"Capitalistic Brainwashing?" — A Response

by Katy on August 22, 2008 · 16 comments



      At the suggestion of my friend Kathy, I had written a blog about where the furniture in my living room came from. Kathy, an old high school chum is visiting me from Vermont, and had noticed how tours I give of my house sound a little something like this:

“Oh, you like my couch? I got it for $125 from a vintage shop. My dining room chairs? They’re from a 1920’s Carnegie library. I got 11 of them for $75!”

Everything is used, and everything has a story. So I dutifully wrote up a blog with the information about how I furnished my living room cheaply and without stepping into a furniture store. You can read it here.

I received this reply (among others) in the comments section:

I admire your blog, and efforts to inform others in this regard. But I find it unfortunate that this still reeks of the traditional. That is, it still maintains a sort of Norman-Rockwell-ish facade. I mean, why do we need a frickin’ couch — and especially one that’s all big and poofy like that? Because that’s what everyone else has in their “living” rooms?? Have you ever asked yourself why it has to look like a room in a magazine…and sooo similar to so many other living rooms?

Maybe I’m radical in my thinking, heh, but I personally don’t like to own anything that I can’t move by myself — and in a hurry. The world is changing, we might wanna consider that our Norman-Rockwell days are over. Thankfully. You might say, but I like it THIS way. Then ask yourself why you like it that traditional way? Because you’ve seen it like that so much in the commercials? In others people’s homes (who’ve seen all the commercials)?

Why not open your highly creative mind a bit, and truly create your OWN design of a “green” room(s)? 🙂 It can still be artful and beautiful, comfortable and functional… And not nauseatingly “traditional” spurred from capitalistic brainwashing/controlling.


Hmm. . . should I approve this message? (I do moderate the comments)  Yes. But I will do so with a proper response. So here it is:


Thank you very much for your comments. I appreciate the time it took for you to comment on my blog.

I’ll take a few moments to reply to your points.

“Why do we need a frickin’ couch?”

I choose to have a couch, because I like to sit down in my living room. And if the mood strikes, I also like to lie down. I believe that the quality of an antique couch far surpasses that quality of any of the currently manufactured  furniture in my price range. This couch has lasted 70+ years, and is still in excellent shape. I expect it to last for many more decades to come.

Given a choice, I would have an antique couch over a newly manufactured one made from sustainable forestry practices and organic hemp/bamboo fabric. One already exists, the other would have to be freshly made from materials needing to be shipped from afar. 

“Ask yourself why you like it that traditional way? Because you’ve seen it like that so much in the commercials?”

Is my living room traditional?


I like it because it is extremely comfortable and relaxing to me. The furniture is placed in a manner conducive to good conversations. This is important to me, as I enjoy having friends, family and neighbors over for a nice strong cups of tea. And yes, I like the aesthetics of traditional furniture in my 94-year-old craftsman bungalow.

I don’t actually watch much broadcast television. Although there a few shows that I do enjoy. (Lost!)  I end up watching some commercials, but don’t feel that my purchasing choices are influenced by them. 

I am curious which commercials you are referring to? I have not personally noticed TV living rooms that are furnished with antiques.

Please note that there’s not actually a television in my living room.

“Maybe I’m radical in my thinking, heh, but I personally don’t like to own anything that I can’t move by myself — and in a hurry.”

I own my home and have been in the same fulfilling job as a labor and delivery RN for 13 years. I have 10 and 12-year-old sons, who would get rather discombobulated to suddenly have us move “in a hurry.” 

It sounds like you are happy with a life of few possessions and the freedom to move about easily. Everybody gets to live the life that works best for them. Having tolerance for other’s life choices is something I work to teach my children. 

And lastly, I wish to respond to:

“Why not open your highly creative mind a bit, and truly create your OWN design of a “green” room(s)? 🙂 It can still be artful and beautiful, comfortable and functional… And not nauseatingly “traditional” spurred from capitalistic brainwashing/controlling.

Thank you for writing that I have a “highly creative mind.” I am sorry that you feel the need to view my living room as “nauseating.” 

However, since I am part of The Compact, (buy nothing new) I am unsure how I have undergone “capitalistic brainwashing/controlling.” I have written extensively about choosing a “Non-Consumer Lifestyle.” (Cause you see. .  I am The Non-Consumer Advocate.

Thank you again for your comment. I must go now and place my kitchen colander, (second hand and lined with reused aluminum foil, of course) on my head to fight the capitalistic brainwashing.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary C August 22, 2008 at 12:44 am

I couldn’t sleep so I got up to read blogs and this was the first one in my Google Reader. Now I am mad so I’ll never get any sleep tonight.
Maybe Dove has to move quickly and without assistance because he/she lack friends. It is difficult to make friends when one is ‘nauseatingly’ judgemental. Who died and made them the last word in green decorating?
Perhaps Dove would benefit from something Norman Rockwellish…like MANNERS.
And I thought your living room was lovely.


mel August 22, 2008 at 5:17 am

Oh Katy… I love the living room.
I love this post!
go you!


CanadianKate August 22, 2008 at 5:20 am

One can live according to the Compact to their own taste. Your taste is traditional. I happen to love your living room. But my living room has antiques as well as a mixture of new ‘traditional styled’ furniture, including a tv on a mahogany styled cabinet to match the mahogany of my antiques.

That’s my style (which isn’t so much a ‘style’ as only owning things I love, and using them together in a way that suits me – I personally don’t care what anyone else thinks.)

I could post a link to my tiny ‘family room’ (a room leftover when we expanded the house and the old eat-in kitchen bit was leftover.) It has two antique ladder back rockers, two modern Scandinavian designed recliners, a gas ‘fireplace stove’, bookcases along the bits of walls the room has (that part of the house is extremely open-concept), and a stool that sits at the bar that divides off the kitchen. On the bar sits a monitor attached to our media center so we can sit and watch tv/movies, listen to our music collection, surf the internet while reclined or swing the monitor around to face into the kitchen so I can watch tv while washing dishes. The only bought-new furniture in the room are the recliners and everything in the room was acquired long before I joined the Compact.

You were posting to show that a room furnished on the Compact doesn’t have to look like it doesn’t have style.

Perhaps some of your readers who have a different sense of style can offer you pictures of their spaces so Dove can see all that can be achieved with a Compact mentality, since she/he can’t seem to imagine it.


Peggy August 22, 2008 at 7:10 am

Hi there, I am new to your blog but I absolutely love it and I am trying my own version of the “Buy Nothing New” experiment. It has completely changed how I look at everything. Your living room is delightful. I steered my daughter to your site because you and she seem to be kindred spirits and she has been enjoying it too. Keep up the good work, and thanks for all you do.


Linda August 22, 2008 at 4:10 pm

I love your living room so much! I love any “traditional” things. Never mind the other’s words, keep posting the good ideas!


Lisa Whipple August 22, 2008 at 4:39 pm

You handled this with much more grace and much less snark than I would have.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley August 23, 2008 at 12:02 am

Stop writing this silly blog and take your turn at scrabble!


lynn August 23, 2008 at 10:09 am

Served it!


Dove August 23, 2008 at 11:37 am

I definitely regret having made that post, but especially because I shouldn’t have said the “nauseating” thing. And I apologize for that. I’m actually a sweetheart 🙂 but was having a bad day.

I too thought the room was very nice, and that was why I indicated that I felt you were “highly creative.” The adjective I used was toward the “traditional” aspect of it, my taste in that regard. Even so, I still liked the room, and didn’t have the intention to insult you.

My objective was just to get you, and others, to consider a different way. Feel free to delete my post, and I wish you well.



alexis August 23, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Katy, you do a graceful job of sharing ideas that open our minds without ever making us feel judged. Kudos, as always, to you!

Dove, it seems from your 2nd comment that you have gained something from this experience – I hope it is more than just regret. You’ve just seen how counter-productive it is to get other people “to consider a different way” by shaming or judging them. If you have a real desire to positively influence the thoughts and decisions of others, I would suggest spending some time studying Katy’s blog.


BohoBelle August 24, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Dove, I think the concept of your first blog was great. It probably just came over a bit wrong. You’re right that we really do need to evaluate what kind of ‘living room’ we really want and try to not buy into the ‘normally, traditional’ way of living.

I’m just starting out – but even though I am buying second hand furniture I know that I am subconsiously following tradional living room/house plans.

I would love to discuss ‘new’ concepts of setting up a living room. Or ideas being re introduced, like the reading chair.

Maybe Katy you could write about the best bits of your room, or how you really live? (like how kids often do homework in the kitchen not at the homework tables put in their rooms etc). We’re going to try and put an office area in the foyer because that is where the mail is opened etc.

Look forward to hearing more about this topic.
Cheers, BB


Jo August 24, 2008 at 7:20 pm

I think the important point to think about in furnishing a house is not whether to go traditional or modern, but how to make your possessions work for you the way you live your life. Traditional furnishings often have the advantage that generations have worked on the designs to make them work well in daily life. I love to be able to lie on a couch and have a table right where I need to put a cup of tea, or to have all four of my children snuggled up there with me, and be able to reach a book right off that bookshelf. I understand Dove’s point too, that this accumulation of stuff that we bourgeois suburban families gather around us can be quite appalling, and it is really important to have the rolling stones amongst us to remind us not to gather quite so much moss, and to be prophetic voices in the wilderness. Societies have always had a settled core of families doing the conventional thing, but that is not a bad thing either – we just need to get our values right, and I think Katy is doing a great job there. We also need to value the Doves of the world – when she ups tent pegs to go and save the world somewhere else she takes my good wishes and blessings with her.


thenonconsumeradvocate August 30, 2008 at 1:07 am


I would never delete your post.


The Non-Consumer Advocate


dovelove May 8, 2009 at 8:05 am

Hi there 🙂

Haven’t been back here since making that last post. Thank you to those who made some very kind and understanding comments toward me. To the person who said I was being judgmental and all, that’s not true. I admitted that I was a bit too direct in stating my views, but I think I explained myself clearly in the later post.

My intent was merely to try and “shift” people’s thinking…maybe get them to stand back for just a moment to try to see things, this world, a little differently. The fact is we are “brainwashed” in so many ways. We start this life as impressionable little ones, remember? Little sponges we are as children to whatever those in authority tell/teach us…to what the other children are doing and saying…per what they have seen and been taught…

And we want to fit in, and so we grow up falling in line with all the rest to maintain our comfort zone — yes, this is generally a subconscious thing. And no TV or other media needed to get us to conform, because there is a world of people who do see it and swallow it…and will tell us what’s “proper” and put us down if we don’t conform.

We are primarily followers, because it is very uncomfortable to be a “leader.” It is those who dare to be truly different who are harshly judged. A society rooted in fear, which we most certainly are, has a need to strongly control its people. Conformity makes it easier to control us. Unfortunately, the fear just grows, and consequently the control becomes greater and greater. Conformity and complacency makes that so much easier to do. It is a necessity to “brainwash” us, so as to easily keep us under control — and exploit us. Followers don’t question, especially if everyone else is falling in line.

As you can see, my idea about mobility wasn’t such a bad one given the things that are happening in our world right now. Many in “my camp” knew the world would reach this point. It was inevitable with all our excesses and disregard for our precious Earth…our precious people.

Many have lost jobs, savings and homes…the strange weather… Do you understand now why I spoke of being mobile?

As bad as it all looks, we are going through healing times, it will eventually get better. But since we were unwilling to change, the “Universe” is kinda forcing us to change. We can slough off the excess now on our own terms…or experience the devastation of having it taken from us quickly — as so many have and are enduring right now.

I wish you all well.



Kristin @ klingtocash May 9, 2009 at 1:47 am

Ok, maybe because it’s almost 5am, but I don’t understand the mobility part of this whole thing. Should we all sit on pillows on the floor or folding chairs in our living rooms? I’m not trying to be snarky. When I think of mobility, I think of cots and TV trays… I really think I need to go to bed now.


BarbS @ 1 Sentence Diary August 3, 2010 at 6:58 am

It’s two years later, and I am still laughing at this line:

“I must go now and place my kitchen colander, (second hand and lined with reused aluminum foil, of course) on my head to fight the capitalistic brainwashing.”

Katy, you are the best!


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