Dutch Tulip Fever at Goodwill

by Katy on June 28, 2023 · 36 comments

This post is part of a week where’s I’m publishing a brand new blog post every single day. I invite you to stop by tomorrow as well!

I’ve written about what my family calls “Dutch Tulip Fever” before, but it’s been awhile so it’s time for a revisit. (You can read about it HERE and HERE.)

Dutch Tulip Fever is:

“The tendency to buy useless crap that seems exciting at point of purchase, but is instantly regrettable once brought home.”

My example here might be clunky wooden clogs from The Netherlands, but the definition is much more fluid and includes more than travel souvenirs, Really, anything that you’re impulsively excited to buy, (or accept as a freebie) because it’s the “it” thing. A thing that inevitably gets set aside once you’re back at home. In a word — clutter.

There’s no better example of Dutch Tulip Fever than a thrift store shelf, it’s the perfect illustration of what is collectively unwanted. Travel souvenirs, trendy cooking gadgets, conference swag, volunteer event T-shirts –the list goes on and on.

So how do we avoid the “fever?” Think about replacing traditional travel souvenirs with consumables and then say no to all those branded freebies. Then ask yourself whether you truly need whatever new whizbang kitchen appliance your friends suddenly own. My guess is that you don’t

Just say “no” to the needless consumerism of Dutch Tulip Fever.™

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi Louise June 28, 2023 at 6:34 am

I had not heard this phrase, and I absolutely agree!
In my area thrift shop are two pairs of wooden Dutch clogs for sale, but they were not directly souvenirs. Rather, they are inscribed to the winners of the run- or walk- races from several years ago at the local Dutch heritage festival.
Might have been fun for a short time, yet otherwise are just a different uselessness than trophies or plaques.


Katy June 28, 2023 at 9:42 am

It’s a variation on “Tulip Mania” from the 1600’s when the price of tulips reached crazy heights.


Ruby June 28, 2023 at 7:02 am

Totally agree. The only giveaways I tend to accept are reusable grocery bags or totes. We use them to package our food pantry donations so that those using the pantry can receive a sturdy bag that holds a lot of goods.


MB in MN June 28, 2023 at 1:30 pm

Ruby, that’s a great way to pass on nice reusable bags!


Coral Clarke June 28, 2023 at 7:08 am

When I travel ( 7kgs carryon, even for 6 weeks!) I take very old undies. In each city I buy a new, pretty pair, and dispose of a tatty pair. Every day for me begins with a useful souvenir that brings back love,y memories!


Katy June 28, 2023 at 7:11 am

That is hilarious, but also very practical!


Selena June 28, 2023 at 6:45 pm

My husband takes old undies but disposes of them without a new purchase (he’s yet to be delayed and forced to buy new!). He and he alone is in charge of determining when articles of his clothing go to the rag bag, garbage (aforementioned old undies), or jeans repurposed (vet groups in our area turn them into lap blankets, personal bags for disabled vets to hook onto walkers/wheelchairs).


mary in maryland June 28, 2023 at 9:30 am

I had very old underpants (30 pair–only had to do laundry once a month) as I finished residency. I went on a tour in China intending to trash a pair every morning. Alas, the first morning a maid brought them down to where the group was eating breakfast and asked who had lost them. I did not claim them. Very hard to convince the Chinese of the 80s that anything was garbage.


Ashley Bananas June 29, 2023 at 7:34 am

Mary in Maryland – lol – I would have been embarrassed too!!

It reminds me of dropping a feminine product when I was in grade school (I started early) I would not claim that thing for the life of me. The teacher took it off the floor and said nothing else. She knew no one wanted to publicly claim it. lol


Stephanie June 28, 2023 at 7:57 am

I don’t as just in the Netherlands and no clogs for me. Did buy chocolate. Yum!


Katy June 28, 2023 at 9:25 am

I approve this message.


K D June 28, 2023 at 8:20 am

We no longer buy anything but consumables when we travel. We know new items will just become clutter that was over priced. We also work to convince others to not bring us “gifts” from their travels. We have mostly succeeded. We were not so “smart” in our younger days.


Amy June 28, 2023 at 8:33 am

While shopping at an annual rummage sale…I came across a full collection of 50 US state mugs. Also I few were just really ugly, I envision the collector looking high and low for any mug that depicts the state they are passing through. Of course I had to pick up the North Carolina one because it was North Carolina. Irony is a terrible thing.


mary in maryland June 28, 2023 at 9:34 am

The night before my senior high school class went on our skip day trip to Winnipeg, Mom sat me down for a serious talk. She said, “It’s time to decide what you’re going to collect.” She pointed out neighbors’ collections–spoons, plates, cups, etc. I declined–but have been cursed in perpetuity by visiting friends and neighbors who need to find a DC or MD specific item for their collection. I used to have a place in Alexandria that specialized in these tchotchkes which saved a lot of looking.


Polly Wog June 28, 2023 at 6:36 pm

Mary in Maryland where did you grow up? I live in Winnipeg


Laura June 28, 2023 at 9:43 am

We get refrigerator magnets for travel souvenirs. They actually get used because with a school aged kid we are always putting papers and pictures on the fridge.


Brooke June 28, 2023 at 10:27 am

I personally like to buy jewelry when I want a souvenir. I wear jewelry daily, and get a smile when I put a piece on that I got on a memorable trip. There’s nothing about the pieces I own that scream “souvenir” – no dutch shoe themed earrings, for example 🙂 I got a pretty silver necklace from Mexico, some beads from volcanic stone I made into a necklace from Iceland, another piece from a girls trip. Honestly all stuff I could buy at home, but I love having the memory attached to the item. I couldn’t agree more about buying stuff that is fun on vacation but has no use in my regular life.


Dicey June 28, 2023 at 11:51 am

For a while, I would buy a Christmas ornament when I traveled. It was fun decorating my tree and remembering those trips (still is). Eventually, I had enough ornaments, so I mainly stick to consumables and digital photos.

I’m mainly posting to say how excited I am that there will be a brand-new post every day for a week. Hooray!


Casey June 28, 2023 at 12:04 pm

My “go to” souvenirs are tea towels, which I then add a homemade dish cloth to and give as gifts; kitchen utensils (think an olive pitter, which also pits cherries perfectly, a spurtle); local spices; children’s books; and, yarn and/or fabric. I love going into yarn and fabric shops so it’s a win-win.


Tiiu June 28, 2023 at 12:41 pm

My colleague buys local bread and brings that home. A wonderful – and very non-permanent souvenir. I buy teas. Or interesting cookies. Anything that can be eaten is a week.


Susie's Daughter June 28, 2023 at 12:51 pm

The Penny Press!
Discovered these when DS was a toddler and the act of pressing the penny was probably more exciting than the penny itself. Small, different and not very expensive.


Becky July 1, 2023 at 9:14 am

I have several of them and I’d like to make a bracelet out of them one day.


Lindsey June 28, 2023 at 3:42 pm

Tea towels are what we buy on trips. We use them a lot so they wear out and we always need new ones. If not that, chocolates.


Cindy Brick June 28, 2023 at 4:53 pm

I am LOVING your every-day posts this week! Otherwise, I have to make do with periodically rereading your “five frugals…” nice, but this is much bettter.

I may be the lone dissenter on Dutch wooden shoes. (“Klompen,” by the way.) My dad was Dutch, and we visited the Holland, MI tulip festival a LOT. Get those wooden shoes in your size, wear a heavy pair of socks with them, and they’re terrific for working in the garden. Mud doesn’t stick to them, and they hose off easily. I used mine quite a bit until our Weimaraner decided to munch on one. The remaining shoe was just a ‘design feature’ after that. (Thanks, Buck.)


Katy June 28, 2023 at 6:19 pm

There used to be a shoe store in the neighborhood that kept their single using stocking (for trying on shoes) in a huge Klompen.


Ashley Bananas June 29, 2023 at 7:41 am

In reading the comments I remember that my mother used to collect spoons from places. I always thought that was neat. With our recent road trips I considered buying magnets for each state to slowly build the US map on the fridge. But at $4-8 a magnet I decided not to…lol

I love the idea of buying chocolates. A friend who is Canadian brings back little snacks as gifts for friends when she comes back. I always thought that was so sweet. Now for me to think what is regional to bring as a gift next time I visit friends or family. Consumables sound like a good way to go!


Katy June 29, 2023 at 9:47 am

I only bought consumable souvenirs when I went to Japan for two weeks in 2008. Mostly “matcha” flavored treats for my daughter.


Melissa June 29, 2023 at 9:37 am

From the frugal subreddit, “I started making my own souvenir magnets from countries I visit by glueing their change to some cheap bulk magnets I purchased”. I thought it was a great idea!


Melissa June 29, 2023 at 9:39 am

Also could be turned into useable currency again unlike other souvenirs


Katy June 29, 2023 at 9:44 am

That is genius!


susanna d June 29, 2023 at 3:07 pm

My rule for souvenirs is that they have to be made/produced/sourced in the location I travel to. No “imported souvenirs” – I live in a tourist town and I am WAY too familiar with souvenirs of my area that are made in other countries. My “souvenir rule” started back in our working-outside-the-home days, when my husband had annual conferences in all areas of the states and Canada, and I got to tag along. Locally made pottery, wood items, native carvings, small art works, nature scenes from local photographers – I still have all of them and they are much loved items in my house that I see every day. And they bring back some amazing memories. I recently had the opportunity to pass this way of thinking along to my eight year old granddaughter. While we were in yet another tourist area of the state, I gave both my grandchildren some money to spend in the shops. And my girly-girl granddaughter – who wanted jewelry, namely dangly or hoop earrings – found a pair of hoop earrings with dangling stones in a shop that sold only locally made items. For cheaper than the earrings she’d looked at in the other shops! She even got a bracelet to go with the earrings – she got both for what she had planned to spend on earrings alone. She was so excited, and her parents were impressed that she “shopped local”. I like to think I’m “converting” at least some of the next-next generation in my family.


Katy June 29, 2023 at 4:34 pm

This is an excellent rule!


Becky July 1, 2023 at 9:12 am

You’re definitely raising her right!!!


Emily N June 29, 2023 at 5:55 pm

I own that exact Dutch boy and girl figurine! I inherited it from my grandparents bought it in Holland and it’s one of the few knicknacks I’ve kept. I had it out on display for a while, but I think now it’s buried in a box…


Rita C July 1, 2023 at 6:33 am

I have bought kitchen stuff as souvenirs: placemats and napkins (Nice, 2004), little bread baskets (Portugal, 2000), pot holders and tea towels (Italy), a vegetable peeler (Italy, 1998). All stilll in use and reminding me of happy trips. I used to buy a handkerchief on every trip abroad but they are getting harder and harder to find. I do have a lovely collection that is used daily.


Becky July 1, 2023 at 9:11 am

When I travel my souvenirs are almost always jewelry. Doesn’t even have to be the expensive stuff. It’s just a fun reminder of where I’ve been, and I have pieces from 20+ years ago. That’s much longer than any t shirt would last.


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