discussion, but just had to give what might be an easier to understand example for the healthcare debate… I now work from home making stuff and more than ever before have reason to support the handmade mentality!

  28. Well, you’ve certainly opened my eyes a bit with this post! I can honestly say that the idea of buying handmade (specifically) has never crossed my mind, and it’s just not an issue that we’ve discussed much in our family. Health care, though, is certainly a hot topic with us and many others, and I really appreciate the way you’ve tied the two together. Well done!

  29. Ugh – I read Andrea’s comment and have read other posts by Canadians (especially when I was pregnant) about their healthcare system. It makes me so mad about our crappy healthcare in the United States! I had a great pregnancy but during labor, my son started to get distressed so I ended up having a C-Section that had no complications. Even with good insurance, with my deductible and co-pay, I had to pay almost $5K out of pocket! I have friends who have had twins who were born early and had to stay in the NICU until they got a bit bigger. Their healthcare costs were insanely outrageous – even with insurance! And for people without insurance, you are right – they pay with their lives.

    As for purchasing hand-made on a daily basis, I have no idea where I would get the things I need. I don’t know when I last bought something handmade – maybe some gift soaps for last Christmas? I think I would if I knew where to get more practical, day to day kind of stuff.

    I do buy as much as possible from local stores – and I love our little consignment shops – especially for the kiddo.

    Thanks for this post.

    Best, Wendy

  30. There are handmade items of all kinds & types, so our handmade purchases do not have to be limited to gifts & ‘luxury’ items. If you search through the major handmade sites like Etsy or ArtFire, you can find everything from household cleaning products, to personal hygiene items & make-up. A very large percentage of these things ship out right away, so while you do have to wait for an item to go through the mail, you many not have to wait as long as you might think & if you plan a little ahead, as Tara suggested & buy in ‘bulk,’ there’s very little problem, in terms of time. You can even shop local, while shopping on-line, as these sites also have a filter that allows you to shop an area. Many of these items are pretty competitively priced & the shipping can be little or nothing, so the price issue may not be as big of a deal as you might think. Just a few thoughts. Thanks for this interesting discussion!

  31. tara, love how you brought it all home to the simple task of “stop & think.” we are consumed in this country with getting what we want immediately. we have been trained to the urgent. thoughtfulness has all but fallen by the wayside. thanks for being thoughtful and for pushing us to be thoughtful too!

  32. Interesting how you brought it all together! Two years ago, my very elderly mom died. That left me with a house full of antiques–some beautiful, some homely–that had been handed down via daughters for generations. It was fine except I already had my own clutter of furniture. Fortunately, I lived in a big house.

    Then, last year, my husband was laid off after twenty years at the same company, and less than a year before he could potentially retire. (Not that he’d been planning to.) Our health care was gone, and with the beating our 401k had taken, we knew downsizing was a must. I went through everything ruthlessly. The results surprised me. I kept the old stuff and gave the new stuff away.

    Now, though we’ve traded a four bedroom house for a two bedroom apartment, we live surrounded by a spare loveliness. We sleep in the bed where my grandmother slept with her two sisters as a child. When I look into my dresser mirror in the morning, a dear old great-aunt looks back at me sometimes. I store my dishes in a tall hutch made by a carpenter who was, for much of his life, a slave. I keep my sweaters and blankets in my great-grandmother’s hope chest. It all fits, and it’s all beautiful.

    Of course my studio is the exception, having been furnished by Ikea and Rubbermaid. But I find I love the serenity of the mellow old things.

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