By: Revanche

The mysterious urge to buy perfectly useless things

January 6, 2010

To be fair to the objects in question, they themselves actually do serve a purpose. They’re not tchochkes, per se, not dust-collectors like those small, poorly formed animal statues with questionable faces and even more questionable beady eyes. Folding stools and wee little plastic chairs, little packets of bamboo sticks and such, they each and all serve distinct and perfectly justifiable purposes. For other people. But I can’t actually name one instance in which I wished I’d picked up one oddment or another from 99 Ranch, that ubiquitous Asian market, so why am I always become possessed of this nearly atavistic need to purchase a dozen small plastic bowls, or spoons?

My first reaction is to blame the prices: “$8 for a folding stool? It’s a steal! You can always find a use for a stool – people need to sit! Never ye mind which people. Or where.”  But that’s not it because it’s even worse with Tupperware. I yearn for the snapping lids, the squareish, roundish, stackable plastic containers with an almost palpable need – I’m not safe alone in a Target and their aisles of plastic containers. And those things are not cheap, so this whole problem of mine can’t be dismissed as simple bargain-basement fever.

I am convinced that this is a close cousin to the hoarder’s syndrome: a pathological grasping after items that serve fine purposes in anyone’s household but your own because you really don’t need the darn thing. It’s not that farfetched, I’ve definitely got the hoarding blood. Even as a five year old, I was more preoccupied with collecting practical items like finger-sized glasses that no one could ever drink out of than I was with using them to play with dolls. Incidentally, the dolls were always hidden in the bottom drawer as punishment for creeping me the heck out. Like clowns: good idea, poor execution.

My parents laughed at my refusal to get rid of any container, paper or plastic, or any wrapping paper because I might reuse it someday. “Just like Grandma,” they said.

Guys, my favorite pastime at age 17 was to drive to the local bargain shop and bring home table settings or sets of glasses! Besides being a waste of money, didn’t they have an analog version of Intervention or Hoarders back then? Didn’t they know this could become full blown madness?? It wasn’t until, years later, a friend’s mother had formed precarious towers of bargains that turned into pillars which solidified into walls that blocked them out of rooms, that it seemed like a good idea to cut back on the “steals.”

For lack of (much) outside reinforcement, I’m left to police myself. And wonder why on earth I know better, but still can’t stop walking up and down the aisles petting the household goods.

I’m weak.

11 Responses to “The mysterious urge to buy perfectly useless things”

  1. Shtinkykat says:

    I wouldn’t feel so bad if you’re hoarding Tupperware. I just realized that Tupperware, which is more expensive than the cheap-o, disposable Gladware, are better constructed and more durable. I’ve concluded that Tupperware is a better buy.

    I think I also have hoarder’s syndrome too! I recently saw an episode of Hoarders on A&E where this one woman insisted that she needed to keep a broken vacuum cleaner because she was going to fix it and sell it. The intervener asked, “How often have you actually done that in the past?” The woman admitted, “Never.” So anytime I make justifications to keep/buy useless stuff, I ask myself the same question: “How often have I done that in the past?” 😀

  2. 444 says:

    I have fallen prey to this urge. I actively keep myself out of shops with many cheap goods because I also pick up things I don’t really need because they are “just such a good deal!”

    Several years back I bought many inexpensive clothing items. I mean, I found so many things in the… I think under $10 range, many at $2 or so – bargain, cut-rate, clearance liquidation stuff – that I filled a closet. Eventually, I actually color-coded the hanging t-shirts so that it was like a rainbow in my closet. I remember the closet bar sagging from the weight.

    The problem was, I never wore any of these shirts. I think I even bought things that didn’t really fit! Examining them closely, I realized that I would have never chosen them, had it not been for the $1.99 price tag. I must have been possessed by some sickness in which shopping was a victory for me, a habit and an avocation – something to up my dopamine or something.

    I tried to sell everything at a flea market and hardly anything sold. So I gave it all away to charity. I’m very choosy about what I buy now. I think hard about whether I’ll really wear it before I buy it. Hard to believe that I once didn’t give that much of a thought and just bought for the thrill of the bargain-bragging-rights.

  3. I think when you consider that it’s not something that is a want per se, like a pretty bauble or a purse.. it makes it easier to justify.

    “I NEED tupperware! Who doesn’t? And in different colours no less!”

    But I usually find that I never end up using said “useful” item…

  4. L.A. Daze says:

    I hoard Tupperware as well. I love that stuff. In my mind there is always a need for it, even though it just fills up the kitchen cabinets. And I hate washing them. I also keep bags. Plastic, paper, you name it. My parents have also said i’m like my grandma. Ahaha. I don’t know what it is!

    Oh, and those cute festive/holiday themed bowls at Target? I have them all.

  5. I hate clowns! They scare me.

  6. eemusings says:

    I too have a weak spot for homeware! But it tends to be more, stuff that does have a purpose and is useful, but that I would personally never use. Ah well.

  7. I saw my first episode of Hoarders and it made me so sad. Don’t turn into one of those people!

  8. Abigail says:

    I think part of it is prices/impulsive nature. But it’s also (for me at least) the attraction of potentially being organized. Hence containers, including Tupperware.

  9. I sometimes come home with extra things, but usually they all have a use: To decorate my home. I avoid Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond like the plague for this reason. Those stores set off my ‘impulse buy’ button, apparently.

  10. RC says:

    If you’re lucky, you’ll find the right counterbalance eventually. That plus general experience helps you avoid hoarding. Enough hoarding over time gives you plenty of examples of “I don’t need more of *that*” that you won’t have earlier in life.

    Another example is if you’re also a neat freak and the hoarding prevents neatness. Yet another way to balance one obsession with another. 😀

  11. Revanche says:

    @Shtinkykat: It’s less that I’m actively hoarding Tupperware right now so much that I REALLY WANT TO. But therein lies a slippery slope and potential madness.

    @444: I did that once back in college when shopping in the Garment District in LA – bought a handful of the same shirts in different colors and realized later they were pretty crappy. Never again.

    @Serena: What I’ll do is save Target gift cards for a while until I have enough/move out to my own place. Then I will buy a specific set for my very own self…*my precious…*

    @L.A.Daze: I hoard bags, too, I think I blogged about it a long time ago. But I use those enough that the stash doesn’t collect dust.

    @F.Z.: I stand corrected: clowns aren’t even a good idea.

    @eemusings: That’s exactly it! Why???

    @me in millions: LOL! I’m lucky in that I get claustrophobic if I’m surrounded by too much stuff. It balances out. Also, y’all may publicly shame me if I do become one of those.

    @Abigail: Ditto the organization thought – I absolutely hate it when plates, pots and pans just end up in the fridge, covered up, containing leftovers. Tupperware represents sanity and clean dishes and cookware in that respect.

    @RainyDaySaver: Honestly, I’ll march myself right back to the store and return the stuff if I really bought decorative stuff because I really don’t need that right now.

    @RC: Both experience and self awareness are critical to fighting the good fight. And you’re right, my neat freak nature does actually help a lot. 😉

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