Author Topic: A vicious cycle of working, buying, clutter, unhappiness -- and eco-disaster  (Read 6319 times)

HenryDavid

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"American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff."

Reverse the cycle, buy less, consumer less, eventually work less--and reduce the eco-damage.
Result? More happiness.

From a 4-yeat anthropological stay called “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century”:
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?p1=Article_Related_Box_Article

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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I've read articles about this sort of thing before. One said that the thing most valued in buying a house was indoor/outdoor flow, but that the actual usage of this was really limited. I think the same thing would apply to most folk with pools, hot tubs and outdoor entertaining areas. You're working to pay for these trappings that you don't have time to use.... because you're working to pay for them.

Obviously, there are people who use these things very often, but for many people it's just the idea of a certain kind of life that they've tried to purchase.

Maenad

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Every once in a while I'll order something online that results in me receiving paper catalogs for a while. I'm always amazed at how good they are at selling a lifestyle. Some of them I have to throw away the second I get them (Levenger, I'm looking at you) because they totally have my number.

big_slacker

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Definitely agree with this. I'm always shocked when I see garages opened and packed with junk that obviously is never used and cost thousands. It's shameful that we have so much prosperity and this is the result. :(

mies

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That's sad about the lady that thinks she needs to hold on to the toys for her potential grandchildren. They probably aren't going to want to play with them anyways. I kind of get it though. You spent the money on it, you don't want to just throw it away immediately even if the landfill is the ultimate destination anyways.

I also see a lot of my neighbors with overflowing garages. When they are open, you can see they're filled with stuff like jet skis, extra refrigerators, and what appears to be piles of crap with tarps over them. Then you see 3 cars in the drive way. They are probably constantly playing musical cars and in the winter, spending extra time brushing or scraping their cars first thing in the morning. It just adds to the vicious cycle of not having enough time.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2017, 08:01:36 AM by mies »

WhiteTrashCash

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I used to fall into this trap and that was while I was living with a low income up on Hillbilly Mountain, so it was especially dangerous. The key for me was eliminating almost all advertising from my life. Advertisers' psychological tricks manipulate people into downward spirals of consumption and self-destruction. These days, as far as I can tell, we're the only household on our block that actually parks our car in the garage, because everyone else's garage is full of worthless junk they can't bear to part with. My neighbors commented on that one time, because their minds were blown that we could actually use the garage for its real intention.

pachnik

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I find it sad when people have no space for cars in their garages because the garage is so filled up with crap.  Junk in boxes containing who knows what.  :(    And then paying for a storage locker on top of that. 

Moustachienne

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This is a 2012 article but so worth bumping at regular intervals. Thanks for the post!

 Such a great reminder to step outside of that vicious cycle.  I was just admiring some empty space in my fridge, formerly occupied by ancient condiments.  Consumer stuff comes at us from every angle and our sense of normal is easily distorted.

We have a 1950's house with very small closets (and rented a 1940's house with even smaller closets).  It's a good reminder what normal used to look like and we are not tempted to increase these spaces. 

Sarah Saverdink

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We suffer from this at times. The husband is notorious for saving old engine parts, electronic components, etc. "just in case" he needs it to repair a future project. To be fair, his pack-rat collection has come in handy a number of times, but it's still frustrating how much STUFF is everywhere. We're slowly working on cleaning things out. Just sold an old grill on CL for $30 last weekend. Win/win in my book!

ash7962

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Well, thanks for posting this sad article, it inspired me to toss out a bunch of things and gather some others for donation/recycling.

mm1970

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I used to fall into this trap and that was while I was living with a low income up on Hillbilly Mountain, so it was especially dangerous. The key for me was eliminating almost all advertising from my life. Advertisers' psychological tricks manipulate people into downward spirals of consumption and self-destruction. These days, as far as I can tell, we're the only household on our block that actually parks our car in the garage, because everyone else's garage is full of worthless junk they can't bear to part with. My neighbors commented on that one time, because their minds were blown that we could actually use the garage for its real intention.
Yes.  We don't have cable TV, that is big for me.  It's amazing if we go on vacation and watch TV in the hotel.  The kids (esp the little one) go crazy with "I want this, I want that".

Dave1442397

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I've had neighbors say "Oh, we never know when you're home because you park your cars in the garage". Yep, that's what it's for.

Fomerly known as something

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It's easier to hoard, to not have to answer why do I own this, why is this here.  Plus once it's neatly in a box it's easy to forget that box is there.  (Especially if said box is in a storage space). 

I do take it as a matter of pride that I have only ever had my garage temporarily "to full" to park my car.  (a major purge occurred a few weeks ago and the garage served as storage until things were sold/donated/recycled/trashed)  Actually I probably could have arranged things so that I didn't have to leave the car out but that was an additional un-needed effort and I was tired.


Miss Piggy

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Every once in a while I'll order something online that results in me receiving paper catalogs for a while. I'm always amazed at how good they are at selling a lifestyle. Some of them I have to throw away the second I get them (Levenger, I'm looking at you) because they totally have my number.

OMG...several years ago, I got sucked into the Levenger schtick. Finally had to call and have the catalogs cancelled to avoid the temptation. That said, the stuff I did buy has held up very, very well with almost daily use.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2017, 07:40:16 PM by Miss Piggy »

aspiringnomad

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One of the things I like about living in a densely populated rowhome neighborhood is that we can just leave unwanted (nontrash) stuff out front and it'll always be gone by the next morning, reused or repurposed by a passerby. We often donate to goodwill too. Our frequent purging (and mostly Mustachian habits) has helped our 800 sq. foot condo continue to feel spacious for nearly 8 years.

WhiteTrashCash

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The part of that first video where they talk about adults' sentimental attachment to children's toys reminds me of a habit I used to have where I would waste lots of money buying "collectibles", which are basically expensive limited edition action figures of characters from TV shows and movies I enjoyed. They are marketed as valuable commodities, but I discovered when I did a massive sell-off of my belongings to finance a big move in my life for work that these collectibles were actually almost worthless. Even with them kept mint-in-package, they couldn't be sold even for as much as I originally paid for them.

I think a lot of people have no real concept of the actual value of items and that leads people to hoard worthless things and waste lots of money that could have been used to achieve financial independence instead.

cadillacmike

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"American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff."

Reverse the cycle, buy less, consumer less, eventually work less--and reduce the eco-damage.
Result? More happiness.

From a 4-yeat anthropological stay called “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century”:
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?p1=Article_Related_Box_Article


I agree with the premises of the OP, but I can still park two full size RWD Cadillacs in my 2 car garage. 

My den, however is really overcrowded. I need to give away some books and my encyclopaedia set. That will free up a lot of room for books, etc that are currently stacked on the floor. I can get to things, but it gets tedious sometimes with the playing musical stack of whatever to get to an item in the corner...

stwicky

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I agree with the comments about the effectiveness of advertising.

I live out of the U.S. now and have done for the last 15+ years.  As a consequence our entire family has been mostly insulated from advertising.  My kids grew up with no commercials.

This has really turned them into very savvy consumers.  As young adults now, they are not nearly as influenced as many others that I see.




mlejw6

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The part of that first video where they talk about adults' sentimental attachment to children's toys reminds me of a habit I used to have where I would waste lots of money buying "collectibles", which are basically expensive limited edition action figures of characters from TV shows and movies I enjoyed. They are marketed as valuable commodities, but I discovered when I did a massive sell-off of my belongings to finance a big move in my life for work that these collectibles were actually almost worthless. Even with them kept mint-in-package, they couldn't be sold even for as much as I originally paid for them.

I think a lot of people have no real concept of the actual value of items and that leads people to hoard worthless things and waste lots of money that could have been used to achieve financial independence instead.

Can you talk to my husband? He collects things. His biggest collection is his comics. They're a pain in the ass and take up so much space it's obscene.

Goldielocks

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This is a 2012 article but so worth bumping at regular intervals. Thanks for the post!

 Such a great reminder to step outside of that vicious cycle.  I was just admiring some empty space in my fridge, formerly occupied by ancient condiments.  Consumer stuff comes at us from every angle and our sense of normal is easily distorted.

We have a 1950's house with very small closets (and rented a 1940's house with even smaller closets).  It's a good reminder what normal used to look like and we are not tempted to increase these spaces.

OOOoooo   All those decluttering threads, and I never thought about clearing out the clutter in my fridge.  That is what I will do today -- good bye  fermented sauerkraut I will likely never eat!

Dr. Pepper

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I have been living through this recently and it sucks. I'm being relocated for work, and have been spending the last 7 days working 12 hrs a day throwing out crap. I filled up 60-70 55 Gallon bags of useless crap out of our home. Made about 20 trips to the dump and goodwill. I have periodically done clean outs but never on this scale. My wife likes to really hold on to stuff we don't need, for example she still has 50 college textbooks from undergrad 10 yrs ago, about 10 sets of bedding, 4 old vacuum cleaners etc. Every time she has complained our house is a mess I would point out it was because we had no where left to put stuff and needed to get rid of things but to no avail.   It wouldn't have been possible to do what needed to happen if my wife and kids were not already at the new house 5 states away, she always gets severe anxiety about throwing away stuff and then works them up, they will open up the bags of trash and go through it looking to make sure there is nothing they want to salvage. I'm hoping they won't be to angry when the movers arrive to our new place with about 10% of the crap we had here, but will see I guess. I attached A picture, of about 1 load of stuff before going to the dump, mutiply that x20 and you get an idea of the scale.


ReadySetMillionaire

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I never realized how many people don't use the garage for its intended purpose until I bought my home about two years ago.

We live in a very middle class neighborhood. All the houses were built in the 1970s, the prices range from $110,000 to $160,000, and the square footage is probably 1,100 - 1,900. Most of our neighbors are teachers, government employees, small business owners, etc.

Yet you wouldn't know that by just driving around. Seemingly 50% of people park their cars in the driveway, and these are usually $50,000 GMC Yukon or some massive SUV. I can see in the garages when I'm doing yardwork and there is stuff on top of stuff on top of stuff.

Then there's our house, with a paid off 2008 Ford Focus and a 2012 Toyota Rav4, and then basically nothing else in the garage except the basic essentials for lawn maintenance.  It almost feels like we live on a different planet.

Mr. Green

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I used to fall into this trap and that was while I was living with a low income up on Hillbilly Mountain, so it was especially dangerous. The key for me was eliminating almost all advertising from my life. Advertisers' psychological tricks manipulate people into downward spirals of consumption and self-destruction. These days, as far as I can tell, we're the only household on our block that actually parks our car in the garage, because everyone else's garage is full of worthless junk they can't bear to part with. My neighbors commented on that one time, because their minds were blown that we could actually use the garage for its real intention.
I sometimes wonder if I'm just a really weird person (emotionless) when it comes to advertising. It just doesn't have any effect on me, or my wife actually. We frequently find ourselves asking each other, "Is that supposed to get people to buy that?" I guess this just means we're happy with our lives and don't feel like something is missing that we could fill with X product?

CloserToFree

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I really want to get a copy of this book, rip out pages and post them on my fridge to serve as constant inspiration of what to avoid.  If the study was published in 2012, I can only imagine how much worse the situation is today...

CloserToFree

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I really want to get a copy of this book, rip out pages and post them on my fridge to serve as constant inspiration of what to avoid.  If the study was published in 2012, I can only imagine how much worse the situation is today...

I stand corrected - just called my library and they were able to borrow it from another in-state library, so I'll be able to check it out shortly. Yay for libraries!

ReadySetMillionaire

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I used to fall into this trap and that was while I was living with a low income up on Hillbilly Mountain, so it was especially dangerous. The key for me was eliminating almost all advertising from my life. Advertisers' psychological tricks manipulate people into downward spirals of consumption and self-destruction. These days, as far as I can tell, we're the only household on our block that actually parks our car in the garage, because everyone else's garage is full of worthless junk they can't bear to part with. My neighbors commented on that one time, because their minds were blown that we could actually use the garage for its real intention.
I sometimes wonder if I'm just a really weird person (emotionless) when it comes to advertising. It just doesn't have any effect on me, or my wife actually. We frequently find ourselves asking each other, "Is that supposed to get people to buy that?" I guess this just means we're happy with our lives and don't feel like something is missing that we could fill with X product?

I'm always amazed when smart people don't think advertising affects them at all. The first goal of advertising is to make you aware that the brand/product exists so that when you eventually do go and buy something, you remember the brand/product. To think that advertising has no effect on your purchases is probably a fallacy.

MrsWolfeRN

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If you want to really do something for your heirs, sort out your crap before you die or become disabled. If you can't bear to part with anything, at least put the stuff you think they will want in separate bins from the other stuff. We are in the midst of sorting out MIL's house and it is startling how things are jumbled together, so that everything has to be looked at individually before it is tossed (e.g. baby pictures jumbled in the same bin with 20 years of electric bills). We had to stop yesterday because the dumpster at the apartment complex was full.

Chaplin

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Interesting stuff. I'm male but definitely feel the effect of clutter on my nerves. We cleared out a bunch of stuff two weeks ago and it made me very happy

We do have some piles of paper that seem very resistant to decluttering, but overall we keep it somewhat under control. My wife and I each had our own houses before we were married and we're still rationalizing our stuff 13 years later.

Moving would really help. I'm trying to pretend that we need to be ready to move. We are actually considering it, but it's a low probability right now.

WildJager

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I could totally see falling into that trap before we really thought about a purposeful life, partly in thanks to this site of course.  It's just so... normal?  People give us so much crap even now after we've told them literally, "Please, no, consumables only.  We can purchase anything we need."  But, alas, the stuff keeps coming and ends up in a box for regifting or resale unfortunately. 

Luckily our work lifestyle drove us into a sense of simplicity early.  Moving so often resulted in abhorring the constant slog of managing crap.  So, we only keep what we need and value. 

A couple of things I find interesting about this discussion though.  The garage situation... while we have room to park our car in there, often times we don't.  That's because our current garage (single car, so I suppose it's smaller than most) doubly serves as our wood shop and mechanic shop (more engines than just the car).  So, while we can roll it in for bad weather, it's not practical to work if any projects are going on.  In our last house we only had a covered carport with a shed, which I really liked because of the delineation.  The tools and such couldn't practically be in the carport, and the car of course couldn't be in the adjacent shed.  Everything was "neat" without really trying.

The other thing was this quote from the article:
Quote
The rise of Costco and similar stores has prompted so much stockpiling — you never know when you’ll need 600 Dixie cups or a 50-pound bag of sugar — that three out of four garages are too full to hold cars.

That's been one of the reasons I've never continued use of stores like that.  Sure, you save a bit more for a few items that you use regularly... but, a lot of it is crap you don't need anyway (disposable tableware is what I'm leaning on).  The clutter is just one more negative in my book.  For perishables and a large family, I concede that's completely different.

Gondolin

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Moving 6 times in 4 years REALLY conditioned me to relentlessly jettison stuff. One of the best things I learned from all that travel.