Have you ever looked for something you need, and know you have, but been unable to find it amongst the clutter of all the other things that you own? Are you stressed-out paying down debt incurred to pay for all those things? Did you buy any of those things with the idea that owning them would make you happy? Did you buy them to impress other people? Are you too busy to enjoy those things because you’re working long hours at a job so you can pay for them? You may be suffering from a condition author James Wallman calls “Stuffocation” in his book by that name. According to Wallman, you are not alone.
Wallman writes, “Instead of thinking of ‘more’ in positive terms, as we once did, we now think ‘more’ means more hassle, more to manage, and more to think about. In our busy cluttered lives, more is no longer better. It is worse.”
In addition to the responsibility of storing, maintaining, organizing, and paying for our possessions, they weigh on us through their simple existence within our space. While tolerance for clutter varies, research cited by Wallman shows that people dissatisfied with the level of clutter in their home exhibited cortisol patterns indicating their bodies were not managing stress very well. Their patterns were consistent with people who have chronic fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a higher risk of mortality.
When elevated to the level of hoarding, too much clutter becomes even more of a health hazard.
Is there a better alternative? Wallman, a well-known futurist thinker, believes so. He outlines the next big thing in our economy and culture: Experientialism. Instead of focusing on acquiring things, people will focus on enjoying experiences and investing their time and money in them. He points out that experiences are more subject to “positive re-interpretation.” Even bad experiences can acquire a positive spin over time as we “look back with rose-colored glasses.” He also notes that experiences are more likely to make us happy because they bring us closer to people.
By doing something rather than buying something, you are more likely to be doing something with other people. While material purchases can keep people apart, doing something makes people part of a group. Experiences, shared or not, make for better conversation than simply telling people what you’ve purchased.
Photo credit: © iStock.com | Maxim Zarya