Gotta have it!

From clutter-conquering paper shredders to featherweight tote bags, Salon readers reveal the stuff they can't live without.

By Salon Staff
August 25, 2005 1:33AM (UTC)
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Shred hot

I love my shredder. I mean, L-O-V-E my shredder. I would marry it if I could. But like many relationships, this one began inauspiciously.

I bought my shredder last year after my identity was stolen. Thanks to the generosity of Capital Bank, someone had opened a credit account in my name, and I watched in horror as my previously smooth credit report sprouted excrescences -- a bank account in Utah, a car purchase in Texas. (Was my doppelgänger trying to mock my blue-state status?) I thought about the junk mail I threw in the recycling bin, and those annoying Citibank ads about identity fraud, and I finally put two and two together: My name was out there for the taking, on the backs of magazines and brochures and bills. I had no choice but to reclaim it.


So I bought the shredder. For the first week, I was too angry to turn it on. And so it loomed in the corner of my home office, as black and menacing as a Rottweiler, ready to gnash its horrible teeth with the click of a button.

Finally, I could ignore its presence no longer. After consideration, I chose a Time Warner Cable brochure for the inaugural meal. I pushed "on," fed in the paper, and watched, fascinated, as it was sucked into the maw of the machine with a whirring sound. RRRRRR-snick-snick-snick. I'm pretty sure I heard the licking of lips. I opened up the drawer, and there was Time Warner Cable, reduced to a small, neat pile of shreds. Whee! I plunged my hands into the pile with the same glee I used to feel as a kid about to jump into a mound of autumn leaves.

From that moment, I was a believer. If I could convert Time Warner from colossus into confetti, there was no stopping me. Into the shredder went overdue bills, letters from my ex, old tax returns, catalogs for everything from grapefruit-peelers to garden gnomes (how had I gotten on these lists, anyway?), all the toxic negativity of modern life; out came piles of festive, harmless shreds. Like an alchemist, or a truly enlightened Buddhist, or a plant, my shredder seemed to have an infinite capacity for turning pollution into purity, lemons into lemonade.


I try to put the lemonade to use. Instead of buying plastic peanuts, I use my shreds to cushion packages. And as soon as I buy that farm I'm always fantasizing about, I'll use the shreds as nesting material for the clutch of chicks I'm going to rear. Not to mention the compost bin. Ashes to ashes, crap to crap; imagine, tree-destroying, mind-numbing corporate dreck transformed into rejuvenating, life-giving compost. Now that's a beautiful end to the story.

-- Juliet Eastland

I want my TVT


IPod, ShmiPod, I silently scream as a fellow gym-goer stares at the bulky, so-called "antiquated" appendage attached to my workout pants. I don't need her pity or her sleek, chic 5,000-song iPod. After all, I have the one thing that she can only dream about: TV. Courtesy of the Sony Walkman WM-FX281, I can watch TV wherever I go. Well, not so much watch (there's no screen per se) as listen (with the modest exception of mountainous regions, airplanes and possibly foreign countries) to all the major networks, including the WB and UPN. Now that's Must Hear TV.

Scanning the row of flat-screen TVs hanging from the ceiling, I note a shocking omission from the morning show lineup, smugly switch my TV tuner (TVT, to me) to Katie and Matt and hop on the treadmill. When I first joined this gym, I was enraptured by the seemingly endless viewing options that could be mine with just a simple pair of headphones. Beyond excited, I rashly left my TVT in a locker, climbed on the StairMaster, and discovered that the wall of TVs was being controlled by a person with dubious taste -- the kind of person who chooses to watch local news and considers a bloody creature encounter on "Animal Planet" more intriguing than Tom Cruise ranting to Oprah. Disgusted, I pulled off my earphones and ran in silence, alone with my thoughts. That was the last time I left my TVT behind.


As I start to run, my TVT bounces up and down. Not quite the size of a vintage cell phone but substantially larger than your average PDA, the TVT makes its presence known. Mild hip bone bruising is a small price to pay for never being overcome by the sudden panic that one's very tiny but very pricey portable entertainment device has gone missing when, in reality, it is safely affixed to an arm or resting in a pocket. Who needs a "touch sensitive" music library? I'm cooking with Al Roker! Thanks to my TVT, I never have to make the impossible choice of abandoning an unfinished TV program or working out longer. When my run is done but "Today" is not, I hop off the treadmill without missing a single pool-party fashion tip. Heading upstairs to lift a few weights, I pass a room of cardio machines -- each equipped with an individually operated TV screen. Perfection? Think again. While personal, these screens are hardly private. With the TVT, there's no pressure to feign interest in market fluctuations or video countdowns when there are "Dawson's Creek" reruns to be heard.

For some, the lack of a screen on the TVT might be considered a drawback. Not to me. Too squeamish to watch the bloody surgery scenes on "E.R." or "Nip/Tuck," even at home I just listen, head in hands. I know what most TV people look like; I don't need to see them. Instead, I can stretch my imagination by wondering what clothes or hairstyle they might be sporting on a particular day. True, there are some programs that must be seen and not just heard, like "America's Next Top Model." But, hey, isn't that what TiVo's for?

Heading to the locker room, I spot an iPod in a particularly pretty shade of pink, it's owner caressing it like a pet. Jealous? Hardly. My TVT may not be colorful, but it has many other fabulous features: a weather band (who doesn't want to check the temperature while working out?), FM/AM radio, and a tape deck (in case the desire to dust off a Cindy Lauper cassette arises). The only thing that could make my TVT even better would be if it had the word "TV" embellished in giant techno green letters across the front -- clearly indicating that I'm no '90s throwback or victim of iPod envy but a proud member of the TV viewing (OK, listening) public.


One final reason I adore the TVT? Undervalued and underappreciated, it's in little danger of being stolen the second it leaves my hands, like other trendy technical devices. Never fear, though, should an enlightened thief suddenly take possession of my TVT, newer versions are available at for as little as $29.95. Shuffle that, iPod!

-- Hyla Sabesin Finn

In the bag


"Paper or plastic?" the cashier asks me as he starts to ring up my groceries.

"Neither -- I brought my own bags," I reply, and I unfurl my two Walker mesh nylon tote bags and begin to fill them myself. I will be carrying these groceries home on my own two shoulders, so I want to make sure the weight of my purchases is distributed evenly between my two bags. But my schlep home is a little bit lighter and a little bit happier because of my tremendously lightweight, strong and fun Walker mesh totes, their citrus colors of orange and fresh-squeezed lime-juice green echoing the freshness of the fruit and vegetables that I've just bought and the brightness of the sun that ripened them.

At a virtually weightless two ounces, the Walker mesh tote bag rises above all ordinary canvas tote bags. A gigantic honeydew melon is heavy enough to haul as it is, so why would I want to heft half a yard of thick fabric, too? In my mesh bag, the weight is 100 percent cargo, zero percent carrier. And when it's empty, I can scrunch it up and tie it into a knot about the size of a small lemon -- small enough to fit into a coat pocket (or a spare space in my purse, if I ever find one).

The whisper weight of the mesh bag would be meaningless, of course, if things fell apart and the center did not hold (apologies to Yeats). But a Walker bag can hold up to 35 pounds. If my two Walker bags could walk, they could carry home 70 pounds of groceries for me. My two shoulders aren't nearly that strong, so I come nowhere near pushing their limit.


At 16 inches tall by 13 inches wide (with a 4-inch bottom gusset), the mesh bag can fit more than your double plastic bag and is less ungainly to carry than a full paper bag. Also, the nylon mesh fabric of the Walker bag is easy to clean in your sink and lay out to dry. Oil sloshed out of that tub of olives? Salsa squeezed out from underneath the safety seal? How many old canvas bags have you seen that look like they've been toting compost because of all the smudges and stains? I know I don't want to smell today's leaky fruit smoothie six months from now.

You will probably need to replace your mesh tote bag after a couple of years, once it's acquired a few holes and started to lose its luster. But by then you may very well be ready for a new color -- and the choice of delicious colors is what's the most fun about Walker bags. Depending upon the store, I've seen at least eight colors, from sherbet pastels to deep red and blue and -- for the sophisticate -- black. You could match your bag to your outfit.

Finally the Walker bag helps me feel that I'm doing something to reduce my impact upon the environment. I have reduced the number of crinkly plastic bags collecting under my kitchen sink. (And if San Francisco or other American cities decide to make consumers pay for their plastic grocery bags as they do in Sweden, paying for a quality reusable bag will come to seem downright common sense.) My Walker bags go where I go. Reduce, reuse, recycle has never been so comfortable, stylish and sustainable.

-- Kristin Abkemeier

Salon Staff

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