Thanksgiving Post – Of Gratitude And Hording

Is Consumerism an Enemy To Personal Independence?

Pictured above is an “art piece” called “No Man’s Land.”  It features 30 tons of discarded clothing.  We don’t know about you, but to us, the picture definitely makes an impression, and a point.  To us, there is something inherently terrifying about that much consumption and waste.

Now people like their toys and clothes – we get it.  Of course, considering our support for the Tiny Home Movement, we have great respect for those who know how to cut back on the excess (and often find greater happiness doing so).

While off-gridders aren’t necessarily minimalists, the two camps seem friendly, and often overlap.  So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, what might we learn about our quality of life by being grateful for what we already have?

For more discussion of the subject, keep reading below the break!

The personal storage industry rakes in $22bn each year, and it’s only getting bigger. Why?

I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because vast nations of hoarders have finally decided to get their acts together and clean out the hall closet.

It’s also not because we’re short on space. In 1950 the average size of a home in the US was 983 square feet. Compare that to 2011, when American houses ballooned to an average size of 2,480 square feet – almost triple the size.

And finally, it’s not because of our growing families. This will no doubt come as a great relief to our helpful commenters who each week kindly suggest that for maximum environmental impact we simply stop procreating altogether: family sizes in the western world are steadily shrinking, from an average of 3.37 people in 1950 to just 2.6 today.

So, if our houses have tripled in size while the number of people living in them has shrunk, what, exactly, are we doing with all of this extra space? And why the billions of dollars tossed to an industry that was virtually nonexistent a generation or two ago?

Well, friends, it’s because of our stuff. The simple truth is this: you can read all the books and buy all the cute cubbies and baskets and chalkboard labels, even master the life-changing magic of cleaning up – but if you have more stuff than you do space to easily store it, your life will be spent a slave to your possessions.

A study published by UCLA showed that women’s stress hormones peaked during the times they were dealing with their possessions and material goods. Anyone who parks on the street because they can’t fit their car into the garage, or has stared down a crammed closet, can relate.

Our addiction to consuming is a vicious one, and it’s having a markedly negative impact on virtually every aspect of our lives.

Our current solution to having too much stuff is as short-sighted as it is ineffective: when we run out of space, we simply buy a bigger house. This solution will never work, and the reason it will never work is that possessions seem to hold strange scientific properties – they expand to fill the space you provide for them.

This is why some normal adult human beings can live in houses just 426 square feet (like my lovely mother, in her floating home in Victoria, Canada) and others find that not even their 2,500-square-foot McMansion feels big enough. It’s almost never the amount of space that’s the problem, but the amount of stuff.

So if bigger homes aren’t the solution, what is? I suggest heading in the exact opposite direction: deliberately choose a life with less. Buy less and instantly you have less to store; you use less space. Eventually you can work less to pay for all of this stuff. Soon you will stress less too and, above all, your life will involve less waste.

 

Source: The Guardian

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