Recently, I was watching TLC's Clean Sweep, a show that tackles the cluttered lives of various homeowners, forcing hard choices on what to keep and what to toss. On the surface, it seems an innocuous enough premise: get rid of the detritus. However, I was dumbfounded by what self-proclaimed organizational therapist Peter Walsh had to say to one couple regarding some treasured family items.
Wielding pop psychology like a sledgehammer, Walsh relentlessly chipped away at the emotional bonds and sense of legacy one couple holds for their family's antique furniture. At one point he even pantomimed a strangle-hold around the woman's neck. Walsh intimated that these heirlooms have been choking her emotionally and that it might be better if she chucked them to the curb and made room for... That's right. The crew's own cheaply-constructed MDF monstrosities! Lacking character and warmth (much like the show), this veneered particleboard has been a staple of nearly every TLC home makeover show since the trend began. I mean, c'mon, how can solid oak or maple compare to that, right? Somehow I'm reminded of the remodel in the film Beetle Juice.
As each beautifully wrought piece was carted off by nameless crewmen, the tears began cut rivulets down the homeowner's face. Regret had sunk in. It began to look less like family-friendly TLC and a more like Sophie's Choice. "Take my dresser!"
I wonder if this isn't what we do with other cherished old things that "clutter" the American landscape. Is history simply biding its time until another cheap prefab McMansion can sprout like a weed in the wake of its demise?
Apparently those hard lessons learned from "Urban Renewal", which reared its ugly head in the wake of postwar housing booms in the middle of the 20th century, have yet to sink into the hearts and minds of some. How many more historic treasures will be lost in time simply because they're, like OMG!, so old and stuff?