Mary Beth Writes

I watched an 18-minute video about Americans and their clutter.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AhSNsBs2Y0 

 (I read about it in the letters section of The Non-Conformist Advocate.   http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/ )

The book it is related to is this: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors. http://www.ioa.ucla.edu/press/life-at-home

The video is a preview of the book, researched and collated by anthropologists and archeologists, about what they call “hyper-consumerism.”  Few of us need this to be explained; we live in the storms of stuff that we buy for reasons that do and don’t make sense.

Here are some conversation-worthy points made in this short film.

1. The people in a family who comment on the clutter are the ones who are bothered by it. In the families they interviewed, the women were much more likely to talk about and apologize for clutter. When the researchers did blood tests, those women had elevated cortisol levels (the stress chemical). In general, the husbands in the family didn’t care and their stress was not increased by clutter.

2. The US has 3.1% of the world’s kids and 40% of the toys.

toys

3. Parents have a sentimental involvement with their kids’ toys. MB: This is super relevant; I didn’t know when I was bringing home those soft stuffed animals that 25 years later they would be in a box in my garage because I don’t know how to get rid of them.  We need to factor in OUR response to the toys of our kids.

4. American family kitchens tend to be STUFFED with food. It is common to have a fridge, a free-standing freezer AND another fridge in the garage.  MB: When our electricity went out for 3 days, decades ago, our insurance guy asked us for an estimate of food lost. I estimated $100 because I mostly was storing chicken legs, 5 1-lb packs of hamburger bought on sale, flour (bought on sale in the fall and stored in the freezer to prevent bugs) and bags of veggies and fruit. The claims guy said he had never seen a food loss that low. I was embarrassed.

5. By using convenience foods instead of making meals from scratch, the average family saves 12 minutes per meal.

6. Possibly the main reason people over-shop is that they are so busy driving kids to and from events, after the parents have worked their jobs all day. They can’t face going in the store to pick up a few things while they have the kids with them - so they over shop every week or two, trying to avoid the scenario of everyone tired, cranky, and whining in the grocery store.  This seems like a helpful understanding to consider when arranging family life.

food

7. The refrigerator door is (MB’s metaphor here) the altar of the family. What that family needs to KNOW (schedules and instructions) is on that door as well as what they HONOR and REVERE. Also, the clutter or lack of clutter on that fridge door will predict pretty accurately the order or lack of order in the rest of the whole house. 

There’s more.

Instead of judging clutter-filled houses it is interesting to look at what’s going on as social scientists do. And then, possibly, being able to look at our own homes with a clearer sense of what we are doing.

Comments

Leonard's picture

In the old days, people used things until they broke, then they fixed it and used it some more. Now things become obsolete or out-of-fashion, and they are replaced with something new. But we can't think to throw out something that still works, so our closets are filled with old, perfectly good film cameras, cassette tape decks and Nehru jackets.

Five plus years and my closets are still filled with my late husband’s belongings: “saving for the son’s”! And all my craft supplies...
Mary Beth's picture

Clearing stuff left behind by a passed-away loved one is so different than clearing clutter. It is emotional work on a par with very little else in our human lives. Though when it starts to feel like clutter, if it ever does, that's a weird sign to start working that direction.

The Struggle is real. We are such a throw away society. I imagine I have less clutter than most, but I still have plenty. Groaning.

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