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Other Voices: Things I don’t buy often

Each time I pass a lamp store, I wonder if the owner manages to make a living. I’ve bought maybe six lamps in my lifetime. When the shades deteriorate, I get new ones.

But the basic lamp travels from one house to the next. Not quite knowing how electricity works, I assume that lamps are simple mechanisms that don’t break down a lot.

When I moved to Grass Valley a few years ago, I bought a box of toothpicks. I still have a third of the box left. For some reason, I don’t use so many toothpicks as I did at the height of my entertaining days when I made hors d’oeuvres requiring them.



In a long lifetime, I’ve bought more sheets and towels and washcloths than I’d care to count. But the china dishes of violets rimmed with gold have traveled through 40 years of changing habitats.

My sister invited me to a Tupperware party when I was 20 years old. I bought nearly everything and still have some containers with lids. I rarely buy any new storage dishes. At thrift stores, I’ve replenished my supply of Tupperware items that have simply worn out with age.




I bought a vegetable peeler and hand can opener when I first married at age 21. Both those tools lasted for 45 years. When these simple appliances finally broke, I was astonished. How dare they fall apart! Going to kitchen stores, especially upscale ones, staggered my sense of thrift. When did the prices rise to such unbelievable heights?

On a recent visit, my daughter reacted with visible surprise when she espied my non-disposable razor in the bathroom. “You’ve had this razor for my whole life!” she exclaimed. Now and then I buy a pack of disposable razors for a trip to Europe, but at home I rely upon my clunky but sturdy Gillette. I do buy packages of blades; but unless I lose this old standby, I’ll probably never buy another razor.

So how do these store owners stay in business? Do other women buy tons and tons of lamps every year? Do bigger households go through boxes and boxes of toothpicks? Do some housewives buy new cookie baking sheets more than once every 15 years?

Apparently stores seem to thrive everywhere. Do that many people buy antiques? Apparently.

During my pregnancy, I noted the amazing number of other women who also were expecting babies. I had never seen so many. And I began to see shops for baby clothes, places I had not observed before. Obviously, when we change our perspective, we see markets that had not existed for us before.

We hear a lot about our “disposable” society. The evidence suggests that we do indeed shed plastic bottles and zip lock bags. But sometimes we might look at those products that have lasted for years, and we can congratulate ourselves on helping to conserve our resources.

Mary Lu Leon lives in Grass Valley.


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