A piece originally published in Middleman magazine earlier this year:
In pursuing the vision of the No Junk Manifesto, the end goal is always a junk-free life. Sadly, in our country, particularly the wide-open spaces of the heartland, there is a church of false economy which most people worship without question as a bastion of value and virtue, but which is, in fact, sodden with junk, rotten to the bone. I am referring, of course, to the cult of DIY home improvement.
This vast industry is underpinned by the belief that, by remodeling and adding on, and by doing so ourselves, we are creating stored value, saving money, and honoring our country. I'm not convinced that any of these are true: does your new sunroom make your house more valuable in proportion to the time and money you could have spent learning to invest in other arenas? Are you sure you couldn't have paid someone very little money to set tile just as poorly as you do? Couldn't you have made your neighborhood just a little better by hosting a potluck?
In my darker moments (anytime I'm involved in hanging drywall) I'm fairly convinced that the entire DIY industry was conceived and birthed by robber-barons who want all the proles in flyover country to believe that the just reward for our 40-plus hours a week is a weekend spent running between "our" home improvement stores and our homes. While mudding drywall, I realize that the moneyed elite underwrite home-improvement shows to instill the desire for a deck that, if we just spent a few weekends working on it, would calm the creeping sense that we aren't really doing any better than we were a few years ago. When sanding drywall, the whorls of dust trace out for me the tracks of the entire global banking conspiracy which has told us that our homes are the ultimate stores of value for our finances, as well as the ultimate expressions of our individual personhoods.
In non-drywall-involved moments I recognize that, yes, it is nice to have a place to live that is more or less how one wants it. Further, I realize that we can't all pay other, more skilled people to make our homes more like we want them to be. However...however, Lowes has recently changed their corporate slogan from the neighborly "Let's build something together." to the imperious, "Never stop improving." This is unconscionable. That we must sometimes line our nests to survive the winter is a primal animal condition. That we desire beauty and some sense of identity from our caves is a primal human condition. That we should never stop spending our lives in service to our homes is a junk concept, pure and simple.
Here, according to The No Junk Manifesto, is why:
-Every project yields waste materials that you don't have any use for, but will keep due to their expense. Even tiny pieces of 2 x 4.(***)
-You will consider buying a truck. (**)
-Every project requires new tools that you won't ever use again.(**)
-You will keep these until you are dead(***)
-Slight increases in skill and knowledge perpetuate the illusion that the next project is worth it.
-You will never go to the home improvement store just once. Always twice. Always.
-You won't do a great job(*)
-Your house is pretty amazing as it is, I can almost guarantee you: It keeps you mostly dry, warm and/or cool. There is a place to cook your food, a place to hide your food from wild animals. It contains your TV. It is the end point of tens of thousands of years of other DIYers and a couple thousand years of specialists figuring out how to make their homes better, and while it might not have everything you think you want in a home, it's pretty great just how it is.
The No Junk Manifesto:
*Don't make junk
**Don't buy junk
***Don't keep junk