Defining clutter

The Unclutterer blog is a useful resource for ways to make life simpler.  It had a post today about a new book that clarifies the relationship between consumption, clutter and health, specifically the issue of weight.

This got me thinking.  Besides the obvious question of what the voracious consumer must do with all the clutter that results from purchases, I’ve come up with my own theory as to why we’ve been so materialistic since the new century began.

You won’t find any blame getting laid strictly at one doorstep here.  Not even Osama bin Laden’s.  Although it’s abundantly clear to me that his actions were the straw that broke the camel’s back.

If we are in fact going to see a change in the way brands must interact with people [see previous post], I think it’s got to do more than address the impact of the Internet.  That heartbreaking day in 2001 triggered a quintessentially American response to pain:  go on with your routine and do the bad guys one better.  Go out and buy or eat something. 

We Americans see some sort of life affirmation in the act of a purchase or a bite of food — moreso than any other culture.  So when the unimaginable happened, instead of letting ourselves feel the depth of the pain — and make the requisite sacrifices consciously — we began to bury ourselves in stuff.  We heightened our pursuit of pedigree, whether that meant clubs, college educations, pre-schools, neighborhoods or physical attributes.  Anything to distract us from the reality that this most blessed nation was despised enough that a deranged gang would try to bring us down — just because we cannot be controlled.

I’m sure the psychology and psychiatry professionals could provide a list of the resulting afflictions.  However, most of us could probably just stand in front of a mirror, look ourselves in the eye and ask if we are really happy or at our personal best when we compare ourselves with the neighbors or eat twelve cookies instead of two.  Twenty minutes after dinner.

More in the next post, especially about how a work project is shedding light on what constitutes clutter.

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