Filling personal spaces with purely decorative, cheaply made trinkets—or tchotchkes, knickknacks, bric-a-brac, junk—is as American as apple pie. “Over time, Americans have decided—as individuals, as members of groups, and as a society—to embrace not just materialism itself but materials with a certain shoddy complexion,” writes author Wendy A. Woloson in her book Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America. The country’s proud heritage of excess began during the consumer revolution of the 1700s, when artisans created inexpensive replicas of in-demand exotic goods; faux-wood finishes and paste gems imbued a sense of luxury. Soon, traveling salesmen were hawking cheap goods to people on the lower rungs of the social strata. All of those unnecessary baubles became “conduits through which Americans could envision better lives, ” Woloson writes. Items easily discarded and replaced also lowered the stakes of ownership—people no This story is from Kinfolk Issue Forty-One Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 42 Anna Wiener Anna Wiener was on the path to Silicon Valley success. Then she pivoted. Allyssia Alleyne charts the making of a tech-skeptic. Arts & Culture Issue 42 Influencers Anonymous Instagram content creators answer a short survey about the influencer industry. Arts & Culture Issue 42 Crazy Busy There’s no rest for the aspirational. Arts & Culture Issue 42 The Goal Keepers Not your therapist, not your friend: What accounts for the remarkable rise of the life coach? Arts & Culture Issue 42 Torrey Peters The Detransition, Baby author is living her best life. Arts & Culture Issue 42 Trash Talk On wish-cycling and wishful thinking.