Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Call me a boomer, call me a dink, call me a Simplifier, what do you think?

Last weekend B. and I were heading out to run a few errands and between stops I flipped my cell phone open and gave daughter LauraRN a call.

She asked what we were doing, and I told her we were just dinking around.

She laughed and pointed out that "dinking around" was exactly what we were doing: As Double Income, No Kids people, we were now officially DINKS.

Gee, it seemed like only yesterday we were SINKS (Single Income, no kids) and a few other variations of acronyms.

Of course for a whole life time we've been Boomers. As in Post WWII Baby Boomers. Wow, Post WWII...that sounds positively ancient doesn't it?

I just read this article and discovered I have slid into yet another title: Simplifier.

Sounds kind of practical doesn't it? Less stuff, more life. Oh yeah.

Read all about it below, then tell me what YOU think.
Are you shifting in simplify? How is that transition going? How far do you think it will go?

(And while I do know that pasting an entire article on one's blog without author's permission is a huge copyright no-no, I am going to stick to my new roots, and simplify this read by pasting it right here where you can read it easy!)

How Recession Will Accelerate Consumer Downsizing
Posted by John Quelch on October 15, 2008 3:01 PM

Watch out for a new brand of consumer in 2008: the middle-aged Simplifier. She finds herself surrounded by too much stuff acquired. She is increasingly skeptical in the face of a financial meltdown that it was all worth the effort. Out will go luxury purchases, conspicuous consumption, and a trophy culture. Tomorrow's consumer will buy more ephemeral, less cluttering stuff: fleeting, but expensive, experiences, not heavy goods for the home.
The economic boom of the 1990s fuelled consumption and democratized access to a wider than ever spectrum of goods transforming former luxuries into "must-have" necessities. Millions played the lotteries or aspired to what they viewed on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". As they grew richer, pressure increased on those below to trade up. And, as they traded up, pressure increased in turn on the well-off to buy even more--the second home, the big screen TV and the latest sport-utility vehicle. Enter the big houses that measured success in thousands of square feet of floor space, topped by the 40,000 square feet, $50m palace that Bill Gates has built outside Seattle. In 2006, 35% of new homes exceeded 2,400 square feet in floor space compared with 18% in 1986. Ironically, these mansions, many owned by business people on the road half the time, grew in number as the size of the average American household declined.
These huge houses had to be filled with more stuff, good news for the home-appliance and home-furnishing industries. Even grocery manufacturers benefited. Larger homes with bigger refrigerators can absorb more inventory. Flat birth rates in developed economies have put pressure on durable consumer-goods companies desperate for top-line growth. Product quality improvements mean these goods break down less often. So durable-goods sales depend on two things: the launch of new, higher-priced, higher-featured, often customized products that persuade consumers to trade in their existing appliances before they break down (think cell phones), as well as household penetration of products such as fax machines and printers previously used only by businesses.
As the world economy slumps, one consumer segment will grow faster than ever. The Simplifiers have four characteristics.
First, they perceive that they have more stuff than they need. Sure, they may collect something specific like porcelain figurines as a hobby, but they are the opposite of the pack rats who fill their attics and basements with "you-never-know-when-you-might-need-it" stuff.
Second, they want to collect experiences, not possessions. And they give experiences rather than goods as gifts to friends and relatives. Experiences may seem ephemeral. They cannot be inventoried except in the form of "Kodak" moments; but they do not tie you down, require no maintenance, and permit variety-seeking instincts to be quickly satisfied. Dining out, foreign travel, learning a new sport will prove more resilient than expected in the face of recession.
Third, their stuff embarrasses them. Their Range Rovers no longer tell the world that they are sophisticated town and country socialites. There are simply too many of them on the road to offer much social status. Worse, they now signal the irresponsible selection of a gas-guzzler.
Fourth, they have wealth that is so assured that it no longer requires conspicuous display. They lease their cars, rent other people's holiday homes, and would happily outsource other aspects of their lifestyles. They reject the marketer's continual pressure to spend more money on possessions rather than on education, health care, and other social goods.
These are the consumers who are now trading in their sport-utility vehicles. They include the empty-nester baby-boomers, less confident than before, who are tired of heating unused spaces in cavernous mansions, now preferring smaller houses with architectural character and intimate spaces, more charm and less maintenance. Their families are scattered, unable to share conveniently the family holiday home and often unwilling to inherit the burden of something they will never use. The new economy has made it even easier for consumers to get rid of their stuff. The high-tech equivalents of the yard sale, electronic auction sites, bring Simplifiers together with those who are yet to catch the habit.
This growing segment of Simplifiers presents a challenge to marketers. These are well-off people who value quality over quantity and do not buy proportionately more goods as their net worth increases. Their increasing reluctance to consume will dampen expected demand growth in developed economies further and therefore slow economic recovery, requiring consumer-goods multinationals to further focus their efforts on emerging markets where stuff will still be king.
This post is based in part on Professor Quelch's Economist article "Too Much Stuff."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hers and His

Ever walked into a house and you just had a sense about the owners? A good sense?

That's what this house had.

This house was beautifully decorated with interesting traditional antiques and soft colors.
I imagined a lady who looked a bit like Dale Evans living here, if Dale was still around.
(You over 50 -somethings know what I am talking about and can picture that I am sure...)

The house was carpeted with plush white carpeting, the walls were a faintly pinkish white. Overall the house felt very happy, clean, fresh, cozy...all the good things that a home should be

The period pieces gave away the owners age as did the chandelier. No one of my generation would choose such a lighting fixture for her dining room.

And the neatly done fairly modern kitchen suited the rest of the house without screaming "THE KITCHEN HAS BEEN REDONE....GRANITE COUNTER TOPS.....GRANITE COUNTER TOPS.....GRANITE COUNTER TOPS! like most of the most recent and trendy remodels proclaim in their for sale listings.

The place was so tasteful. Not totally my style, but a style that I could respect as being lovely and modest, yet reflecting personal interests as well.
I'll bet she just loved having a second crystal chandelier in the breakfast room!

A kind of kitchen that says a bowl of cereal for breakfast is fine, and later we can whip up a full luncheon for friends.

I guess I had an affinity for this owner, because on the wall was a heavily detailed mahogany framed picture of the couple back in the late 1970.

She had the typical short haircut, he had on the typical blue suit, there were two late teen sons looking slightly awkward in their suits and a daughter with a turtleneck sweater and skirt, her hair long and flipped on the ends, and bangs that flared out at the side, ala Karen Carpenter.

It could have been any of the families I knew at that time, and I could have easily been the daughter.

On another wall was another picture.

In this picture there were the two parents/homeowners, looking just a bit more older and wiser somehow, and their three children now stood with three other people; clearly all three kids had married and the "in-loves" were fitting right in with the family.

But the best part of the picture: The adults stood in a double half circle in the back, proudly surrounding NINE little granddaughters in identical white organdy dresses, and THREE school aged grandsons, looking awkward in their newly purchased suits and ties.

The grandparents were beaming.

You could feel the love oozing out of that picture. I so wanted to take a picture of it, but settled with storing the image in my mind instead.

I have no idea when that picture was taken. I suspect it was a decade ago...the youngest grandchild was about three.

Grandma is probably a great grandma now. I wonder why they chose now to sell the home. Everything was in such immaculate condition that I hope it is either to downsize or perhaps even up sized to have room enough for twelve grandkids, their spouses and even their children at the table!

You might have been able to picture the woman of the house by just looking at her fireplace, furniture, and kitchen.

Now let me introduce you to the man of the house, via his spaces:

His "I know exactly where everything is" work bench.
I loved this picture. There is something about the garage that is as much of a man's space as a kitchen is a woman's space.
He might have an office, or a den, but in the end, it is his workbench that is his and his alone.
This man clearly was the head of the house; while upstairs had all the tasteful decorating touches of his wife, when it came to doing the basement, he clearly was the man in charge:

The soft white plush baby-snuggling girlie look ended, and Braveheart took over!

I'm guessing here that either he had Scottish heritage, or got a killer deal on this carpet.

I thought it was great, our real estate agent and Bernie had a bit of head shaking to do before they could adjust.

The big dining table stood before a fireplace outfitted with a black stove inset. And there was a small lectern beside the table which held a hefty Bible.

It was so easy to imagine the family gather around the table snacking on something wonderful, while The Man of the House lead the Family devotions and discussion.

It was a large area, including a small kitchenette, and on the walls were huge Mexican sombreros, and other mementos from far away countries. Most likely Man of the House and his two sons had gone on Missions, and returned with items to mark their time in the field.
It was a cold night when Bernie and I visited the house. A fire blazed in the fireplace, and every light in the house was on. It felt light and bright, warm and welcoming. The six bedrooms each had a personality; one filled with dolls and a baby buggie, another was a lavender room with a huge closet filled with Christmas decoration neatly labeled in clear boxes.
The garden in front was delightfully English style, while the back was large and even had a "secret" path through the head high hedges which lead from the upper terrace back down to the ground.
The gazebo in the corner of the upper terrace was appealing, and the covered deck off the kitchen said "Come have breakfast out here in the summer!"
It was a tempting house.
3,048 square feet.
SIX bedrooms.
Three baths.
Beautiful garden.
Beautiful neighborhood.
It was listed at $404,708 when we saw it...a most unusual listing price!
A bit over our top bugeted price.
Tempting....tempting....but no.
It is now apparently sold.
I hope who ever got it will raise a lovely family there, and continue the happy vibe.
If you'd like to see this house as it is listed, click HERE. and select the PHOTOS tab.
If you look closely at the picture labeled OFFICE, you can see the sweet family portrait with all the granddaughters in their matching white dresses that touched me so much.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Church Bells

Another lovely church to visit on a crisp clear autumn day.

Above is a shot of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, which is one block south of where I work; the Catholic Cathedral is half a block north of my work place.

Both church have wonderful bell towers, and the bells are regularly in use.

I am happily surrounded by chiming church bells!

St. Mark's has a lovely plaza with a fountain, and I have on occasion walked over and eaten lunch there, and then lingered in their book store for a moment before heading back to church.

If you enlarge the picture above, you can see the rope that is attached to the church bell in the belfry.
I found that to be a really homey touch. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be the one to ring the bell?

It is interesting too that two different styles of crosses were used on the building, and I wonder if the clove leaf shape on the stack like structure was a reminder of Trinity theology.

The church was designed in a Gothic Revival style out of red sandstone from the Red Butte area of SLC. The architect, Richard Upjohn, also designed the Trinity Church in Manhattan. He also founded the American Institute of Architects.

I have learned that inside there is a pipe organ that was built in Glasgow in 1857.

Maybe sometime I can ask for a tour so I can get more information!

The Cathedral has a daily Eucharist service around noon time.
Maybe sometime I will participate in such a service.

I haven't yet been inside, but it is interesting to think of all the historical events that have happened since since the church building was begun in 1870.