Why do we all have too much stuff? The Industrial Revolution contributed by making more goods more quickly and more cheaply than ever before. Post-World War II prosperity gave our parents and grandparents the ability to buy more than just the basic necessities.
The emergence of credit as an acceptable way to purchase goods without actually having the cash is a huge factor. For the first time, a person could drive a Cadillac car without having a Cadillac bank balance. The advent of online shopping and Internet advertising — there is no shortage of reasons and temptations for Americans to buy much more than they need or even want.
For me, it was Martha Stewart Living magazine in the late 1980s that put me on a path of wanting and buying a bunch of housewares I didn’t need.
Martha promoted the cult of more, and we could follow along as she herself filled house after house with turkey platters, wicker baskets, crystal goblets, silver oyster forks and mother of pearl caviar spoons. Soon, I, a college student in a studio apartment, bought into the idea that I had to own 12 of everything. I was convinced that I, who never baked and was constantly on a diet, needed a collection of cake stands.
I outgrew Martha’s overly possession-crazy influence right about the time she went to prison. Lesson learned: greed is not glamorous. But by then Riedel glassware had me hooked. According to the suave and persuasive Georg Riedel, having a glass of the right size and shape for every varietal is essential if you wanted to get the most out of the aroma and flavor of the wine. Of course, you need multiples of each glass. Oh, the cupboard space those delicate balloon glasses require! The space they take is only slightly less disturbing than how easily they break.
To combat all these forces telling us that we must own these things to be a proper host or hostess, take some time to tune in to your own lifestyle and values. Certainly a person with a big budget, a formidable house, a packed social calendar and perhaps a staff to wash/iron/polish might enjoy owning the gamut of dishes, tea sets, tablecloths and cake stands.
At the other end of the entertaining spectrum, I remember some great dinners served on mismatched plates. Sure wine tastes great from a Riedel glass but seriously, not that much better than from a chipped mug. Mismatched unpretentious parties put everyone at ease; who cares if someone breaks a glass during clean up? There’s a happy medium in there somewhere; consider what feels comfortable and enjoyable for you.
It’s reassuring to me to see the millennial generation embracing simplicity and putting experiences rather than china and silverware on their wedding registries.
Even so, there is such a glut of dishes and beautiful things for sale at auction houses currently that if a young person did want to collect a few special things, now is the time.
Try San Rafael Auction House if you think you have something special to sell and check out their Saturday auctions if you’re looking to buy (sanrafaelauctions.com).