Does stuff make you happy?
THE END OF STUFF
The “Era of Peek Stuff” remains alive and well as long as people feel the most important things are things.
Those bulging closets or mini-storage units can hold a bit more, and consumer product sales remain healthy. Author-Minimalist guys Rick Hansen and Ryan Nicodemus estimate the average American home contains 300,000 items and growing. So will our love for material goods ever fade? If the Era were to end, what would that look like? How would we know if consumption addiction turned down?
I turn to funny man Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame to answer. He broadcast a picture of the end of “Peek Stuff.”
The setting takes place on the lawn of a suburban house one morning in Lake Woebegone. Friends and neighbors gathered to look over what was on display at the yard sale of their departed old neighbor. The day is beautiful, but the picture is heartrending. One neighbor whispers into his wife’s ear:
“They worked so long and hard their entire lives to purchase all these things. They wanted it all so badly and paid so much money to fill their house and attic with this dusty accumulation of boxes.”
“The price is down to pennies, and still, nobody wants it.”
Here on the lawn’s morning dew were the life’s dreams of a pitiful family, exposed for all to see. Most passed by but showed no interest.
Everyone knows the yard sale price doesn’t measure a human life. We’re more than our bric-a-brac. Nevertheless, when your neighbors see your dreams discounted down to pennies, the conclusion cries out: “Hollowness in life.” If people question consumption values, the Era of Stuff will fade.
Until that time, he who dies with the most things wins. Our free-market economy claims the importance of the consumers’ free choice between material and non-material. But of course, the option is stacked heavily towards commercial products.
The gross national consumption is too important to be left entirely in the hands of shoppers. The nation’s inflation and employment depend on purchase decisions. The Federal Reserve, The U.S. Treasury’s fiscal policy, plus a trillion-dollar marketing industry are there to guide consumers’ choices.
But pay attention, and you can also hear dissenting voices. Maria Kondo, the minimalists, the spiritualists, the health fanatics, tree huggers, and naturalists view tangible assets differently. It could be a trend.