Author Topic: Researchers conclude "Today’s families are prisoners of their own clutter"  (Read 8028 times)

Sonos

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This article from the Boston Globe summarizes research into the modern American family, which found families to be drowning in stuff.

"The team of anthropologists and archeologists spent four years studying 32 middle-class Los Angeles families in their natural habitat — their toy-littered homes — and came to conclusions so grim that the lead researcher used the word “disheartening” to describe the situation we have gotten ourselves in­to."

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2012/07/09/new-study-says-american-families-are-overwhelmed-clutter-rarely-eat-together-and-are-generally-stressed-out-about-all/G4VdOwzXNinxkMhKA1YtyO/story.html

As new parents, I hope we can avoid a sea of toys and actually use our backyard.

StockBeard

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It almost feels like an article that could be on the Onion.
It's true though, and I can relate: I haven't been able to convince my wife that our kids have too many toys. Last time I complained, her answer (literally) was "they have less toys than any other household I've visited". Yup. pure "keep up with the Joneses" syndrome here, my own wife! Gah, it's very difficult to fight when it's about the kids.

I'm guilty too: I thought I went past my "Gadgets" addiction, but bought more crap this year as part of some retail therapy. I'm enjoying the gadgets right now, have gone through the "put it in your cart and wait for a month to see if you still want it" routine,  yet I'm sure I'll want to throw them away in a couple years.

Frankly the only solution I found in our household is to live in as small a place as we can (mentally) afford. To avoid the crap from piling up.

marty998

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Can confirm. I'm drowning in stuff and I don't even have kids.

Decluttering seems to just move everything to the spare room to be dealt with "later".

StarBright

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As new parents, I hope we can avoid a sea of toys and actually use our backyard.

You can do it! Sometimes you just have to make it happen and make it a priority. It sometimes takes a bit of nudging but we do at least two outdoor things a day on the weekends in the summer and one in the winter.

Re: Toys - this was easier to control than I imagined. Our kids get a few toys at Christmas and on their birthdays and otherwise we just don't really buy them stuff.

A few times a year I go through and put together a donation of their older toys/books/ etc for the local Headstart preschool. As far as taking over mutual family space, we allow crafts downstairs on the coffee table but all toys are for their bedrooms.

zinnie

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Oh, this article depresses me. Outside is the best thing you can do--how can you not have time for outside?!

We just went over to a friend's new place--they got a bigger one so they could have enough space for cluttered (kids') living room and non-cluttered (adult) living room. And kids aren't allowed upstairs because of all of the stuff. We were listening to them tell stories of things they have done recently, and I was really surprised that packing/bringing stuff was such a big focus of the conversation. They were saying it was a pain to visit the grandparents, because there was too much stuff to pack and bring, and that they don't go to the beach anymore because you need to bring too much stuff and they don't have a good way to haul it all there. As in, the volume of stuff is actually limiting what they do with their weekends! Especially to avoid an outdoor activity because of this, I find so sad. 

MrsWolfeRN

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I just saw another one about how millennials are refusing to take their parents' sentimental crap when the parents go into a retirement home. Maybe there is hope after all.

kayvent

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A few years ago I had a panic attack. So many toys boughten by so many people, toys she rarely or never played with, totalling thousands of dollars. The space they were taking up made me claustrophobic and caused me to have difficulty breathing. I could and did throw out so much and still there was more.

It took a long time to convince people, still haven't for some, that I don't want them to buy so much for my daughter.

ysette9

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Quote
I just saw another one about how millennials are refusing to take their parents' sentimental crap when the parents go into a retirement home. Maybe there is hope after all.

I've read the same thing and related to that, read that the bottom has fallen out of the antiques market because people like me don't want stuff, and especially don't want old stuff. This is very true for my sister and me (old Millennials) though we grew up in an extended family that were true antiquers (educated on what they were buying and very involved in restoring pieces). I can appreciate it, I just don't want it for myself.

I think I must have stumbled upon the same research a while back, though I saw a Youtube short documentary rather than an article (I didn't click on the link in the original post but it appeared to be an article). It was sad and then led me to a click-storm of finding some episodes of Hoarder shows which were really depressing.

I keep wanting to reduce our stuff. We are doing that now in preparation for an upcoming move and I feel like every time I dump something into the recycle bin or put it in the Goodwill pile, the burden on my shoulders gets a little lighter. I had some family members who had their big, beautiful, McMansion full of expensive stuff broken into a while back while on vacation. The stress, time, and money it took to deal with that was very eye-opening. It made me grateful to have few belongings and, for the most part, have cheap stuff. If my house were broken into I would be sad to lose my musical instruments, but I could replace them. It would be a pain in the butt if my laptop were stolen, but that is why I tend to hide it in the house and have backup drives. Otherwise someone could steal just about anything and I would be okay. The only devastating exception to that would be if someone took my toddler's stuffed lion lovey. That would be the end of the world. For that reason we literally have a backup lion in our safe. :)
"It'll be great!"

ysette9

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmUyTauQBQ4

I think this was what I watched on the same subject.
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gardeningandgreen

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Quote
I just saw another one about how millennials are refusing to take their parents' sentimental crap when the parents go into a retirement home. Maybe there is hope after all.

I've read the same thing and related to that, read that the bottom has fallen out of the antiques market because people like me don't want stuff, and especially don't want old stuff. This is very true for my sister and me (old Millennials) though we grew up in an extended family that were true antiquers (educated on what they were buying and very involved in restoring pieces). I can appreciate it, I just don't want it for myself.

I think I must have stumbled upon the same research a while back, though I saw a Youtube short documentary rather than an article (I didn't click on the link in the original post but it appeared to be an article). It was sad and then led me to a click-storm of finding some episodes of Hoarder shows which were really depressing.

I keep wanting to reduce our stuff. We are doing that now in preparation for an upcoming move and I feel like every time I dump something into the recycle bin or put it in the Goodwill pile, the burden on my shoulders gets a little lighter. I had some family members who had their big, beautiful, McMansion full of expensive stuff broken into a while back while on vacation. The stress, time, and money it took to deal with that was very eye-opening. It made me grateful to have few belongings and, for the most part, have cheap stuff. If my house were broken into I would be sad to lose my musical instruments, but I could replace them. It would be a pain in the butt if my laptop were stolen, but that is why I tend to hide it in the house and have backup drives. Otherwise someone could steal just about anything and I would be okay. The only devastating exception to that would be if someone took my toddler's stuffed lion lovey. That would be the end of the world. For that reason we literally have a backup lion in our safe. :)

That is fantastic that you have a backup lion! My parents allowed my sister and her husband to live with them and he proceeded to steal quite a bit of stuff from them. It cost them so much energy and time. I am honestly glad I don't have things that anyone would want to steal. I leave my doors unlocked because honestly my new doors are probably just as expensive to replace as the things inside! I would rather them steal my xbox and 10year old tv than break the doors we spent hours installing.

ysette9

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Quote
I would rather them steal my xbox and 10year old tv than break the doors we spent hours installing.

I've had my car broken into twice and in each case it cost me more to replace the broken window than the value of whatever crap they took. I'm a doink so I regularly forget to lock my car in front of my house. Thankfully nothing has ever happened. With newer cars though I feel like they are much harder to steal, so about the best they could get would be to take the car seat I have in the back.

And yes, we have more than one backup lion. :) A new one in the safe but she sleeps with two and has a third one at daycare. That lion is the fourth member of our family!
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Mr. Green

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The only devastating exception to that would be if someone took my toddler's stuffed lion lovey. That would be the end of the world. For that reason we literally have a backup lion in our safe. :)
This made my day! Hilarious! Such a comical illustration of what really matters.
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BeanCounter

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Quote
I just saw another one about how millennials are refusing to take their parents' sentimental crap when the parents go into a retirement home. Maybe there is hope after all.

I've read the same thing and related to that, read that the bottom has fallen out of the antiques market because people like me don't want stuff, and especially don't want old stuff. This is very true for my sister and me (old Millennials) though we grew up in an extended family that were true antiquers (educated on what they were buying and very involved in restoring pieces). I can appreciate it, I just don't want it for myself.

I think I must have stumbled upon the same research a while back, though I saw a Youtube short documentary rather than an article (I didn't click on the link in the original post but it appeared to be an article). It was sad and then led me to a click-storm of finding some episodes of Hoarder shows which were really depressing.

I keep wanting to reduce our stuff. We are doing that now in preparation for an upcoming move and I feel like every time I dump something into the recycle bin or put it in the Goodwill pile, the burden on my shoulders gets a little lighter. I had some family members who had their big, beautiful, McMansion full of expensive stuff broken into a while back while on vacation. The stress, time, and money it took to deal with that was very eye-opening. It made me grateful to have few belongings and, for the most part, have cheap stuff. If my house were broken into I would be sad to lose my musical instruments, but I could replace them. It would be a pain in the butt if my laptop were stolen, but that is why I tend to hide it in the house and have backup drives. Otherwise someone could steal just about anything and I would be okay. The only devastating exception to that would be if someone took my toddler's stuffed lion lovey. That would be the end of the world. For that reason we literally have a backup lion in our safe. :)
This is us. Although I don't even have electronics that are expensive. The only thing that matters in our house is my jewelry. Much of which has been inherited and cannot be replaced. I hide it when we're gone, but thinking of getting a hidden wall safe.

As for the lovey. We lost a lovey last year (temporarily) and I was able to buy a duplicate on Ebay! The Ebay one was several years old but never used. I emailed the seller that I had a three year old with a lost lovey and asked if they could ship ASAP. They overnighted it to me at no charge. Someone understood the sadness of a toddler with a lost lovey!! Now we have two and it's so much easier.


ysette9

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How wonderful that you could find a replacement online and that the seller was was so accommodating.

Our electronics aren't even that expensive, or at least we can replace them without causing us life than a minor annoyance. The problem would be the loss of data or the annoyance of securing my personal info.
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Travis

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One of the virtues of a transient military life is we can't allow ourselves to acquire too much "stuff."  We're moving again next week and we've been decluttering for weeks to include my son's toys.  Oddly enough he's more inundated with pocket-sized plastic junk from attending birthday parties than he is taking up real space with big items.  A lot of his toy collection is cheap plastic from the Dollar Store so when they fall apart, get lost, or he just loses interest we're not out any real money.  He's seven and still sleeps with his green and yellow frog cuddly.  He latched onto that thing a few short weeks after he was born.  God help you if gets misplaced.  He loves his nerf gun arsenal and takes good care of those toys, but when he travels anywhere the frog is packed first.

We're not looking to acquire "things," but sometimes we get sad at how often we move and not having the option to accumulate.  I think it's more of a desire to build a nest rather than get possessions if that makes sense. 

dcamnc

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I believe it. My family and coworkers are the same. I hardly have anything. If I haven't used it in a year, it's gone.

Abe

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My son's about a year old and doesn't seem to have an interest in any specific toy. What age does that happen? Maybe he's already gotten over possessions? (fat chance!)

BeanCounter

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My son's about a year old and doesn't seem to have an interest in any specific toy. What age does that happen? Maybe he's already gotten over possessions? (fat chance!)
Depends on the kid. My oldest doesn't really play with toys at all. Except sports equipment and NERF guns. He never has cared about toys. My youngest will play with anything and bounces from thing to thing having fun. Dinos, action figures, Hot Wheels, Legos, basketball.

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One of the saddest things about a lot of the junk people have laying around is that they think it is valuable.  Unless you're a pro collector, you're probably just stacking junk for no reason. In other words, if something isn't actively being used or giving you joy, you should probably get rid of it.

Travis

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One of the saddest things about a lot of the junk people have laying around is that they think it is valuable.  Unless you're a pro collector, you're probably just stacking junk for no reason. In other words, if something isn't actively being used or giving you joy, you should probably get rid of it.

I learned that with my comic book collection.  I had a few hundred issues of various Marvel titles in individual plastic and cardboard slips, organized in stiff cardboard boxes, taking up the entire upper section of my closet since the early 1990s.  I sold one on E-Bay for a few hundred dollars (mostly due to new movie hype) and researched the rest. I was horrified to discover 99% of my comic collection was worth no more than the original price I paid, and in some cases worth less than that.  Some of those titles were 40 years old. I Craigslisted the entire collection for maybe $.10 each and never looked back.

Cassie

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As a BB my kids don't want my stuff and i don't want to burden them with getting rid of it. i have been decluttering for the past 10 years. I like to have a few nic-naks so my house does not look sterile but that is it. I have either sold, donated or given tons of stuff away. When my kids outgrew their toys I would donate them to foster parents because foster kids are very hard on toys. It felt good to know they would be used and appreciated.

chaskavitch

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I was looking at estate sale websites earlier this week, and it just made me sad.  It is depressing to think that eventually you end up at the point where you die and there's no one who wants all of your art or heirloom furniture or their bronzed baby shoes, so your treasured possessions end up on the internet for people to peruse and underbid on.  My parents definitely have keepsakes from when I was a kid, and it's sweet looking through them, but what in the world am I going to do with my bronzed baby shoes on a wall plaque, or my "diploma" from kindergarten graduation? 

I hoard mementos like that too (birthday cards from my best friend in elementary school, the first debate trophy I won, etc), and I'm trying so hard to pare them down every year, because they just sit in a closet or a box until I'm sorting again and I get all nostalgic and clingy.  I just found a box full of rocks, literally rocks, that I collected when I was younger.  My parents finally passed them on to me when I bought a house (4 years ago), and they're still sitting in a cupboard in my basement.  /smh
« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 12:22:27 PM by chaskavitch »

ysette9

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I totally get it because I really am sentimental and always have been. Old letters from friends mean a lot to me. Thankfully most of what is meaningful to me is in the form of paper or photos, both of which don't take up much space.

We just moved into a real house and my parents dropped off two boxes of stuff I had packed up when I moved away to college. I had a fun time reminiscing over my old high school papers before recycling everything. On the other hand one box had a couple of my most treasured stuffed animals from childhood. We decided to keep them and this morning my husband sent me a photo of our toddler pretending to change the diapers of my old toys. Sweet and completely mind-blowing at the same time to see my favorite toys get a new lease on life.
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solon

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I just found a box full of rocks, literally rocks, that I collected when I was younger.  My parents finally passed them on to me when I bought a house (4 years ago), and they're still sitting in a cupboard in my basement.  /smh

Dump them in the flower bed in front of your house? That way they're still yours, but now they're doing what they were meant to do.

WhiteTrashCash

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We've been sorting through a room we used for storage at our house so we can turn it into a home office and it's incredible how much useless crap we've had sitting there for a couple years. 95% of the stuff in the boxes are completely useless junk. Reading that article and watching the YouTube videos that go with it were really enlightening. So much waste even in our Mustachian household.

chaskavitch

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I just found a box full of rocks, literally rocks, that I collected when I was younger.  My parents finally passed them on to me when I bought a house (4 years ago), and they're still sitting in a cupboard in my basement.  /smh

Dump them in the flower bed in front of your house? That way they're still yours, but now they're doing what they were meant to do.

The really bad part is that I still love them all - they're really cool!  There are a lot of oddly shaped rocks, even more amazingly colored rocks, some fossils, and a partial Petoskey stone.  There are definitely some rocks that I was probably thinking "This rock is super round, yay!", but there are some unique ones too. 




Can you see why I'm having issues getting rid of things?  I should at least start by getting rid of the most normal ones and putting them outside.

Abe

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I donate used clothes, appliances, electronics as soon as possible with the hope that someone else who actually needs that thing will get it. I personally feel selfish to hoard perfectly good stuff in my clown house when I know it's never going to get used again unless society collapses and I'm trying to trade it for ten-year-old canned spam or non-radioactive water. For sentimental things no one will ever use for anything useful ever, that's one's own prerogative. Think of it as your own modern art museum that no one wants to visit.

JanetJackson

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I absolutely believe this. 
I'm constantly working on gaining more minimalism and the balance between throwing/giving things away that I don't use often and keeping things that help me stay frugal (I want to throw away immersion blender every time I see it taking up space, but then I remember that I use it 2-3x/year to make big batches of scratch soap).

Someone I know (may or may not be my sibling) had a debt crisis near age 35 and had to move back in with our parents for a year to get back on their feet.  All the while having AT LEAST 10k (purchase price, no idea of value) of star wars toys new in packages that had stored in our parents home for years (and also hiding starbucks cups in the outside trash cans to avoid judgement, but that's another story). 

My head was spinning.

Icecreamarsenal

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George Carlin said it best.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

Lieutenant Richard M. Colby: [Richard Colby's last letter to his wife, as read by Willard] Sell the house. Sell the car. Sell the kids. Find someone else. Forget it. I'm never coming back. Forget it.

Colby, the ultimate Buddhist convert.

FINate

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Thanks for sharing, super interesting! The book looks fascinating, but I don't want to buy yet another book that will take up space in the house LOL.

The associated videos for the book are great:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmUyTauQBQ4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyHS_-Umv4E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJWOWksT1x4

facepalm

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Thanks for sharing, super interesting! The book looks fascinating, but I don't want to buy yet another book that will take up space in the house LOL.

The associated videos for the book are great:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmUyTauQBQ4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyHS_-Umv4E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJWOWksT1x4
I was able to find the book at my local library.

The book is powerful--you don't even have to read the text, just looking at the pictures was enough to make my skin crawl and put me on a decluttering mission for the better part of a week.

BeanCounter

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Thanks for sharing, super interesting! The book looks fascinating, but I don't want to buy yet another book that will take up space in the house LOL.

The associated videos for the book are great:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmUyTauQBQ4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyHS_-Umv4E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJWOWksT1x4
I was able to find the book at my local library.

The book is powerful--you don't even have to read the text, just looking at the pictures was enough to make my skin crawl and put me on a decluttering mission for the better part of a week.
Ha! Will be reserving that then!

FINate

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Duh, the library! :) For some reason I assumed this is a new book, but it's been in print for about 5 years. Looks like my local library also has a copy...will wander over there today and check it out.

Kuznec

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Interestingly, I will live to the point when the consumer society will turn into a society of self-development or self-knowledge.

firelight

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Can someone post the Amazon link to the book? Looks like I'm not finding the right one.

talltexan

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ptf.

(as a side note, I am guilty, guilty, guilty).

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Thanks for the timely reminder.
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koshtra

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It's basically impossible to stop people from giving your kids stuff.

But one thing you can do is have a huge "box of forgetting" stashed somewhere. Extra toys can get tossed in there, and if they're not inquired after for six months, they'll get smuggled out to the Goodwill box in the dead of night, and will never be seen again.

It's not the frank and manly way to deal with it, I admit, but it works.

BeanCounter

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It's basically impossible to stop people from giving your kids stuff.

But one thing you can do is have a huge "box of forgetting" stashed somewhere. Extra toys can get tossed in there, and if they're not inquired after for six months, they'll get smuggled out to the Goodwill box in the dead of night, and will never be seen again.

It's not the frank and manly way to deal with it, I admit, but it works.
This is hilarious and awesome. I am stealing this idea. Of course nearly every one of my kids toys could go in that box and never be missed. My kids just don't play with toys. I wish I had known that earlier in my parenting and could explain it to other family.

Cassie

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My kids are long grown but I wold clean their rooms and get rid of stuff while they were at school. They never knew because I knew what they liked and got rid of stuff that they had outgrown or did not play with. I was a SW at the time and worked with families in poverty so clothes, toys ,etc all went to the families.  I would also collect stuff from all my friends to give too. It was a win-win. When my kids got older I would let them decide what to keep. 

Chesleygirl

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My kids are long grown but I wold clean their rooms and get rid of stuff while they were at school. They never knew because I knew what they liked and got rid of stuff that they had outgrown or did not play with.

Same here.

talltexan

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My wife tells stories of a sandbox that her mother maintained when she was growing up. Any toy that fell out of favor was assigned to the sandbox, where its usability quickly declined to the point that it would be thrown away.

There was also something called the hammer fairy.

NeonPegasus

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I think the worst thing about having a surprise third was having to hang onto toys and clothes that much longer. Compounding the issue is the fact that my youngest is super tiny so even though she's almost 4, she's still wearing some size 2 clothes. I thought I'd be able to get rid of those clothes by now!

velocistar237

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Quote from: TheArticle
A refrigerator door cluttered with magnets, calendars, family photos, phone numbers, and sports schedules generally indicates the rest of the home will be in a similarly chaotic state.

This study probably caused a lot of refrigerator door decluttering.

Cassie

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I don't think that is true at all.  Calendars and kids schedules are important to have handy where everyone can see them.

talltexan

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My wife observed that there are certain toys that our daughter (age 5) always likes to encourage visitors to use, but never uses on her own. What should we do with this information?

firelight

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My wife observed that there are certain toys that our daughter (age 5) always likes to encourage visitors to use, but never uses on her own. What should we do with this information?
Maybe pack them up and bring out only when there are visitors? Would cut down on daily toy clutter.

velocistar237

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Quote from: TheArticle
A refrigerator door cluttered with magnets, calendars, family photos, phone numbers, and sports schedules generally indicates the rest of the home will be in a similarly chaotic state.

This study probably caused a lot of refrigerator door decluttering.

I don't think that is true at all.  Calendars and kids schedules are important to have handy where everyone can see them.

I was commenting not on the usefulness of refrigerator door items but on how the article's claiming a correlation could lead people to fix the small symptom rather than the larger issue, i.e., I don't have this problem, just look at how neat my refrigerator door is. Just a passing thought.