IS ALL THIS INEVITABLE?
Despite Marie Kondo, the “Era of Peek Stuff” will remain alive and well as long as people feel wealth equals things. Of course, nobody envisions future landfills stretching to the horizon or mini storage towers reaching the sky. Closets and drawers are already bulging with clutter, so how will “stuff Story” end?
In the immediate future, those attics can hold a few more products, so consumer goods sales will remain healthy. Author-Minimalist guys Rick Hansen and Ryan Nicodemus estimate the average American home now contains 300,000 items and growing.
WHAT WILL THE END LOOK LIKE?
When it ends, what will post-materialism look like? Will the Era of Peek Stuff end with a bang or whimper? If How would we know?
I found the answer with funny man Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame. He gave us a believable picture of the end. The setting takes place on the lawn of a suburban house one morning in Lake Woebegone, Minnesota. Neighbors have gathered to look over what’s being offered at the yard sale of a dear old neighbor. The day is beautiful, but the picture is heartrending as one neighbor whispers into his wife’s ear:
“They worked their entire lives to purchase all these things. They wanted it so badly and paid a fortune to fill their house and attic with that dusty accumulation in tattered boxes. Look at it all. Whole boxes are selling for pennies, and still, nobody wants it.”
It’s a pathetic and embarrassing picture. This family’s broken dream is scattered on the front lawn, visible for all to see. A life of accumulation, selling for almost nothing. Passersby looked but showed no interest.
The husband continued to whisper, “It’s sad to see an old encyclopedia volume for a few cents a book; or boxes of bric-a-brac, dishes, and ceramic figurines selling for even less. If word got out, if people saw this huge price discount, they’d stop accumulating stuff that adds no enduring value to their lives.”
We all know the significance of human life isn’t measured by yard sale prices. We’re more than our bric-a-brac and stuff. Nevertheless, once our neighbors see the price tag on our yard sale, there’s no escaping their conclusion: A Hollow life portending the end of peak stuff.
WE HAVE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE WHAT WE CHOOSE?
We all chose to balance commercial products versus intangible assets or experiences. Some material goods are essential, but the balance focuses heavily on retail products. We have an economy of free choice, but our gross national consumption is too important to be left entirely in the hands of shoppers. If the level of consumer consumption contradicts the nation’s inflation and employment goals, then the Federal Reserve is obliged to “correct” our spending preferences.
Consumers’ “Free Choice” is also influenced by the trillion-dollar marketing, advertising, and data mining industry to guide shoppers’ decisions.
Before you pick up the shopping cart, internet algorithms know your location, age, previous purchases, preferences, and internet searches. Once marketers have your profile, they can direct messages to guide your choice.
Marketing algorithms don’t care about the non-material assets that may be more valuable to you. Madison Ave ty doesn’t give a fig about your reputation, character, humor consumption, tea ceremonies, or nature hikes. To a marketer, you are what you drive, what you buy, and “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Nobody monitors your satisfaction, salvation, hygge, or relationships. It is that flat-screen TV, Sport Utility Vehicles, and bric-a-brac purchases that matter.
HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?
However, the Kondo minimalists, yoga guys, and birders with their anti-stuff message are there. They aren’t ready for prime time or Super Bowel advertisements, but they could signify a trend.
I have garages full of 60+ years of accumulating, mostly tools, parts of things I have torn down, hardware and the like. But sure as shootin’ if I discard it today I’ll need it tomorrow.