Wednesday 7 December 2011

"You belong to the throwaway generation"

A few weeks ago, when one of my senior colleagues opened his lunch-box, he remarked: "Susan, I've been using this box for the past thirty years. My wife used this lunch-box when she was at school and then I used this when I was teaching at Madras and now here it is." I wondered about the years and the stories that the lunch-box carried. I asked, "Sir, didn't it occur to you to change the box?" He replied, "It was good so why change it?" Overhearing this conversation, another colleague remarked: "You belong to the throwaway generation. We are the keepers." Now, this comment unsettled me. "Do I belong to the throwaway generation?"

I have seen my relatives keep many things that belonged to their ancestors. I never imagined that it had to do with the generation. Forgive me, but America's sociologists like labelling each generation. For example, The Baby Boomers, The Rock-n-Roll, and so on. I have also seen documentaries which mention that the manufacturing houses don't make products that are intended for long-time usage in today's world. Throwaway products rule the roost. Looking around, I find that most products are intended so. But the throwaway tag directed at me, was disturbing. I don't mean to deny that sweeping generalised statement of the generation, but there are exceptions.

There are many references to clearing away clutter from our houses. And if one observes, the objects that add to the clutter are those which are kept for the sake of sentiment. And, after a period of time, the objects add pride to the owner. It is not without a feeling of pride that one remarks: "You know, my great grandmother used this towel/bed/fork/spoon/napkin/knife . . . and so on." Well, I respect sentiments and if the object is in usable condition, there is no need to do away with the same. Now gradually, I am sounding like one who is the rightful member of the throwaway generation. I find that keeping things that one does not use is absolutely unnecessary. Maybe, I don't know where to draw the line.

This discussion here, brings to my memory a few lines from Pamela Redmond Satran's quote, "Every woman should have."

a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…

Going by the quote, I realise that sometimes having objects owned by others carry the negative energies and failures of the previous owners. So why not possess new goods when one moves into a new home and life? Do I still seem to belong to the throwaway generation? Maybe, I cannot deny that fact. But I do confess to having keepsakes which I cannot part with easily.

So, what do you have to say on this topic.

Images: Internet


  1. It's funny you wrote about this since yesterday I just saw this video that one of my friends on Facebook posted.
    It is about the effect of the "throwaway generation."
    I am sentimental and regardless if something works or doesn't, gets used or doesn't, I keep it. That is if it means something to me and usually if I own it it is because it means something. I grew up with nothing, everything I had I worked hard for which is probably why I am not comfortable among those my age. Anytime I was given something it meant something. A few years ago I learned how to start throwing some things away because like all "keepers" eventually we run out of space or are forced to get rid of things when we move. I have a cabbage patch hand mirror from my childhood, my great-grandma gave it to me for a gift, one day my grandchild will get it. It's not about keeping things that are useless it's about having a piece of someone you love and who loved you. I suppose I get this all too well because I grew up the way the older generation did and because I know how quickly they leave your life.

  2. ooops wrong cut paste :) in previous comment

  3. I am a keeper :) which i am deseprately trying ot change in me. I hold on to everything stuff-relations- etc etc.. But the day is of what they call ONE USE products, use them throw them and this goes true to everything be it products-things - relations :)

    Totally agree what you have not used for a year or two you will never use so declutter .. Trying as i said hard to be one ..

  4. Susan,I am like you,I hold on to things that have sentimental value to me. I have kept every dress my daughter wore each birthday,I have her booties.I store birthday cards,I have my Dad's pens...and so on...I never store my own clothes,I give them away..other than that..I am an extremely sentimental small things matter to me.

  5. and just when i was thinking over getting a new Cellphone as a Christmas gift to have made me think again Susan- to reflect on which of the two categories you mention that i belong to. And that in a way is the nicest thing about this post- you have touched a nerve somewhere and give us (atleast me) something to think over - guess i will just wait for Santa to bring me something (having been such a good boy this year)- the trip to Univercell is definitely off....

  6. I personally throw things away regularly. I literally have nothing from my past that I keep for memories. I do this consciously, so as to not form too many attachments. Plus, it keeps the place clean.

    I know this might sound rather cold, but I think it's okay not to create too many attachments with material objects. A lunch box is just a lunch box. Keep it if it's good, throw it away if not.

    Just my opinion! Nice post, it was a good read.

  7. I dont believe we're the throwaway generation. I think it's a matter of resources. When you think you have more, you use more. In the pre-liberalisation India, new things were hard to come by. My dad remembers using the same schoolbag for eight years.

    That said, I think I am a hoarder. I am ill-disposed towards throwing things away for sentimental reasons. I still have my sixth standard drawing book and old diaries, even my pencilbox from school days.

    But with other things, it is always out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new. :)

  8. I agree with you, I too do not want to keep what is unnecessary and which adds to the clutter.
    Nice write up.

  9. let's be practical - with all the moving and travelling our generation does - I have moved 5 times in the lats 5 years - across continents - how much can we keep - essentials vs. sentimentality - it depends on the need of the hour - I'd rather keep something small and valuable rather than big and bulky. I am sorry, if somebody terms that as being a thro away person!

  10. We are a "use-and-throw" generation to a great extent. Some of it is fuelled by manufacturers, some by our habbits. E.g., a new laptop you buy, goes out of production in 6 odd months. you don't get its spares and replacements, when it goes bad. So, what do you do? Replace it.

    Similarly about the craving for what is 'new' in town, like latest gadgets, etc. You should see how people are replacing their mobile phones, whereas the landlines do not change over years together!!

  11. Whatever I throw away always seems somehow to stay right here on the earth-planet. DAMMM Gravity--grin!

    Sometime (at my age) I feel like the "THROWN-AWAY" Generation, HAHAHA!

    Love ya, Susan Deborah!
    Until we 'meet' again...PEACE!

  12. I am a mixture of both I guess. I still have odd scarps of things that have no usable value but a lot sentimental value. At the same time I do not hesitate throwing away things that I know are just sitting there taking up space. Always a pleasure reading you thought provoking posts Susan

  13. Dear Susan, what a fun pots.;)
    I agree with you on the irritation over the different labels of generations.;) I guess I have heard I am the part of Generation X.;)
    As for keeping and throwing things away, there has to be that golden middle road. Yes, I am hoarder and basically I hate trowing things away. It is in my upbringing, when throwing away meant wasting. But then I recall a month ago when I had to dispose of all that useless junk, some of it inherited from my parents (no offense;), but which was honestly just taking up room for no good.
    So I guess we should ultimately use our common sense - distinguishing between saving something to prevent waste and saving something only to increase useless hoarding.;)
    Have a lovely end of the week dear friend and thank you for your always very kind visits and words,

    PS: My verification word today:

  14. I do not like clutter and so give away things I do not need. Things from way back are a few as well. I keep what is precious in memory...
    I have gone through those periods where I would keep everything until it collapsed on me!

  15. Hello.
    I tend to keep things unnecessarily...drives my wife crazy, she's a neat-freak who insists everything has a rightful place & believes if you don't use it/wear it get rid of it/give it to charity, unless it's a treasured gift. It's hard to draw the line. If we kept everything, you'd have to look for US amongst the things instead of us doing the looking for the things.

    Delightful post.
    Thanks for sharing & visiting. I appreciate the comment.

    For ref:
    Eleven Roses And You

  16. Susan - I believe that people live on in our memories, not in the stuff they leave behind. I'm an army brat and learned to minimize and throw away clutter..Not so my husband....At the beginning of our marriage, we had lots of rows about the stuff that had gathered in our home..Now he's learning to see sense ...Haha...

  17. Dear Susan, I do have that sentimental twist to me, and there are certain items that I would never ever part with! However, my garage still has place for two cars, so that must mean that I'm quite good at taking care of keeping the house clean of unnecessary items. :-) I hate junk, but anything that holds meaning for me, or is somehow attached to a beautiful memory, I keep. It is that simple of a formula for me. When I'm doing seasonal clean-up, I know exactly what I need to keep and what I need to discard.

    Have a lovely weekend, Susan!


  18. I keep things that hold sentimental value, otherwise, I give ( or sell) things that really only take up space. I had an old leather suitcase that was my grandmother's. In it, I had kept letters, pictures, really memorable words from extraordinary people who had supported me through right times.
    I was heartbroken when someone stole it. Some material things are wonderful to have. I had their heartprint and their handwriting that was part of them in my keeping and now they're only in my memory. :(
    My husband on the other hand throws NOTHING away. so, it can be complicated in a small space.

  19. i often de-clutter my house; so i give away things that are not necessary to me any more,
    but i hold on to things that have sentimental value to me. actually i have a lot of things from my past which i keep for memories...bad or good.

    much love!

  20. Keeping things with sentimental value is one thing, Using them is another thing.(i.e. I have some fine leather bags but nowadays I prefer fabric-mostly nylon- bags that are lighter to carry).

    Between the Keeping and the Using we have the Clutter issue which is quite a heavy one if your house is small.

    It takes quite a bit of effort, but even someone like me who doesn't like to part with things, manages to get rid of stuff. Life has a way of forcing things on you.

  21. Jen:

    A cabbage patch is just lovely. Jen, does it mean that you live in a house where your great grandma lived? How do you inherit a cabbage patch? I'm hearing this for the first time.


    I guess we all switch from keeper to throw away individuals. We cannot be pigeon-holed in a tag, I reckon.

  22. Alpana:

    We all have our preferences and justifications for the things we do.


    :) Smiles. Six months is definitely a short period for discarding a phone.

  23. Sumitra:

    I like your practical and sane approach. Kudos :)


    I have read so many posts on your cupboards ;)
    Sometimes keeping old things are a state of preservation of our selves, I reckon.

  24. Janu:

    Practical, I see.


    I can hear you out. With all that moving and packing, how do we preserve stuff? I guess I should do another post on carrying the home!

  25. Vinay:

    Glad to see you here.

    I think it also has to do with the constant moving we have to do. We don't have patience to repair things. Once repaired, we either throw them or sell them.


    Thrown away!!! Nah. Love you Steve :)

  26. Rimly:

    We Indians are always in between. Hard to classify us into labels. Good or bad?


    When I was writing this post, you crossed my mind several times. Guess this post was born out of reading some of your posts.
    And, lovely word verification.

  27. Savira:

    I guessed so.


    A romantic always keeps stuff, I reckon. Thanks for your visit as well, dear Andy.

  28. Corinne:

    The practical you are, i am not amazed by your "army brat" personality.


    The romantic Nevine. You are a lovely blend of the romantic practical.

  29. Glynis:

    Its strange how we relate to things, coating them with memory, sentiments and nostalgia.


    Smiles :)

  30. DUTA:

    Effort, definitely yes. One has to preserve the things. Sometimes they only seem to eat on our time, energy and space.

  31. I am one who is attached to the past, so I like keeping 'old' things that belonged to others. It's a way to keep them closer in my heart, though that is unnecessary, for your heart needs no material things to remember them. Yet, I do. So I do keep lots of things from them and myself, until one day I decide I must do a bit of fen shui and get rid of the old stuff to find room for the new ones...
    Good question, weird answer (?)
    But i am glad to be back here meandering about your reflections, my dearest!


  32. Dear Dear Dulce, where have you been? it has been such a long time. How glad am I to read your comment and see the sweet lips. Hope all is well at your end. How is you little son? and, why have you been absent so long?

  33. It is true. We do belong to the throw away generation. How many years can we hope to keep our mobile phones/laptops or anything else that we carry today? I also think that we don't value what we have and we waste natural resources by buying more things that we don't need (to be thrown away after a short time). And then we spread a propaganda that we are living a GREEN eco-friendly life! Our elders set a positive example which we have failed to follow due to the consumerist culture that has been created by marketers today.

    Destination Infinity

  34. Thank you for posting this, having had countless things handed down to me one thing in this article most definitely rings true - "A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE .. a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family…"
    The energies and struggles of the previous owners have affected me, sometimes very negatively. I may just be a strange person but that's my two cents. ;-)

    1. Dear Lauren:

      Thanks for stopping by here. Lovely to have you join the conversation. You're right here - objects do possess the energies of everyone who has come into contact with them. I also tend to believe that.

      Hope you have a great week ahead.



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