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Stuff is Making Us Stuck (Part 2)

Posted on: Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, Spendology, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Last month, in Part 1, we dove into our junk piles and bemoaned the detritus that weighs on us, our culture, and our shifting populations. We continue that slog by taking a peek into where our rejected stuff goes.

It’s not pretty. In fact, the benevolent feeling we may enjoy when dropping off our rejects to charity might be just plain ignorant. Ex-Minnesotan Adam Minter, now a columnist for Bloomberg in Malaysia, provides a rare expert overview, having grown up in a Minneapolis family that has run a scrap heap since 1920s, published a book titled “Junkyard Planet,” and late last year released a follow-up book called “Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale.” Mr. Minter also did an interesting Star Tribune interview when recently in town.

  • “People like shiny new things”

States Minter. It’s human nature, yet he advocates making things last as long as possible. How? Buy quality, for starters! Not only can you enjoy it longer, but the reuse market should be more plausible. He also recommends repair, despite that cheap goods often sway us just to replace. Another idea: Seek second-hand stuff, since a heckuva lot of it is nearly new.

  • What else causes this glut?

You may have noticed this: Often, the merch in Marshall’s has about the same price tag as that in consignment stores. Why? Because the mass production of goods—especially when lower-quality—can be surprisingly price-competitive. So people buy new, and second-hand stores get less traffic.

In fact, Minter notes that thrift stores in the US sell only about a third of their inventory, while the rest gets exported, recycled or tossed in the trash. Ouch.

  • Will millennials save us?

Much has been made about their less materialistic lifestyle. But don’t bet on it, says Minter, who cites research suggesting that the shared economy only appeals when it’s cheaper. And that as the millennials accrue more spending power and maturity, they’ll buy happily acquire more, just like other generations.

  • Good ideas to help clean up this mess

As mentioned, Minter promotes repair before replace, and insisting on quality. But even more radical, common-sense solutions could include “durability labeling,” which tells you things like how long a company will support smart phone or how many washings a shirt might endure.

He also proposes “right to repair” laws, noting that much repair information is protected by companies, trademarks, trade barriers, and more. Brilliant.

  • Sins and solutions

We can all think about our own sins and solutions, of course. And here’s one of mine: Sin—buying lots of new clothing recently at insanely affordable January clearance sales. (When asked who’s my favorite designer, I always say Clearance!) Solution: Spread it all out alongside similar old favorites, and make smart choices about what to keep and what to return.

Heck, sometimes that nice $15 shirt hardly seems worth the bother to take back, right? But there’s principal at work here too. And $15 is $15. Save $15 a day somehow, and you’ve got $5,500 to apply toward that BreakAway you want more than more stuff.

Even better, there will be less clutter-y obstacles in your way!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Reality BreakAway or Sports Porn?

Posted on: Friday, January 10th, 2020
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Last Saturday, I wandered Target Center in Minneapolis at the Chipotle Clash of Champions with 17,000 close friends. This is high school sports on steroids—local phenom hoops team Minnehaha Academy vs. Sierra Canyon (from CA, featuring the sons of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade).

The organizers pulled a Wily Marketing silky smooth move by changing the event from the high school to the downtown arena. Sure, tickets were only $25 (if you bought in-person and avoided TM’s ridiculous fees). And people want to be entertained! Yet this athletics lover wonders when America’s sports appetite will become full or filled.

By the looks of this crowd and other games I’ve attended lately with far more challenging prices and logistics, we are nowhere near the tipping point.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Ice Fishing BreakAways?

Posted on: Friday, January 3rd, 2020
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Throughout the past week, a friend has been sending me pics of his Florida beach vacation. He knows my love of all things warm, watery and beachy. He also knows I am mostly stuck in Minnesota during this holiday season, despite years of winter escapes for as long as 355 days. Or 4 months. Or 69 days. The longer, the better!

Things change. While I cherish those memories and pine for long winter getaways, I could do no better than to reply to my friend with this view from my desk—no need for 1,000 words.

Ice fishing BreakAways? Well, why not? For that guy, sitting on a frozen lake and hoping to land something fishy feels like a fun escape. A break from the grind. Some moments of peace and meditation, perhaps. Who needs surf, sun, sand?

I do. Yet I also know some are happy just to ice-fish. And that savvy, sane people pursue BreakAways wherever, whenever, and however.

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FOTOFRIDAY: (Belated) Merry Christmas!

Posted on: Friday, December 27th, 2019
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Christmas means different things to different people, obviously.

As for me, I can’t help but notice that it/sales start earlier every year. And yet…it’s over before it’s over. The parties and gifts: All happen before Christmas Day. The big church services and family events: Mostly on Christmas Eve. The day that most people are ready to “tear down” Christmas décor: The day after.

So it’s only fitting to be late, if only to be contrary. Anyway, for me, the colorful décor and twinkly lights help make Minnesota’s dark and dreary winters a little less…dark and dreary.

And so we might be on time (early) this time: Happy New Year!

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FOTOFRIDAY: ‘Tis the Season to be Musical

Posted on: Friday, December 20th, 2019
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

See those angels on my piano? I hardly ever see them—because they are hidden inside the upright and only show up when the piano tuner opens up the instrument. It’s always a pleasure. But this time, I learned they’re not. Not angels. They’re flowers! Hand-painted inside this artisanal beauty. Imagine my disappointment—and during the holiday season, even!

Christmas takes a lot of knocks, deservedly so, since commercialism has taken over and drowned out the more celestial messages. So I listen instead to the music, since great Christmas music is abundant and timeless—whether from long-gone composers, Americana crooners, or contemporary creations.

I also enjoy playing Christmas music (especially when no one is listening). Few diversions offer such a complete, if temporary, BreakAway vibe.

One of my musical toys is this here Schimmel piano, hand-made in Faribault, MN. A German maker dating back to 1885, mine was crafted circa 1893, when the Schimmel family expanded to America for a short while and made only about 3,000 instruments. I am lucky to own one. And my Schimmel is lucky to have me—since old pianos often can’t find compassionate caretakers these days.

Got music? Play it. You’ll feel better, and fill your surroundings with angelic sounds.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and may the peace be with you.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Baroque Helix Spire, Copenhagen

Posted on: Friday, December 13th, 2019
Posted in: Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

No, I didn’t climb it. In fact, I had to snap this pic from a moving boat. But you can’t help but stare at the oh-so Baroque Church of Our Savior in Copenhagen. Built in 1617—when the city had already been thriving for some 500 years—the church also boasts one of the loudest carillons in Europe that plays 8 times daily, on the hour.

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Stuff is Making Us Stuck (Part 1)

Posted on: Saturday, December 7th, 2019
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Black Friday 2019 enjoyed record sales of $7.4B in digital shopping alone. Cyber Monday: $9.4B, up 19% from 2018. And as for the anticipated shopping total this holiday season? A tidy $740B.

Black Friday—sounds ghoulish, no? Cyber Monday—dystopian, yes? The planet is, to be honest, suffering. Too many people, too much pollution, too much STUFF.

  • The ultimate fungus

Stuff is like a fungus. You clean it up, but the muck only emerges again. This should not surprise us, since in the USA, “Consumer spending” comprises 2/3 of the economy, and politicians and pundits alike rejoice in increases and bemoan the downticks. Up means a thriving economy; down can lead to a recession. Those are numbers, but the back-story is the love of stuff. Which, by the way, becomes even more of a burden if you’re interested in a BreakAway.

  • Beware the fleeing family                  

Speaking of BreakAway, that’s what family members often do when elders downsize, die, or become snowbirds…when couples uncouple…and when kids (but not 99% of their “belongings”) fly away to college. Heck, even a pet’s passing can leave behind perplexing piles.

We are a materialistic society, as would most be if they had our “wealth.” Let’s just call it a mixed-up blessing.

  • The industry of stuff

The Star Tribune employs a wonderful writer, John Ewoldt, who wears the title “Consumer Reporter.” Stuff is a big story these days, and his recent article, “Lifetimes of Stuff Fuel a Booming Industry” taught us many things, like: 10,000 baby boomers retire daily; age 85+ is the fastest-growing segment of the US population (and likely destined for small rooms in senior homes); there now exists a National Association of Move Managers to help people cope.

You gotta love the names of some of the local, independent Move Managers that have sprung up from savvy entrepreneurs—Junk Genius, Empty the Nest, Gentle Transitions. They will tell you that the younger generations usually don’t want the family treasures. So, their company sorts the stuff into sell, donate, and toss (most estates = about 1/3 each). They will also admit that business is robust. Heck, even good-neighbor Goodwill states that donations have doubled in the past five years, while many charities can no longer take all the stuff offered to them.

  • The opposite of  the Great Depression

This stuff crisis is multi-generational with predictable permutations. Folks raised in the post-Depression era traditionally have trouble tossing anything—yet their families don’t want their hoard. Meanwhile, to many people today (especially youth), online shopping is a pastime. Whereas a family used to save for months to buy, say, a TV (remember layaway?), nowadays, we simply stare at screens, click, and wait a matter of hours for most any object to arrive at the doorstep.

Oddly enough, both propensities lead to clutter. That can make it hard to navigate your residence—and even harder to find freedom.

  • Don’t let STUFF weigh you down

You can guess the classic excuses people use for why they can’t take a sabbatical or even use all their vacation time. What about my house? My pets? My stuff? Cool possessions define status, taste, and lifestyle. BUT, simply put, they are obstacles to overcome if you want to BreakAway.

  • Guilty, as charged

Clutter confessional: I’m as loaded as the corner bar on Christmas Eve. And yet I’m sick of stuff; it’s grown from fungus to hazard. So I keep purging—or at least trying to throw out more than comes in the door. It’s not easy; the Amazon is alluring.

Hence the crude photo above from yet another stampout-stuff drop-off. I’m just trying to get unstuck. And hoping to BreakAway.

Judging by the mountain of detritus already there, I’m not alone.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Slab City, Near Palm Springs

Posted on: Friday, December 6th, 2019
Posted in: Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment
Kirk Horsted

Alternative living community—busy in winter. “Slab” used to be a navy base; now it’s a seasonal “home” for a counter-culture tribe of nomads and artists. Artful, edgy, fun to photograph. Recommended for intrepid travelers only.

Like my camera-carrying daughter!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Ahh, Italia…

Posted on: Friday, November 22nd, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment
Kirk Horsted

Breakaway has already reported on the growing trend of offering sabbaticals as a marketing ploy. But have did you know that 280,000 people applied for airbnb’s sabbatical in Italy? Their mission for the free adventure? “Breathe new life” into the fading hilltown of Grottole—home to 300 residents. AND 600 empty homes!

It’s funny: Pastoral life in ailing Italy sounds like paradise to frazzled people everywhere. Yet in Italy, they seem to be abandoning the old ways and places to race into modernity. Such are the ways of…progress.

I’ve not visited Grottole, but I do love Barga, the Tuscan valley town that’s today’s FOTOFRIDAY pic. Barga is thriving, actually. But it’s surrounded by no less than 9 hilltowns in varying stages of abandonment and decay. Still, like 280,000 kindred spirits, I’d gladly BreakAway to volunteer for three months to help keep old Italy from dying.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Sunrise, Sunset

Posted on: Friday, November 15th, 2019
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

Which is it? One rarely knows at first glimpse (of a photo). And frankly, most of us can tire of looking at other people’s sunrise/set pics, right? So you need not look—or read—for long. It’s just that this is what I saw when I reluctantly got out of bed and faced the first snow on the water today. Winter’s battle of restful versus dreadful has begun.

The ice and lake water will also battle like this for, oh, weeks, maybe a month, maybe more. The beauty can almost—almost!—compete with a lush summer day. That opposing season’s warmth and light will return, or so we’re told.

Meanwhile, we’re now officially on thin ice. So be careful. And try to enjoy.

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