Material Culture- Enough Already


Having discussed the joys of consumerism in the new eBay last Monday, I feel compelled to turn to the other side of the coin and point out an opinion in the NY Times by Graham Hill, the creator of It took him fifteen years to clean the inessential items out of his life and live a richer life with less. He now runs a company/website called life edited.

His article pointed me to UCLA’s Center on the Everyday Lives of Families’ study of 21st-century homes to discover the diverse amounts of material surroundings and vast number of possessions that organize and give meaning to the everyday lives 32 middle-class, dual-income families in Los Angeles.

Even the frig is cluttered.

Even the frig is cluttered.

Their book: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century presents a troubling picture of costly renovations that feature underutilized master suites; children who rarely go outside; stacks and stacks of clutter; entire walls devoted to displays of Barbie dolls, Beanie Babies and other toys; garages so packed with household overflow that cars have to be parked on the street; large surplus stockpiles of food and cleaning supplies as evidence of excessive big box shopping; fragmented dinners in which family members eat sequentially or in different rooms relied heavily on convenience foods like frozen meals and par-baked bread.

These two extremes require each of us to step out of our compulsive consumption and examine our home, its possessions, the ways we use time and what waste we actually do purchase. Both show that there is more stress than you realize from having too much.

What you think, what you say, and what you do about your stuff are very likely not the same. Isn’t it about time we face up to the need to simplify life in the twenty-first century?

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