The Abundance of Stuff

Television presents us with a spectrum of shows about families dealing with clutter.  You can watch shows about basic home organization (Neat; Home Made Simple), shows about extreme cleaning (How Clean is Your House?), shows about clutter (Clean Sweep; Enough Already) and the guiltiest-pleasure of all, shows about hoarding (Hoarders; Hoarding: Buried Alive.)

A room filled with hoarded clutterWhile these shows often create shock and awe, at their core they demonstrate a common dilemma in North American society — the abundance of “stuff.”

That’s one reason why I think these shows are so popular — we have lots of stuff too, and want to know how to better organize our homes (or to know when we get near that line of truly becoming of a hoarder).

There’s a new TV show, Consumed, which is not only about excess clutter, but is also an interesting social experiment.  In this show, families have to go “cold turkey” and let go of all their possessions for thirty days.

Could you live without everything in your house for thirty days?

My wife and I have always been very mindful about clutter.  We’re constantly getting rid of stuff, donating items to reuse centres or taking advantage of Halton’s bulk waste collection.  While we don’t have children yet (and all the resulting items that come along with them), we’ve seen what happens to our empty-nester parents’ basements after 30+ years of accumulated stuff is left behind by their children and inherited from their parents.

There’s a very interesting book called Material World: A Global Family Portrait written and photographed by Peter Menzel.  In it, families from around the world have their photo taken outside their house with all of their belongings.  It is fascinating to see what other families own.  When you think about your home, you’ll probably realize North Americans have many more belongings than other people in the world.  But do we really need all of this stuff?  Does this stuff serve a purpose?  Does this stuff make us happy?

My new favourite website is TED – Ideas Worth Spreading.  There’s a fabulous five-minute talk by Graham Hill called “Less stuff, more happiness.” This funny and insightful video really captures the challenge of too much stuff and suggests three ways to manage it.

So I wonder, how do you cope with the abundance of stuff in your home?

About John Watson

I'm a communicator, educator and project manager with a focus on environmental and public works issues. I am currently the Environmental Manager for the Municipality of Dysart et al in Haliburton County. Previously, I was the Onboarding Director for ReCollect Systems, where I implemented digital communication products for municipalities and non-profits. For eight years, I was the Waste Diversion Educator Coordinator for Halton Region, where I implemented award winning communications and outreach programs.
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3 Responses to The Abundance of Stuff

  1. Brenda McCrea says:

    Ah Johnny, you’ve done it again! Great article!

  2. truefinds says:

    I enjoyed your article. Thanks. As an estate sale professional, I’ve seen a lot of households stuffed with belongings. I’ve written my opinions about this on my blog, but I agree that it is a situation that bears closer evaluation.

  3. Pingback: An ode to Nana’s couch | HaltonRecycles

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