I’m about to natter on about Stuff again — having it, wanting it, getting rid of it. All of it.
You probably know already that I’m really cheap (I’m not exactly rolling in dough, and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world!). So, I’ve been hemming and hawing over buying a new lasagna pan. I left mine at someone’s house a few weeks ago, bearing the remains of a Rosh Hashana (new year’s) honey cake, and wondering if I would see that pan before Passover next year.
It’s not a big deal, it’s just a glass pan from IKEA. We probably paid a few Swiss francs for it a few years ago. Only, I don’t want to make the trip to IKEA here, where I will be overwhelmed with cheaply made items meant to have short lives and where I will inevitably buy some of them because of IKEA’s amazing ability to showcase objects and make them just cheap enough… but I am digressing (into a rant that you may have read here before).
On the other hand, I don’t like the lasagne pans for sale in the stores here. The weird decorative flourishes in the glass ones at Åhléns turn me off, making IKEA’s simple glass pan all the more desirable, and the beautiful ceramic one made in Portugal is about ten times the cost of the glass –I’ve been spoiled by how cheap IKEA’s glassware is. I don’t want to pay full price at Åhléns or Cervera (a fancier cooking store here, pronounced serve-air-ah).
So I’ve been heading to Myrorna and Stadsmission, looking for used glass lasagne pans. And not finding them.
Instead, I have found veritable storehouses of ceramics, glass, plastic junk and stuff and gewgaws, discarded, given away, bequeathed, left to these secondhand stores to sell. I suspect that these good charities could be making a ton of money on all this crap (instead of the 25 cents I expect to pay for a glass at the Salvation Army in the US, I might pay the equivalent of 10 SEK, or $1.50). But that they also spend a ton of time and people hours sorting through all of this fantastic treasure and trash.
We humans love to collect. We have whole industries bent on feeding us new objects, whether for our aesthetic pleasure or because we think we need a new tool. We collect and collect and collect.
A few weekends ago, my friend Emily was in town for work, and we met down at Hötorget after she had taken a brief swing through PUB and its high-end boutiques. I don’t remember exactly how she said it, but her eyes were wide, her comment something like, “Does everyone here in Sweden have fashionable interior decorations? I feel like I have to BUY something!”
And then off we went to Stadsmission, the church-run charitable secondhand shop, where she bought some perfectly fine Swedish fashion, in great condition (even though some of it was from H&M, another chain that is enough to make me go into a frenzied IKEA-like rant). And as I scoured the shop for a lasagne pan, I lusted after a full set of beautiful plates, mugs from a Swedish pottery maker, glasses and mixing bowls… and didn’t find a lasagna pan. But nor did I buy anything.
Then we headed to the Saluhall at Östermalm, another gastronomic buying frenzy in the making. But it was late on a Saturday afternoon, and everything was closing — including all the stores on the shopping streets and the Saluhall itself, at 4 pm in the afternoon. And Emily’s wondering comment, a kind of bookend to the desire engendered by wandering through PUB: how can everything close so early here, when they want you to buy buy buy?
And here it is, fall again, and the commercial onslaught has begun with the change of seasons: New fashions and new colors for your wardrobe! (Never mind that you have the same thing from 10 years ago in your closet!) New plates-electronics-shoes-vehicles-accessories-you name it, there’s something new out there for you to buy! (Even if you already have an object that is just as useful for the same exact purpose.)
So, I am feeling slightly proud of myself for yesterday afternoon’s excursion: After a trip to Myrorna, where I dropped off a few clothing items in fine condition, I found nothing I needed or wanted, and left without spending a cent.
Instead, I went and bought some wine for supper with friends. And here’s where I will leave you, in this diatribe about stuff, with some thoughts that are not new. I admire the Buddhist ideal of letting go of things, but things are imbued with desire. I want to own fine things, quality items, things that last, but I also am tempted by the gewgaws at the dollar store that I will throw away. Perhaps part of being human is the experience of collecting.
I know the planet is screwed if all soon-to-be 9 billion of us fulfill these desires. But maybe there’s a way to get that recycling market going globally. (Um, anyone want to start an online secondhand shop … ? Oh right, eBay/Blocket/etc., what’s the carbon footprint to ship something from California to Sweden?)
Oh, and I just found out that my lasagne pan is coming back to me — my friend texted to say she will drop it by sometime soon. Phew! No need to go to IKEA… yet.