Mary Beth Writes

I watched an 18-minute video about Americans and their clutter. 

 (I read about it in the letters section of The Non-Conformist Advocate. )

The book it is related to is this: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors.

The video is a preview of the book, researched and collated by anthropologists and archeologists, about what they call “hyper-consumerism.”  Few of us need this to be explained; we live in the storms of stuff that we buy for reasons that do and don’t make sense.

Here are some conversation-worthy points made in this short film.

1. The people in a family who comment on the clutter are the ones who are bothered by it. In the families they interviewed, the women were much more likely to talk about and apologize for clutter. When the researchers did blood tests, those women had elevated cortisol levels (the stress chemical). In general, the husbands in the family didn’t care and their stress was not increased by clutter.

2. The US has 3.1% of the world’s kids and 40% of the toys.


3. Parents have a sentimental involvement with their kids’ toys. MB: This is super relevant; I didn’t know when I was bringing home those soft stuffed animals that 25 years later they would be in a box in my garage because I don’t know how to get rid of them.  We need to factor in OUR response to the toys of our kids.

4. American family kitchens tend to be STUFFED with food. It is common to have a fridge, a free-standing freezer AND another fridge in the garage.  MB: When our electricity went out for 3 days, decades ago, our insurance guy asked us for an estimate of food lost. I estimated $100 because I mostly was storing chicken legs, 5 1-lb packs of hamburger bought on sale, flour (bought on sale in the fall and stored in the freezer to prevent bugs) and bags of veggies and fruit. The claims guy said he had never seen a food loss that low. I was embarrassed.

5. By using convenience foods instead of making meals from scratch, the average family saves 12 minutes per meal.

6. Possibly the main reason people over-shop is that they are so busy driving kids to and from events, after the parents have worked their jobs all day. They can’t face going in the store to pick up a few things while they have the kids with them - so they over shop every week or two, trying to avoid the scenario of everyone tired, cranky, and whining in the grocery store.  This seems like a helpful understanding to consider when arranging family life.


7. The refrigerator door is (MB’s metaphor here) the altar of the family. What that family needs to KNOW (schedules and instructions) is on that door as well as what they HONOR and REVERE. Also, the clutter or lack of clutter on that fridge door will predict pretty accurately the order or lack of order in the rest of the whole house. 

There’s more.

Instead of judging clutter-filled houses it is interesting to look at what’s going on as social scientists do. And then, possibly, being able to look at our own homes with a clearer sense of what we are doing.


In the old days, people used things until they broke, then they fixed it and used it some more. Now things become obsolete or out-of-fashion, and they are replaced with something new. But we can't think to throw out something that still works, so our closets are filled with old, perfectly good film cameras, cassette tape decks and Nehru jackets.

Five plus years and my closets are still filled with my late husband’s belongings: “saving for the son’s”! And all my craft supplies...

Clearing stuff left behind by a passed-away loved one is so different than clearing clutter. It is emotional work on a par with very little else in our human lives. Though when it starts to feel like clutter, if it ever does, that's a weird sign to start working that direction.

The Struggle is real. We are such a throw away society. I imagine I have less clutter than most, but I still have plenty. Groaning.

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Retired Chicken Observations 3/22-2018

Two things I have been thinking about lately. Both are related to retirement income and retirement adventure.

1. Last week Len and I went to our Social Security office to sign me up for Spousal Benefits.  It took me several run-throughs to understand what “spousal benefits” are. Since then I have talked to several other people who were also unclear on the concept.

My confusion was this. I was already getting Social Security based on my earnings when I worked (as opposed to what I did when I stayed home and raised kids. But let’s not go there now. Grrrr.)

Franc’s Wildly Successful Life

This is a long piece of writing and I am proud of it. If you don’t want to read it all – here are my take-way points about how my friend Franc lives well on a surprisingly small income:

Mindful Chickens 2/24/2018

1.  We did it!  We called, explained what we thought we needed to do, made appts, were home for the appts, rec’d the estimates about - fixing the gutters and getting the house painted.  I think one of the reasons we usually do it ourselves is because this process is so daunting and time consuming.

The gutter guy is coming next week; we are looking forward to no rivulets when it pours. 100-year old houses built on non-waterproofed rubble foundations, like George Washington, cannot lie about what’s happening outside your basement walls.

Mindful Chickens - The Snickerdoodle Edition

1. When we were sick in January (with flu and cold) Len used the CVS card that I had signed up for last year and then barely used.  He bought several OTC medicines plus a cool-mist vaporizer using that card, which saved us 20%. That was helpful.

2. While I was under the weather I signed up for Starz in order to binge-watch an Outlander season.  After I watched TV for two days I canceled the subscription, thus paying nothing.  This is the third year I have done this.  Why do they let me do this??

Frugal Stuff/ Flu edition 1/22/2018

1. I donated blood Friday morning. This is a free mini-checkup every two months; they take your pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and check your hemoglobin levels (iron). They send your blood to be checked for various diseases such as Lyme disease, West Nile, and Zika.

DO NOT donate blood in order to determine if you have a disease or not. If you think you might be ill, go to a doctor or clinic and deal with it. 

But, if you (like me) need an extra reason to be generous, the screening to give blood is not a bad perk.

Two Piquant Recipes, No Waiting

This is not a recipe blog. You may sometimes wonder what kind of blog this is, but I bet you have figured out we’re not here to cook. Still, sometimes I come across amazing recipes and today I want to share two of them,by referring you to the sites where I found them.

How do I find these sites, you ask? 

Simple. Google the name of two or three ingredients you would like to use up. This takes you to recipes that use those foods; you decide if you want to try them.

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