Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Overstuffed

"People have so much," she says. "Nobody needs so much. We all have too much stuff."

But Ms Cohn has noticed a change in the way that people shop.

"There are a lot of people that are shopping down now," she says. "If they used to go Macy's, now they got to Kohl's. If they used to go to Kohl's, now maybe they might actually be coming here.

"I see a lot of people here - they are clearly middle-class people, they have embraced the idea of scaling down and looking for a bargain."

Maybe America's decades-long buying binge is drawing to a close - or at least shoppers are taking a breather.

It is hard to believe, so ingrained is shopping and consuming in the American way of life. But, says Mr Goldstein of the Conference Board, there has been a shift.
Have Americans lost their taste for more and more stuff? (BBC)
When we hold on to stuff we no longer want or use, it does indeed cost us something more, if only in the time spent organizing and contemplating them. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about getting rid of that tie (for instance), and every time I went to choose a shirt for the day, I would think about the few that no longer fit.

Even though Hyde’s example is an extreme one, I love thinking about extreme examples because they have the power to compel us to act. In this case I found myself thinking:

    Why exactly do you own what you own?
    What could you get rid of and not miss?
    Do I really still need that?
    What is it costing me to own that?

Maybe the attachment to stuff comes in part from a notion that we should be prepared for anything. When David Friedlander interviewed Mr. Hyde about his project, he highlighted this issue:

    Americans in particular like to be prepared for the worst-case-scenario, having separate cookie cutters for Christmas and Halloween. We seldom consider how negligible the consequences are when we running out of something or are unprepared. Nor do we consider how high the consequences are for being over-prepared…
You Probably Have Too Much Stuff (NYT Blogs)

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