What’s on your fridge?


September 12, 2012 by Meg G.

I know. You’re thinking to yourself – Meg, don’t you mean what’s in your fridge? Just stay with me.

A few weeks ago, I read this NY Times  interview with Anthony P. Graesch, one of the authors of Life at Home in the 21st CenturyThe book is the result of a 9 year UCLA study and takes a look at 32 families in the Los Angeles area. The study takes a look at what anthropologists call “material culture” – or what the rest of us call “stuff.”

Material culture is a fascinating way to study history and culture. Allow me to put on my nerd hat for a second and admit that my capstone project as an undergraduate focused on 19th Century American doll play. Yep! I studied the way children (read: girls) were taught to play with dolls as a means of socialization. We’ve come such a long way since the 1800’s! (Sigh.)

19th Century “Penny Dolls”

Barbie: 2009 and 1959

But I digress…

The article talks briefly about the accumulation of stuff. Here’s what I found most interesting:

Here comes Christmas, here come the birthdays. The inflow of objects is relentless. The outflow is not. We don’t have rituals, mechanisms, for getting rid of stuff.

Here is where two of my favorite things – ritual and material culture – collide (Venn Diagram alert!). Ritual is a powerful thing. It can educate, transform, and heal. Ritual is a huge part of religious practice, but it is also more than that. So much of our daily life includes rituals. We sing “Happy Birthday.” We do the Sunday crossword over our morning coffee. We read bedtime stories. And we give gifts.

But as Graesch points out, there is no ritual for downsizing. Yes, we may do the occasional “spring” cleaning. But even then, do we really get rid of things? Or do we just put them in the basement/attic/garage? Why do we hold onto things? What would a purging ritual look like? An annual community yard sale? A monthly donation drop off to the local thrift store? A buy-nothing Christmas? A clothing swap? How might we ritualize the outflow of stuff in our lives? (And by we, I mean the privileged people of the world who can afford newer, shinier things. #firstworldproblems)

Anyway, I guess I should get to the fridge part…

Finally, there was a direct relationship between the amount of magnets on refrigerators and the amount of stuff in a household.

While this is suggestive data (not statistically significant), I think it’s pretty fascinating to consider. It raises all kinds of questions. What does our fridge say about us? Can you judge a home by its fridge door? How does the space around us impact the way that we live our lives? How does it impact the way we feel about the lives we’re living?

Care to weigh in? Feel free to take a long look at your refrigerator door and get back to me.

8 thoughts on “What’s on your fridge?

  1. Melannie says:

    “Finally, there was a direct relationship between the amount of magnets on refrigerators and the amount of stuff in a household.”

    I must be an anomaly! Meg, as you well know having lived with me, I always try to make a point of not accumulating things, or what I like to call, “dust-collectors.” As you can tell by the moniker, my motivation is not noble, but rather that I dislike cleaning. My fridge door, however, is a “magnet” for magnets! Magnets happen to be one thing I like to collect. In fact, whenever I travel I make it a point to purchase a magnet from each city I visit. Perhaps this is because I know they won’t end up lying around my apartment, but instead sitting comfortably at home on my fridge. I also like that they are often in my sight-line, because I am so often opening my refrigerator 🙂

    Finally, I would just like to point out those two beauties on your fridge door in white graduation gowns with gold sashes. Why whoever could they be?!

    • Melannie – I hadn’t thought of you as the exception to the rule, but I believe you certainly are! We did always have a fridge covered with fun magnets and a house empty of dust-collectors.

      Funny you should notice those beauties – I do believe we might have known them in a former life! ; )

  2. This is great post! I often give away clothes that are too small and women that do not have rituals? They must be nuts! I go through the house one time a week and get rid of things from crafts, clothes to food that we are not going to get a chance to eat or the kids randomly choose to refuse to eat. Now my husband, does not get rid of ANYTHING and it bothers me. Clutter bothers me. Everything should be cleared off, if my kids want new electronics, well they have to sell their current ones. I could live without Christmas gifts, I actually hate receiving them. Maybe because I’m cheap, but they always end up being returned and getting something for the kids or just extra money. On my refrigerator it isn’t cluttered I have the emergency numbers for our old area and then our new one, just because I miss our old post. And I have a Decepticon’s magnet that I had to have from Spencer’s. Other than that nothing.

  3. Colleen says:

    I love this post. For a few years during college and post, I didn’t give any Christmas gifts, mostly because I didn’t want to perpetuate the over- abundance of stuff. I don’t know if my younger brother ever got over this. I have switched back to giving gifts, but I try to give either functional gifts (like money for an educational fund, or some yummy treats from the locale where I live) or those that include memory making (like a play day with nieces and nephews or memory reminiscing (like a photo album). I like the idea of simply spending time with our family and friends and making memories together.
    As for our refrigerator door, it used to have all kinds of magnets and pictures on it. When we recently moved, Don gave a gift of nice magnets to magnets to me that have meaningful / inspirational sayings on them. The goal is to fill our lives with positive thoughts. Over time, we will begin to add again pictures of children in our lives – as well as the artwork they send us 🙂 I’m not sure if you can judge our home by our refrigerator door, but it’s a good thought to ponder!

    • griffson812 says:

      Thanks, Colleen! Of course you have been thoughtful about this! I love that you have positive, inspirational messages on your fridge – I think it must help to create a creative and uplifting space.

    • Filling your home with inspiring and uplifting quotes is a great thing! I will only buy home decor that inspires me or the kids! In their rooms I have the quote from Wayne Gretzky… “You only miss 100% of the shots you never take.” since their room is done in a sports theme it fits right in. Positivity is something that is hard to come upon now-a-days!

  4. Beth Federici says:

    This is a fantastic posting. A couple of thoughts. As you know as one of my family members, for the last five years or so we have asked only for gifts that can be consumed. Food, wine, movie or theater tickets etc. No real stuff to accumulate. Secondly, at the end of April each year, the good people of Amsterdam celebrate Queens Day. It is a weekend long, citywide party that includes a citywide swap meet. It the time of the year that citizens get to clean out their attic and socialize with their neighbors. One person’s trash is another’s treasure!


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