Excusez le mot…

While perusing my Facebook timeline, yes I peruse my Facebook news feed then mostly play games, I came across this article Living with less. A lot less. from the New York Times. Where the writer is discussing the rapid encroachment of stuff into our lives. It does pose an interesting question in this age of gadgets. Are we being ruled by what we own, instead of just owning stuff. Are we constantly on the chase of the next thing to satisfy our short-term needs? Are they even a real need, or a crafty constructed marketing ploy which is meant to seduce us and convince us it is something ‘necessary’?

An empty home. © designedtoappeal.com

If you buy a large house with many rooms, at times more than you actually need, well, what will you do? The natural step is to fill it with stuff. Furniture. Interior decoration. Clothes. Trinkets. Gadgets. Lots of stuff.

Where one day you find yourself puzzled as to why on earth you even have this thing. Whatever this thing actually is. Or ask yourself why you bought it in the first place.
Of course, if you’re fortunate enough to hire a personal shopper, for you don’t have time to shop around, you just go for what looks nice and appeals to you. Still, at the end of the day you’re left with a whole bunch of stuff sitting there collecting dust.

I don’t know about you, but my home just does not look like the stylised images we see in those fancy Interior Décor magazine spreads, but rather a haphazard collection of things I bought, received and found along the way. There is no cohesion. It isn’t a collection of some sorts, unless I’m a collector of clutter.

Interior © culbertsondurstinteriors.com

Now don’t get me wrong, the final result can be gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. The finish is beautiful, the craftsmanship is just superb. But I can’t help thinking “Yes, how nice. But why?”

Is it because a certain lack of possession feels out of place? An empty spot is crying out for something? Do we need to fit in with the status quo, which dictates we should buy more. Consume more. Buy buy buy. You can never have enough stuff. We’re consumers, ergo we consume.

But what if you don’t have an insatiable hunger for new things?

Do you have a drawer in your home filled to the brim with the ‘latest gadget’ you bought many moons ago? Wondering what you’re supposed to do with them, so you stuff them in a place, out of sight. Once they were your prized possessions, now just a discarded remnant of the past.

Old phones © nextnature.net

Do we really need all this? Do we really need to the latest model? And if you do, why? Is the older model no longer functional? Is it completely broken down? Wait, you mean it’s actually just fine, but you just covet the new shiny thing? The question then becomes, how long does it remain ‘new & shiny’? Before you know it, the competitor may have introduced a newer and much shinier gadget, quickly followed by other manufacturers. If you wait long enough, a newer model will magically appear.

So weeks? Months? Dare I even think, years? The iPad was only introduced in 2010, and it’s already on its 4th generation, excluding the recent introduction of the Mini, and the 5th is already in the making.

Will we always be so hungry? Or will there come a day where you can say “Enough is enough.” and leave it at that? As I’ve said earlier, I’m not without fault. I too have a managed to accumulate a sizeable amount of clutter, but I’m definitely trying to curb that.
I am noticing I’m starting to resent this whole “Buy buy buy! Buy MORE!” attitude, where only the latest, newest and shiniest thing will and totally can complete your life one way or another. So, hmm, yes, I may want and even covet things, but do I actually need them? Well, that is a completely different issue…

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5 thoughts on “Excusez le mot…

  1. I grew up in a setting where “clean and neat” was more the priority than style, so even the idea that one could pictures on walls was a bit of a step for me (my parents don’t). So I’m totally on board with the downplayed aesthetic, not least because i have moved a lot.

    re the tech question — I think some of the tech will become more stable eventually as innovators realize better what people want. To me the best tech is a gadget that does exactly what you want, nothing more, nothing less. Usually this means somewhat less than the latest model as I don’t expect my phone to dice carrots. We have some older tech like that. But we’re probably generations away from that still. We’re still in the early phase of the McCormick reaper (to use a historical parallel) — farmers could barely afford the new stuff, but they knew that if they didn’t, they couldn’t survive. Now I think farmers have a better idea of what they really need in farming equipment — so the big fancy rigs are really only for the very largest establishments and others are happy w/less.

    My danger point is not accumulating old tech — but books.

    • Moving house is a great cathartic process, as you are confronted by all your stuff, and depending on the reason for the move, it puts you in a position where you need to decide whether to keep or toss it. Or at least, I’ve always found it to be that.

      True about the current wave of technology. I just find myself troubled by the growing mountain of electronics we have discarded to this day, all in the name of progress. Let’s hope that day comes soon enough where we don’t need X versions and waste so many resources.

      Oh books, I can feel your ‘pain,’ books are just such wonderful things. If you stay long enough on one address that is, if you’d have to move around constantly, I’m not so sure I’d be as happy.

  2. Pingback: Legenda 70: Stuff worth reading | Me + Richard Armitage

  3. I own a house that has 15 rooms, but I don’t like clutter at all, or buying furniture just to fill a space. I try to be a minimalist as possible. At least twice a year I go through everything I have and either keep it or donate it. Reading is one of my passions, so I have lots of books and it is all well worth it. 🙂

    So true about the cell phones. I just upgraded from an android to the iphone, but I bought the iphone 4 even though the iphone5 is availabe because it was less expensive. The iphone does everything I need it to do so it will be with me for a long time. I don’t upgrade phones often.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Xenia!
      Wow, 15 rooms, I wouldn’t even know what to do with that number of rooms. I think most people find it very tempting to fill them with whatever, or just don’t know what to do with empty space and feel uncomfortable, ergo it must be filled. With something. Anything.

      I’ve been noticing a growing pile of gadgets in my house as well, not to mention the accompanying power cords & chargers. And the awareness alone makes me rather reluctant to simply upgrade. So I guess I won’t see you camping out in front of a store to get the newest gadget? 😉

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