Monday, October 27, 2008

Too Much Stuff

Last week I worked a temp job as a nanny for a really lovely couple here in town. I really like these two; they are some of the nicest people I have ever known. They are upper-upper middle class; I mention that because it is relevant to the post. Not rich by the standards of hedge fund managers, but truly wealthy by my standards.

I think I have too much stuff. I’m working on paring it down now. I also think most Americans have far too much stuff. But while working for them, I got an inkling of just how overloaded some people are. If I have too much stuff, they really do. They have at least seven full sets of china. Nice china. Not everyday kind of china, the kind even they use for company and holidays. They also have at least four sets of everyday dishes. And that’s just for starters. What is this obsessive need to accumulate stuff that most Americans seem to have? Where does it come from? I would say it comes from two sources. The first is the never-ending advertising that says we have to have more things. The second, I believe, is a deep-seated, unconscious insecurity that many of us feel. I think this is do to the lack of community, of true friends and family, that so many of us share. I think we try to fill this void with things as a way to substitute for them. And therein lies the rub: there are some things you simple can not make substitutions for. We try at our peril.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stuff" steals time, which is the most precious commodity in life... Less stuff means more time for exploring life, love and real pleasure. Gee, what a simple concept!

Having too much stuff and living for stuff is a "Dis-ease."

Nice post.

10/27/2008 2:07 PM  
Blogger MoonRaven said...

Absolutely, RAS--and the two are connected. I believe capitalism deliberately disconnects us from each other and then plays on our insecurities by offering us false connections (the ads with the lovely woman practically selling herself) as well as things in place of real friends, family, community. Madison Avenue is very aware of that void and plays it like an instrument.

Less consumption, more connection. It's really simple, but the difficult part is how to get people to see this.

10/27/2008 5:13 PM  
Blogger Jacques de Beaufort said...

I just watched and posted a 4 hr BBC documentary on advertising techniques and psychology called 'The Century of the Self".
Among other things:

The Century of the Self asks deep questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

The business and, increasingly, the political world uses PR to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. He cites a Wall Street banker as saying "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs."

check it

10/28/2008 12:54 AM  
Anonymous murph said...


You are correct in your observations concerning the accumulation of stuff. There is another side to that issue though. I have talked a bit about my doing a really rough living move with my then family into the mountains. Real quick, I found out that you don't throw away much of anything, you reuse it all. Plastic, cardboard, cans, bottles, old car and truck parts, anything that can be useful down the road. Hell, I even pull and straighten old nails that aren't rusted beyond use. If they are dulled I resharpen them. Remember back in the early 1800's when they had a burned out house, the first thing you salvaged was the nails? Now I admit that replenishing supplies of various items is often cheaper than salvage today, at least if you take into consideration your time.

I rather suspect that the attitude of saving anything useful is going to become more popular as prices rise and availability declines.

10/28/2008 2:03 PM  
Blogger SoapBoxTech said...

Great observation. My first thought was to suggest Century of the Self, but I see someone else has done so already.

I think it is more than just being disconnected by advertising, however. Societal hierarchies are not an American invention. Humanity seems to have oriented itself this way throughout modern history. I suggest that such hierarchies, greed for money and things, lust for power, these are all aspects of humanity. Just like kindness, love for life, and desire for equality are aspects of humanity. The trouble is, the baser aspects seem to be far more easily appealed to. It seems to have been quite easy to guide humanity towards self-worship, to demand that self satisfaction is of utmost importance.

I agree with you tho, to give in to those baser instincts is to doom both ourselves and all around us.

Or so I believe anyway.

Peace to all.

10/29/2008 1:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of stuff, just found this powerful new book, “Buyology” that discusses the neurology and biology of how we are wired to buy stuff, and how marketers use this against us, when we do not pay attention to advertising manipulation.

For example, people brains responded to corporate logos with the same attachment feeling when they were shown images of the pope, or religious icons...

This will be an interesting read for sure. Just imagine, the church of Coca-cola...

Excerpt from Amazon review:

“How much do we know about why we buy? What truly influences our decisions in today’s message-cluttered world? An eye-grabbing advertisement, a catchy slogan, an infectious jingle? Or do our buying decisions take place below the surface, so deep within our subconscious minds, we’re barely aware of them?

In BUYOLOGY, Lindstrom presents the astonishing findings from his groundbreaking, three-year, seven-million-dollar neuromarketing study, a cutting-edge experiment that peered inside the brains of 2,000 volunteers from all around the world as they encountered various ads, logos, commercials, brands, and products. His startling results shatter much of what we have long believed about what seduces our interest and drives us to buy. Among his finding:

Gruesome health warnings on cigarette packages not only fail to discourage smoking, they actually make smokers want to light up.

Despite government bans, subliminal advertising still surrounds us – from bars to highway billboards to supermarket shelves.

"Cool” brands, like iPods trigger our mating instincts.

Other senses – smell, touch, and sound - are so powerful, they physically arouse us when we see a product.

Sex doesn't sell. In many cases, people in skimpy clothing and suggestive poses not only fail to persuade us to buy products - they often turn us away .

Companies routinetly copy from the world of religion and create rituals – like drinking a Corona with a lime – to capture our hard-earned dollars.

Filled with entertaining inside stories about how we respond to such well-known brands as Marlboro, Nokia, Calvin Klein, Ford, and American Idol, BUYOLOGY is a fascinating and shocking journey into the mind of today’s consumer that will captivate anyone who’s been seduced – or turned off – by marketers’ relentless attempts to win our loyalty, our money, and our minds. Includes a foreword by Paco Underhill.”

10/29/2008 11:08 AM  

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