Consumption by Proxy

I have had a life long struggle with stuff. I have too much. Some of it is in piles. Some of it is in totes. Even more can be found in overflowing closets, drawers and cupboards. It is a struggle for me.

Compounding this problem is that my parents never show up at my house empty-handed. They always have something to give me. Chachkies and random household things mostly. Plates, bowls, collectibles, canisters and for some strange reason, 5 different tablecloths.  One time they showed up at the door with a KitchenAid Professional Mixer and shouted “Merry Christmas!” (I do love that mixer – but it takes up a lot of kitchen real estate.)

I know they do it because I am their daughter and they love me. But I also suspect that since they have downsized their home and they can no longer store oodles and oodles of stuff – they are using me to scratch an itch. I think this is a case of consumption by proxy. They get all the joy of consuming (and giving I assume) without the worry of storing, using or caring for the item. It’s perfect.

After one of their trips to England they brought me back a replica of a china plate. The plate is a reproduction of the “King of Sardinia” plate made for the King and Queen of Sardinia’s royal visit in 1855. My Mom handed it to me and I asked her why she bought it for me because it was unusual and we don’t have any ties to Sardinia. She told me she thought it would look nice in my kitchen, that’s all.

So, the plate found a home on top of one of kitchen cabinets that holds our dishes, two 35 mm cameras, some binoculars, my Mom’s top-secret pastry recipe and other odds and ends. It sits on a wooden plate stand and faces due north.

There is a problem with the plate though – it moves.

Every month or two I will look up and the plate will be off kilter and will have traveled a few degrees in another direction. I keep asking my husband if he has hidden things at the top of the cabinets or moving the plate and he tells me he hasn’t touched it. Maybe I keep adjusting it and I forget, he says. I called my Mom and told her that I thought she bought me a plate that was possessed, but she just laughed.

Finally, after straightening the plate yet again, I asked my husband to look at it, promise not the move it and we would check it later and see if it had moved. Weeks go by and we forget all about the plate until one day I walked in the kitchen, looked up and froze. The plate had moved 90 degrees and was now facing due east.

I said to my husband, “Look at the plate! Look at the plate!”

consumption by proxy messy money


“Oh yeah, it moved. Weird.” He shrugged his shoulders and returned to the family room.

I sat down at the kitchen table and looked up at the plate. What was going on? Was the plate hexed? Was it trying to tell us something? I am not sure I believe in ghosts but I had to consider the possibility. What should I do with the plate? Was it bad luck?

While I was considering what to do with the plate, my oldest son came into the kitchen to empty the dishwasher. I watched as he unloaded the dishes and put them in the cabinets. Plate in, cabinet door slammed shut. Bowl in, cabinet door slammed shut. Slam… slam… slam. With each slam, the King of Sardinia plate on the top of the cabinet wobbled.

The plate was trying to tell me something, that my kids are slowly destroying our kitchen. Sigh.


    1. Glad to hear I am not alone. My kids should work at Ikea as quality testers. They can inflict wear and tear faster better than anyone.


  1. You should see our couch. Our kids actually lift their bodies up before sitting down or should I say flopping on it. No matter how many times I ask them to sit down gently, they just go back to the routine of flopping. I can’t wait until they have their own place.
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…Net Worth Update: October 2015My Profile


    1. Oh we have that too. The kids are airborne for a few seconds before they make contact with the couch. They do it to their beds too – kind of “dive” into them. Quoting Jeff Foxworthy again but “If it ain’t broke, it ain’t ours..”


  2. That is so funny! Maybe you can just put a little bit of duct tape or something on the back of the plate to keep it straight!

    We have the same issue – with kids books and toys. They are over running our house… and I also blame my parents. Last night I was straightening the bookshelf and noticed like 5 new books I had never seen before… my mom shows up about 8 times a year with at least 6-10 new books. Unlikely to stop though – she was a children’s librarian for 15+ years…
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    1. Oh yes – the grandkids. Another excuse to show up with armfuls of stuff (not that I blame them) but it can be overwhelming. The plate continues to be a great conversation piece in the kitchen when we have guests. I just checked it and it has not moved, so maybe the kids have not been slamming as much.


  3. So I’m going to admit something here that well is difficult for me… I love things. I wish I could have all kinds of things and have them displayed perfectly in my house. Problem is that I have very little room in my house. My wife has been kind enough to clean up and get rid of just about everything that doesn’t “have a place” through giving it to friends, donating it, and even selling some.


    1. I don’t know if I like things but I do seem to acquire a lot of them somehow and it can be hard to let them go. I think it will be a lifelong process for me. You are lucky you have your wife to help you… My husband acquires too so double trouble.


  4. HA! I love it! What a fun outcome. I love a good mystery! 😀 What are you going to do with all of that stuff, May? It’s got to be weighing on you, figuratively AND literally! My mom used to do that too, but I think she figured if we had a ton of stuff, we’d stop our traveling ways. Didn’t work. It’s hard to keep a minimalist maximalized! 😛


    1. True – we are in a better spot than we were a couple of years ago, now that the kids are mostly past the toy stage. Still too much stuff though.


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