WELLESLEY, Mass. Marci Everberg is down-sizing now that her two children are on their own, and she’s finding the process of “de-possessioning”–as she jokingly refers to throwing or giving things away–to be unexpectedly liberating. “There was a period in my life when buying something from McKenzie-Childs was the solution to a bad day,” she says as she looks at a table covered with knick-knacks. “I must have had a lot of bad days,” she adds as wraps tissue paper around one particularly gaudy item that she plans to give to a homeless shelter that crushes preppy gew-gaws into fine dust to be used as stuffing for sleeping bags.
MacKenzie-Childs furnishings: Home decorating on acid.
But others aren’t so sanguine about the future of a nation without tchotchkes, a Yiddish term that originally meant any small bauble or miscellaneous item but has come to refer more specifically to tacky or cloying articles used to enhance a home decorating scheme.
“Tchotchkes are the canaries in the coal mine of interior decoration,” says Tina Miniscola, a licensed interior decorator who bristles at the notion that the purchases she advised her client Everberg to make over the years–and on which she received a commission–were ill-advised. “They’re also like the buffalo–once they’re gone forever, we as a nation will realize just what we have lost.”
Tchotchkes are under assault from the so-called “anti-clutter” movement, which views the endearing little objets d’tacky as soul-sucking products of an out-of-control consumer culture. “I hate to accuse people of running amok,” says Kevin Studen of The De-Tchotchkifiers, an in-home clutter removal company, “but a mok can be a very dangerous thing in the hands of someone who isn’t a trained mok-runner.”
Environmentalists say the nation’s landfills aren’t equipped to handle a wholesale de-tchotchkification of America’s suburban homes as “baby boomers” who have become “empty nesters” move to smaller residences to enjoy their “golden years” in neighborhoods with fewer quotation marks. “If present rates of consumption continue there will be over 40 million Hummel figurines in solid waste disposal facilities by 2020,” says Newton Mineau, Jr., executive director of the Green Conservancy. “I can’t say they don’t belong there.”