You make me want to shout: why Kmart both excites and depresses me

The Kmart pineapple. They're everywhere.
The Kmart pineapple. They're everywhere. Photo: Kmart

I'm actually scared about sharing my opinions on this incendiary topic. Scared that the wrath of thousands of Kmart mums will descend upon me. That I will not be tarred and feathered so much, as dipped in Kmart signature rose gold and rolled in sequins and made to parade through the streets singing, You Make Me Wanna Shout.

Because I have a confession: I both love and loathe Kmart.

I am inspired and deeply unsettled by it. I am both entertained and extremely depressed by Facebook groups like Kmart Mums Australia!!!, of which I am a member (maybe not after this?). The standard of the spelling and grammar displayed on them is just the start.

A hacked Kmart cubby house: is this prissiness what an Australian childhood has come to?
A hacked Kmart cubby house: is this prissiness what an Australian childhood has come to? 

I am troubled that there is a whole army of mums out there ready to breathlessly inform you when the Jojo Siwa dolls have landed at Kmart. Or that the pastel-coloured ukuleles have sold out at Caloundra Kmart. LIKE. OUR. VERY. LIFE. DEPENDED. ON. IT.

And I am disturbed when a blogger from Adelaide makes over her pantry with pastel-coloured containers from Kmart (and, yes, Ikea), and that becomes NEWS, people. That something will go viral on Kmart Hacks and inevitably end up on A Current Affair or The Daily Mail. Kmart - feeding the beast of the 24-hour news cycle.

But, hey, I do enjoy a good hack. And give me storage ideas any day. Oh, so that's how you store your daughter's Beanie Boos? Clever. Gonna try it. That Lego table you hacked? That was real good.

It's no news that Kmart homewares have become a cultural phenomenon. Really. That its cheap and often very attractive range gives a lot of people quick access to affordable style.

And that you can then go online to the Facebook groups devoted to Kmart and and ask for total strangers' opinions about A. How to Decorate Your Home with Kmart or B. What They Think of Your Home Now Decorated with Kmart. Too bad if you don't get enough "likes".

I think I'm just weirded-out by the goddamn uniformity of it all, as we kid ourselves that we're really being individuals.

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It's like that scene out of Fight Club in which Tyler Durden has a nihilistic ramble about being "slave to the Ikea nesting instinct" and fantasises about his apartment being fully furnished by the Swedish chain. ("I'd flip through catalogues and think, 'What kind of dining set defines me as a person?")

Because I do worry about a nation of homes decorated by Kmart. Thousand of lounge rooms with Scandi white and timber side tables, house plants in gold wire stands, blush occasional chairs. Cannisters with herringbone designs artfully arranged on kitchen benches. Rose gold everything. And pineapples. Lots of pineapples. I don't know why it worries me. I guess it comes down to, "Are we wasting our lives on this stuff?".

At the same time, I feel a deep sense of peace when my house is ordered and is aesthetically pleasing, at least to me. Is Kmart just helping me find that inner-peace. Kumbaya Kmart?

There is a cult around Kmart that Big W and Target can only dream of replicating.
There is a cult around Kmart that Big W and Target can only dream of replicating. Photo: Facebook

But then along came the hacked Kmart cubby houses. And they just really annoyed me. Is this what a childhood in Australia has become? Kids serving up lattes from a shabby chic beach huts complete with party lighting? Conducting secret club meetings in made-over cottages in muted greys and Liberty print that look more at home in the Hamptons than in a backyard full of bindies?

Would any child actually be allowed to make mud pies in these pristine mini-kitchens, with their "marble" benchtops and subway-tile splashbacks? Would they be permitted to pour tea for teddy and their dolls and risk the possibility of - quelle horreur- upsetting the Instagram-ready, just-so styling?

But, like most people who want to thrust their opinion upon you, I am a hypocrite.

The velvet occasional chair from Kmart - in blush.
The velvet occasional chair from Kmart - in blush. Photo: Kmart

I do like going to Kmart for a hit of sumpin sumpin. It makes me feel good when I find a cute notebook. In rose gold. Or a rustic basket. Or a funky bath mat that's going to lift my dated decor. Or a black matte jug for $5 that looks great with a bit of greenery stuck in it. Or the 150th Jo Jo Bow for my daughter.

It's a quick hit of retail therapy that makes everything seem all right. Until a few months, or even weeks, later, when you realise that basket or vase or jug actually doesn't work and it ends up at Vinnies. Or worse, landfill. And then you go back to the shops.

I think what really upsets me about the cult of Kmart is what really upsets me about myself. That I can't stop mindlessly consuming. That the desire for the next hit can't be satisfied. I do not even class myself as a massive shopper. Most of the time I can't bear to face the shops.

No mud pies allowed? Another doneover Kmart cubby house.
No mud pies allowed? Another doneover Kmart cubby house. Photo: Supplied

And there seemed to be no let-up over Christmas. Three days after Christmas, people were posting on Facebook about buying presents for next Christmas. How does that even happen? Who has that stamina?

And it also depresses me that even the greatest Kmart devotee knows they aren't paying for quality or craftsmanship or longevity. That the built-in obsolescence of so many products is really months or even days, no longer years.

Post-Christmas Facebook rants mentioned troubles with Kmart products. Remote-controlled helicopters that ran "fine for two days and now it won't fly up". The $39 battery-operated quad bike that runs for five minutes after being charged for eight hours. The Hatchimal that cost nearly $100 and which the child lost interest in after two days. The occasional chair that collapsed when someone SAT ON IT. People laughed that Kmart was crap but they'd still be going back for more.

A $7 tray in the famous Kmart rose gold.
A $7 tray in the famous Kmart rose gold. Photo: Kmart

And with every Kmart bargain, you know someone is missing out. Someone, somewhere can't be being paid appropriately when the chain can sell a t-shirt for $2.50; a pedestal fan for $12. And that the true craftsman - the one who actually makes the black jugs and makes them to last - is not getting a customer. The bespoke, the artisan is left behind.

I know Kmart is not the sole culprit. I know it is not the only driver of excess consumption. Ultimately, my buying habits are entirely down to me. It's my choice where I spend my money.

Then, damn you Kmart, you had me in knots, like those new velvet cushions everyone wants, with the post on Kmart Mums Australia!!! from the single mum who was starting a new life with her kids. She only had one mattress on a floor for them all to sleep on. But new bed linen from Kmart made her feel better about it all. More optimistic about life. Tears. Real tears.

An artificial plant from Kmart.
An artificial plant from Kmart. Photo: Kmart

So Kmart does infuriate me but probably not enough yet to make me do anything about it. Which is a little sad.

So will I keep shopping in Kmart? Yes. I still love it. Will I try to do less of it in 2018? I hope so.

Boom, boom, boom.

Iryna Federico from South Australia famously made over her pantry with items from Kmart (and Ikea) and became an instant ...
Iryna Federico from South Australia famously made over her pantry with items from Kmart (and Ikea) and became an instant sensation. Photo: supplied