Saturday, July 14, 2012

Documenting the Stuff

Reading just this short article makes me feel sick, but I'll have to read the book anyway.

As the article's subtitle puts it, "A new study of American families reveals troubling trends: Too much stuff, too little time."

Cover of Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, gray with several photos
It's about a study by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, published in book form as Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century. A team of anthropologists and archaeologists "videotaped the activities of family members [in the Los Angeles area], tracked their moves with position-locating devices, and documented their homes, yards, and activities with thousands of photographs. They even took saliva samples to measure stress hormones."

The book "presents a frightening picture of life in a consumer-driven society, with researchers documenting expensive but virtually unused 'master suites,' children who rarely go outside, stacks of clutter, and entire walls devoted to displays of Beanie Babies and other toys."

Yes, yes, yes to all of that. I remember the constant flood of stuff during the years when Daughter Number Three-Point-One was young. It almost felt as if it was forced upon anyone with children: You had to have all this stuff, or you weren't a loving parent. And that's speaking for me, a person with a strong ascetic streak, a smallish house, and not too much money.

It's less intense now, though the lure of "convenience" foods is still very strong, I admit.

[Shudder.] Time to get rid of some more stuff to make up for buying a copy of the book.

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

I think back to my grandparents’ houses, where things were very much the same from day to day to day. Only the newspaper and the TV Guide seemed to change. Me, I feel like I’m living in a library that’s growing beyond my ability to manage it.