Tax-free weekend

Massachusetts is celebrating our annual tax-free weekend. This is not a good time to go to Ikea, Target, or a furniture store, unless you’re hell-bent on making a purchase large enough to justify saving 6 cents on the dollar, or whatever our sales tax is right now. I was not, but I went anyway; the wife is out of town, and I will sometimes reserve home-decor-related purchases for a time when she is not present.

Listen: I am a pretty good interior designer. However, she sometimes questions my personal taste. It’s harder for her to argue when the poster of the Yuengling dogs smoking cigars is already in a frame and on the wall, so sometimes I use that technique to minimize any meddling in my grand vision. Seven years after we bought the condo, the dogs are still there, and she has not divorced me, so there may be some value to this approach.

Tax-free weekend usually coincides with early-bird college relocations; the greater Boston area has nearly 60 colleges and universities, so we usually have one or more “Running of the U-Hauls” at this time of year as people move out of their old apartments and into the new. Given that this usually necessitates spending a bunch of money on furniture and household goods, a lot of the people you see in Ikea are kids and parents loading up on all-in-one cookware sets and futons.

As an aside, it’s not like you need a brand new couch, especially when you can easily score a freebie during the other part of moving season: we call it Brighton Christmas. Yes, grabbing a mattress off the side of the street is asking to get bedbugs, but a couch…well, Febreeze and a slipcover won’t set you back that much. Less than a new Ektorp or Kivik, anyway.

I love this time of year and it reminds me of one of the reasons I love Boston, love living in the city. You get these fresh-faced new kids coming in, lugging cardboard boxes of all their worldly possessions from Mom and Dad’s overloaded RAV-4 or Odyssey, up the narrow back staircase, into their new home. And every year, you see the trash and the curb littered with Target 3-way reading lamps and plastic 3-drawer storage units that somehow either won’t fit in the truck, or won’t fit wherever their former owner is headed. The circle of college life, as depicted by an Anne Geddes poster and a whiteboard with marker dust ground into the edges of the particle board frame.

A lot of the stuff won’t end up in landfills, though. Just as the “canners”–the old Asian ladies with grocery carts full of empty beer bottles and cans, collected and recycled for the nickel return–will pick through the blue bins out back, so will pickup trucks filled with Hispanic-looking men cruise the streets and alleys, scooping up headboards and chests of drawers and lamps and anything else that looks remotely salable. How or where it comes to market I have no idea, but anyplace is better than the trash.

There’s a lot of “stuff” associated with your first tentative forays into the real world. Ikea was full of people buying it today. But just like my Dad’s old blacklight is still lighting up Zeppelin posters somewhere in one of my brothers’ houses, so does a lot of this stuff stay in circulation, somewhere, long after its owners have moved on.

But still…stay out of Ikea on tax-free weekend. It’s crazy in there.

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