I am currently reading Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors, which is a fascinating anthropological study of middle-class families in the Los Angeles area. This single book could easily inspire a dozen distinct and varied blog posts from me, but today I focus on this one quote:
Most Possessions per Family in Global History
“For more than 40,000 years, intellectually modern humans have peopled the planet, but never before has any society accumulated so many personal possessions. U.S. households spend on average tens of thousands of dollars every year on new purchases. A substantial portions of these expenditures goes towards replacement goos such as trendy apparel and the latest media electronics, not to mention the newest model of cars. Many of these objects replace perfectly good antecedents that homeowners may only reluctantly part with, The result is typically clutter amassing in “back stage” storage areas such as garages, closets, and attics, eventually extending to “front stage” living spaces.”
Yesterday my mother and I took my two teenage sons to two different Goodwill thrift shops. There was nothing we really needed, and each of the four of us made a single purchase, which I thought was very telling.
- My mother bought four drinking glasses to replace missing/broken glasses in her rental cottages. ($3.96)
- I bought a large framed vintage Maxfield Parrish print that I will display in my spare bedroom. ($14.99)
- My younger son bought a pair of Nike Free Runs that normally cost $90. ($4.99)
- My older son bought an Italian merino wool turtleneck sweater. ($6.99)
None of these purchases were technically necessary, however each was deliberate. My older son is very particular about his clothing, my younger son is obsessed with shoes and I always keep an eye out for underpriced home decor.
Are we typical American consumers?
Yes. No. Absolutely not. Most likely. More than we care to admit. Kind of yes. Kind of no.
Our thrift store purchases did give us that endorphin rush that comes with finding that perfect thing to add to our house full of stuff. But they will not push our home into the realm of cluttery chaos.
Although I often write about minimalism, I am not a minimalist. I like to think that I inhabit the grey area of just right along with Miss Goldilocks. (Of course, what one day can seem just right can teeter over to too much the next.)
Which is why it’s called a grey area.
I’ll keep reading the book, and hopefully find inspiration for that sweet spot between a cluttered home and one that echoes.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”