A Chicken in Every Pot and a Dumpster in my Front Yard – A Story of Excess

Our dumpster, but too cold to go out there!

During the Presidential Campaign of 1928, an ad placed by the Republican National Committee in several newspapers and a pamphlet described how the Republican administrations of Harding and Coolidge had “put the proverbial ‘chicken in every pot.’ And a car in every backyard, to boot.” The ad concluded that a vote for Hoover would be a vote for continued prosperity.  This promise of prosperity was promptly derailed several months later by the stock market crash of 1929 which plunged the country into the Great Depression. (hoover.archives.gov)

Today, we are having our own financial crisis in this country.  A few months ago the Census Bureau released its annual poverty report  which stated that a record 46.2 million persons, or roughly 1 out of every 7 Americans, were poor in 2010.

But what is “poor” in America today?  It’s certainly not what it was in the Great Depression.

The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau as taken from various government reports:

  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
  • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.
  • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
  • 43 percent have Internet access.
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
  • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture collects data on these topics in its household food security survey. For 2009, the survey showed:

I would propose that the whole reason for the current financial crisis is the very attitude stated in that quote often mistakenly attributed to Hoover. That we all deserve a “chicken in every pot and car in every yard”. I can understand the chicken, but the car?

Everyone had stretched their paychecks to the limit with too much house, too much car, and maxed out credit cards. And it finally all caught up with us. Basically, it was our “stuff” that put the nail in the coffin of our economy.

Personally, our finances are the one place that I am fairly organized. But I, too, am guilty of excess. Part of our organization problem is simply too much stuff. The one thing the “organized” types have right is that you can’t organize clutter.

So, I am doing my best this year to de-clutter and to make do with less. I’m trying to go with the 80/20 theory. For example, if I only wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time, do I really need the other 80%? Maybe a few pieces, but not ALL of it. If I use the waffle maker once a year, is it worth taking up room in the kitchen cabinets? If I need a pair of scissors or a pen, I never can find one because there is too much other crap in the way of finding them.

So, my first step in getting organized is a massive purging of stuff. I have literally had a dumpster delivered to my front yard. I’m not sure I could do the whole “minimalist” thing, but I would like to be able to find my keys in the morning.  The next step is to stop bringing so dang much stuff in the house!

I know I “should” have a garage sale, put things on Craigslist, or take things to charity. But it will never actually happen if I do it that way. So, dumpster it is.  Let the purging begin!  Well, when it warms up a little.


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