Those younger than me likely don’t remember the older company home parties – the first ones to use the genious marketing strategy of selling items in private residences. The names have changed, but they’re still around today because some good ideas last. A hostess invites friends into her home and demonstrates the marvels of a product. There’s nothing like the ooo’s and ahh’s of a room full of women to make every woman swoon over something she had never seen before that moment, but was now utterly convinced would make her life improve tenfold.
I was a young girl when I attended my first Tupperware party. It was likely there that my fascination with kitchen gadgets began, for part of every Tupperware party was at least one game at the end of which the winner was given a coveted award for answering correctly. The possible rewards included, but were not limited to, refrigerator magnets, useful and “necessary” small containers for a purse, or tools to transform an unsuspecting vegetable or piece of fruit into a table decoration. My home party experiences ingrained in me an affinity for citrus peelers and melon ballers.
One entry of the letters that spell “Tupperware gadget” in the search box on ebay and I can lose an entire day to browsing and searching for yesterday’s popular prize that I never had the good fortune to win at a party. Along with gadgets, Tupperware made and likely still makes a specialized container for every product on a supermarket shelf. If you wanted the food products you bought at the grocery store to last, you must purchase and own one of everything. It was an opportunity to use money wisely, to prolong your investment. It was, truly, the only responsible thing to do. I remain convinced that marshmallows will stay fresh for ten years if only they are stored in the proper container. And no doubt the latest color would aid in the freshness, if not create envy in everyone who sees the inside of your kitchen cupboards (because everyone sees the inside of your cupboards, right?). The sheer volume of sizes and colors of bowls and other containers made my head spin in organizing delight.
I eagerly awaited the unveiling of new products. When “modular mates” came out, my inner organizer felt an odd euphoria. Filled with Tupperware adoration, I longed to supply my pantry with every size and shape available and adorn each one with a special label (a list of which was available for purchase, of course). And don’t even mention spice containers! I have to say that Tupperware is a quality product and comes with a lifetime warranty. I use and enjoy the products I bought 40 years ago along with the ones I purchased recently.
After Tupperware came Princess House, which sold glass items for aspiring and seasoned hostesses. In the early 80’s, I was invited by a co-worker to attend a home party for a lingerie company. It was before I was married and my eyes were opened to things I hadn’t ever heard of before (face turning shades of pink). Some other hostess parties I remember that followed were Pampered Chef, Discovery Toys, Home Interiors, a company that made long-lasting candles (the name of which I can’t recall) and Longaberger baskets. Some of these are still going strong. A few years ago, I attended a home party for a jewelry company. Now there’s Scentsy, Thirty-one, and who knows what else I’ve missed in-between. My Mom remembers Stanley Home Products and how much fun the neighborhood ladies had at them, staying long past the product presentation.
In my house are many souvenirs of home parties – some useful, some that gather dust, but all that were byproducts of a fun evening with friends. The items sold at home parties are traditionally unique and not sold in stores (the original version of “As seen on TV” items?) and often of higher quality. They are, in my experience, also of higher price. Part of the dollar amount, in my thinking, is the entertainment and social time garnered from attending the demonstration in a hostess’s home. And then there are the hostess gift incentives that keep the parties going and companies alive. Home parties are one way refined women par-tay!
I had an email from my mom awhile ago in which she shared the bargain shopping adventure my sister had been on that day, during which she found a Longaberger basket at a Good Will store for the mere price of $2.99. The news of her “find” took me back to the memory of finding a genuine Longaberger basket at a yard sale in Texas. It was price marked at $.25. It was small, but surely worth significantly more than the labeled price. I had succumbed to party pressure at Longaberger basket parties and knew the high prices they sold for. The owner had obviously assumed the basket was an ordinary one….clearly a case of mistaken identity. I found myself in a bit of a moral dilemma, but decided to help the seller rid herself of unwanted clutter and not bother her with details. I reasoned that it was not the cute basket’s fault that it was undervalued. Of course I had to save it from a potentially abusive situation and give it a good home.
Years passed. A lot of years. In 2010, we remodeled our home for accessibility. Our kitchen was completely redone and has a sleek look with dark cabinets and black appliances. (See Remodel-Kitchen.) Above the sink and an indoor window is a shelf used to display baskets. It was near the end of our remodeling project and I was growing weary. To balance the “look”, I had Mr. Legs spray paint some of the baskets black, showing two contrasting colors. I looked through the generous collection of small baskets we had and chose a few to have painted. You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
The basket I saved from an underappreciated existence had, over time, become underappreciated by me. In a rushed decision, I allowed it’s value to be decreased by mistaking its identity myself. It now truly is worth about the price I paid for it.