Penelope Trunk: bed bugs as a lesson in “taming materialism”

by nobugsonme on August 8, 2007 · 5 comments

in bed bugs, consumers

Penelope Trunk uses her own bed bug story as part of a lesson in taming materialism. In step 4: “Know this: you could dump everything if you had to,” Trunk describes discovering bed bugs in her NYC apartment, and the realization of what that meant:

The bugs and their eggs could be in anything in the apartment made of fabric or wood. Here’s how long the bugs can live without food: eighteen months. There is no way we could starve them. We had to poison them. And the only way to do that is to get them to come out of hiding and walk through the poison. The only thing they’ll come out for is human blood.

How would they get human blood? We had to live in the apartment. What do people on Park Avenue do? The staff lives there while the family goes to the summer home or a hotel. What do the not-rich people do? Use themselves as bait. That’s what our neighbors did.

We tried using ourselves as bait for one night, and every bug (by now there were forty or fifty a night) went for the kids. I developed near complete insomnia, always fearing that the kids were getting bitten as soon as I shut my eyes, even in broad daylight when the bugs are asleep.

The bed bug expert said that the most common thing he sees is that people move, but they won’t give up their stuff, so they take the bedbugs with them. We had two kids bitten everywhere. We took no chances and we took with us only things that could be boiled in hot in water or thrown in a hot dryer – to ensure no bugs. We took from that apartment less than half of the size of a small U-Haul truck. We left almost everything.

Nota bene: people on Park Avenue who flee to vacation homes and leave staff to sleep in their infested apartments are probably going to infest their vacation homes. Those of us who empathize with the staff in that scenario are calling that karma.

While it is surely easier if you have the means to leave it all behind and start again, nevertheless, it takes a certain frame of mind. For those of you assuming Trunk’s family then re-accumulated all the stuff they left behind: the point of the article is that’s not what they did. Instead, they learned what they needed and did more with less. And apparently this was not because, as for some Bedbuggers, they’re afraid of reinfestation.

It’s not a how-to for everyone, but if, like me, you find voluntary simplicity appealing, you might find it kind of inspiring.

1 Penelope Trunk August 8, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Hey, what a great resource about bed bugs! I wish I had found this when we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. I confess, though, that I am only barely able to read the stuff on here without feeling ill over how bad it was to have bed bugs.

Thank you for mentioning my story.


2 nobugsonme August 8, 2007 at 9:56 pm

A common reaction, Penelope.
We’ve had former Bedbuggers whose therapists forbid them to come here. It’s understandable.
Thanks for stopping by!

3 willow-the-wisp August 12, 2007 at 1:20 am

This “spiritualistic type” of a lesson is a great one to learn, but hard to fathom at first: Like Trunk I realized many of these things come in stages. Yes, they are stages of personal inner growth thru loss: one example from me:

To afford all of the Cable T.V. and DVD things just got to be way too much: I never could have watched or listened to it all anyway.
So I watched T.V. without cable and found I liked what people who could not afford cable T.V. better. When the TV antenna broke, I lost all but one channel. I was OK with that, as I simply found other things to do.
When I got Bed bugs, I made sure the T.V. was clean and passed it, but no bugs on. I de-infested many items in fact and just gave them away. Overall, I am better off.
I could have sold some of it–perhaps gaining 400.00. However all that money I needed to clear myself of bed bugs just came.
All it took was determination, desire, and dropping the blame and the shame. (Besides … they have so many inspections here where I live, I am now happy to tell them —

4 Bugged Out August 13, 2007 at 10:24 am

Hi Willow,

How did you disinfect the t.v.? I find that is my second biggest concern is how to de-contaminate items that are not launderable, like electronics, cd’s, books, etc. I can’t very well go toss those things in the dryer!

5 willow-the-wisp August 13, 2007 at 5:25 pm

I left a very long answer in the forums here:

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