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Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by LizzieMaine, Mar 29, 2015.
Millennials Don't Want Your Stuff.
I've wondered about this for a bit now. Thank you for posting this one!
From an anecdotal perspective, I've seen and experienced the rejection of "perfectly good stuff" too many times to ignore the trend. I inherited piles of "heirlooms" from my folks when they moved out of our family home some 15 years back. Literally, piles of boxes. After that experience (and I still have relics from four generations of a family of accumulators) my whole perspective of "stuff" changed, except for my !#@##!! hats. I came away with the thought that in the USA we presently have enough of everything in the way of furniture and household items and chotchkies for about three or four generations of people, based on current population. Now if these millennials don't want any of our sh-tuff, that concept may expand to cover five or six generations.
Even Ebay hasn't really had the offsetting effect necessary yet. But I'll keep trying... Anyone need an original Gabriel Horn steam exhaust whistle for a 1903 Locomobile?
If one does not preserve the old, our history will soon be forgotten. Perhaps my nephew may not be interested in having his great grandfather's razor and eye glasses, but at least I am holding onto a bit of my family history. I can understand the need to keep possessions at a minimum, but one must also know from whence they came so they can understand where they are headed, and our "trinkets" are part of our story.
Though the old photos will probably last longer than all the images stored on some digital cloud.
That's the main point for me. Digital history is evanescent. My mother has the family shoebox of old pictures, and it'll probably end up with me, but after that, it'll probably all end up in a recycling bin. Nobody else in the family particularly cares.
It's not all millennials who feel the way depicted in the article -- I've got one who's looking forward to taking custody of my books when I die or get shoveled off to the Methodist Old Ladies Home. But as to the rest of my stuff -- well, whatever. I never accumulated my possessions with an eye toward a "collection," it's just the stuff that I've used along the way. If someone wants my clothes or radios or my washing machine or my refrigerator or my car when I'm gone, I hope they get as much use out of them as I have. The rest of it, I don't really care -- have a big yard sale, give it to the homeless, burn it, whatever. I'll be beyond concern at that point.
I do approve, at least, of the idea of a life not defined by what you own. The kids still have a very long way to go before they're completely cleansed from postwar consumerism -- that won't happen until the day they can walk past an Apple Store and say "so what" -- but at least they have some idea of the problem to be overcome. I'll give them points for that.
I'm not so sure about some of this material on millennials ... or rather, I think we are quick to suggest that they are different as opposed to young. When I was their age I didn't care about privacy or possessions, except for whatever car I was fixing up at the time. Then I changed. When your friends start moving on and your parents start dying maybe you want to hang on to your past a bit tighter. You start off adulthood defining how different you are from your parents then, as your life starts to look a bit more like theirs, things may change. There was a moment when I became fascinated by the world my parents had lived in ... it's one of the things that brought me here.
These millenials, Josh and Kellie especially, sound like pretentious asses, frankly. That said, I have been forced to turn down some stuff from my parents that I'd love to have simply because living in Central London, I'll never be able to afford a house big enough to have a dedicated dining room, or space for an antique writing desk. But minimalism? Naught more than another hipster fashion, it's not anything like a progressive notion of people evolving beyond the material or any such.
Gotta love a minimalistic white space with all the charm of a jail cell. :doh:
But these kids are very much defined by what they own, it's just different than their parents. They haven't rejected materialism, they've replaced one set of shiny baubles with another.
"Rental White" is pretty much all you're going to get if you live in an apartment these days.
One concept in this article that I thoroughly approve, though, is the idea of getting back to walkable communities. I've lived my entire life "in town," and the thought of suburbia has always made my skin crawl. Postwar suburbanization has had a very negative effect on the idea of real mixed-use community life -- much of what we grieve for here, the loss of neighborhood grocery stores, the corner gas station, the downtown department stores -- can be traced almost entirely to the rise of suburbia.
But what's unfortunate is that with this "new urbanism" comes gentrification -- the ultimate result of which is that people like me get forced out by the inrush of upper-middle-class people who pay top dollar to be part of the "trend." That's one case where the "cure" is far worse than the disease, and it doesn't create real community at all. What it does create is sharp, bitter polarization between the invaders and the invaded, and that's only going to get worse as the "trend" continues. Build your communities, but don't build them at the expense of destroying the communities that are already there.
Hence my comment about "Apple Stores." These kids, and millennials in general, have a sense that there's something deeply wrong with society, but that's as far as they go with it. They're satisfied with talking about "simplification" without actually "simplifying." They talk a good revolution but they don't actually revolt. Realizing that a problem exists is a big part of progress, but you don't really get anywhere until you stop talking and start doing. And you don't start *doing* until you stop being cynical and blase -- and start being *angry.* Some of the millenials have shown signs of getting to that point. I suspect that eventually more of them will. But the next step they'll have to take might prove to be too much for them to handle.
What they really need to do, and what most of them probably never *will* do, is to completely reject the concept of "cool." A culture revolving around "the latest thing," whether it's a high-end clothing label, a "killer app," or a social philosophy, will never be anything but pointless, empty, and shallow. Reject *cool*, reject the idea of wanting to be "on the cutting edge," reject "hipness," reject all of that, and you've made the first real step in cutting off your own chains.
And before somebody accuses me of singling out millennials, you can look around the Lounge and see plenty of label-waving one-upsmanship going on -- it may not be the millennials' kind of hipster-cool, but it's still a fixation on "cool," a fixation on having something that someone else doesn't, and it's just as pernicious.
A hipster penal colony in the middle of Alaska: I like it!
Cupcake "kewlness" that doesn't leach into the surrounding area.
Young millennials have revolted in other parts of the world, but not in America. In some developing nations, high school students are marching, boycotting classes, and even occupying their schools for weeks or months. They are demanding that their governments improve the quality of the education in these schools.
Can you imagine American high school students doing the same? Me neither.
Yip. One of the things I really love about living in inner London is not needing to drive. Back in the Old Country, much of it you just can't get to at all via public transport, and even when you can. the service is limited. Over there, I had to drive to get anywhere. It's the reason I stayed in so much in my late teens and early twenties. Hated it.
Yes, sadly we see a lot of that in London (not to mention the extremely underhand ways in which so many places have been cleared out). The biggest insult of all is that in many of the very most expensive parts of London, whole apartment blocks sit virtually empty because they've been bought by Russian or Chinese or Middle Eastern investors who will never live in them. Meanwhile, there are people living in the streets. And they say we're civilised....
Nothing new about this. The most common story in the world, a lifetime accumulation or collection of stuff, unceremoniously shovelled to the curb or sold cheap to a used furniture dealer or used book dealer.
I know an antique car guy who shuffled off the mortal coil about 5 years ago. Before he was cold his wife was selling off his best collector cars, and scheduling an auction for his 50 year accumulation of tools, books, and parts. In a month it was all gone, including the house, and she was gone too.
I don't blame her. She was a good wife to him all those years and stuck with him through his last days of sickness and Alzheimers. But she had no interest in old cars, so she sold everything and got on with the rest of her life. God bless her and good luck to her I say.
Same with the millenials and all the heirs. In most cases the silverware is plate, the antiques cheap reproductions, the furniture common mass produced junk. If they don't want it so what. Don't pretend you bought all that junk for them. If you had bothered to ask, they would rather have had the money or maybe some of your time when they were young enough to value it.
While there is no doubt that many kids don't want the "stuff" their parents collected, there is quite a vibrant collectors market for almost everything - the wife referenced in the post right above could sell the cars and car material that fast because the market for it is that robust.
If someone isn't thoughtful about finding the right venue to sell these vintage items - stupid things can happen, but as someone who has always loved "old things," there is much, much more interest in "old things" today than in the '80s. And just my casual observation is that there are plenty of young people in their 20s - 40s who are active collectors. (Clearly, most 20 year olds don't have that much money, but they buy the less expensive things and, then, buy more expensive things as they get older).
While - unfortunately - some thing will be lost / discarded / ruined owing to ignorance, neglect and happenstance - I don't sense any diminution of interest in collecting old things. That said, yes, some things come in and out of vogue and their price goes up and down - but the market for "old things" seems very robust to me.
I, too, love walkable communities (I haven't owned a car in over twenty five years). I've definitely seen several city / urban centers "come back" over the last ten years, but as Lizzie points out, there are challenges with that as well.
I don't know the answer - I'm glad to see places like downtown Charlotte, NC and Jersey City, NJ being revived - and in some cases abandoned buildings are being restored, etc. (so nobody or no business is being pushed out there) - but I absolutely also see long-time residents and businesses getting "priced out," sadly and unfortunately.
The problem with gentrification to me is that it's at heart, deeply insincere. It replaces a genuine community -- one made up of a cross-section of people from all classes and all walks of life with one made up of one class and one walk of life. Oh, sure, they puff and wheeze about "diversity," but in fact *real* diversity -- *class* diversity -- is the one thing that absolutely terrifies gentrifiers. That greasy old gas station on the corner might have been there for seventy years, but it's bringing down the property valuation. That weird second-hand store that's been in the middle of that downtown block since the First Hundred Days might be a neighborhood institution, but "my gawd, have you ever seen the kind of people who go *in* there?" Better to clear that stuff all out and replace it with "upscale restaurants," art galleries, boutiques, and the kind of fake Disneyfied diversity that people who say they couldn't live without diversity really mean when they talk about diversity.
The solution lies with gentrifiers really stopping to think about "community" as something other than the latest catch phrase they read about in the Atlantic. And with parasitical real estate developers and marketers being strung up by their ankles.
I think that interest is a lot different, though, than it was in the '70s, when I was first roaming flea markets and second-hand stores. People in general weren't buying old stuff then for "investment purposes." They were buying it, as I was, to actually *use* it. Sure, you had the people who even then were speculating in comic books or bubble gum cards or other "nostalgia" stuff, but in general, a waterfall bedroom set wasn't a prized piece of deco-influenced High Thirties design. It was a cheap bedroom set for people who needed a cheap bedroom set, and that's where most of those sets ended up: in cheap bedrooms. A vintage coat wasn't a "vintage coat." It was an old coat you could get cheaper than buying a new coat. If you got a box of your grandmother's stuff out of the attic, it wasn't a sense of "oooh, it's dough, let's go" and scramble around for a Kovel's price guide -- it was, more often than not, stuff you could *use,* and you were glad to use it because it was cheaper to use it than to go to the store and buy the equivalent stuff new.
I think the collectors you see today are more in it for the bucks than for the practicality. The whole pickers-and-grinners-and-flippers phenomenon has come to dominate, and if nobody thinks it's worth money, well, hell, just throw it away. And the truth is, a lot of the stuff the Boomers are hoarding, the mass-marketed "collectibles" and trinkets and gimcracks, will never be worth anything in a dollar sense, so that stuff will be the first stuff tossed once the heirs realize there's no money in it. I come across "collectible plates" and unopened boxes of '80s baseball cards, and Beanie Babies, and all that type of stuff at the dump Swap Shop all the time. Once the "market" for this kind of stuff crashes, nobody wants any of it.
That type of social mindset change happening organically seems nearly undoable - bottom up, those with the money, as you said, don't want it and, top down, well that becomes a freedom issue and, to be honest, a political graft issue.
I love where I live in NYC because it has some of the old stores and things that the gentrifiers are always trying to get rid off. Fortunately, there are many neat genuinely old stores here - not quaint new versions of old stores, but "been here 70 year old stores with the son or grandson of the original owner running it" stores / stores with 50 year old dust, etc. - but even my neighborhood is seeing some gentrification and it makes me sad.
I think some problems are not solvable. It is just a time that will pass. I'm glad I got to see it and live while some of it is still here.