“How did consumption–the willingness to buy food, clothes, cars, electronics, appliances and homes–become Americans’ defense against economic collapse?”
This was a question posed by Katherine Reynolds Lewis in the Houston Chronicle’s article of 1/28/2008, “It is a U.S. duty to spend?” The reality is that the average American is surrounded by more clothes, electronics, and appliances than he or she needs or uses. It is one of the reasons that we struggle with controlling clutter in our lives. For example:
- Items are quickly obsolete, and we buy the newest model. Yet the older one still functions so we are reluctant to throw it out.
- Clothing styles change seasonally, yet we paid a lot of money for the last pair of jeans or dress, and there is nothing wrong with it, so it stays in the closet.
A common excuse for this collection of things is “You never know …” when you will need or want to use this again.The idea that economists are worried that a drop in consumer spending can trigger a recession poses an interesting dilemma. Is it our duty to go out and buy more even as we feel overwhelmed by our possessions?In my work with individuals who are striving to create more organization in their lives to help them keep up with daily demands, I have run into countless spare rooms stuffed with boxes of miscellaneous items, and no one knows any more what is in the boxes. Extra file cabinets are put in garages because there is no more room in the office space. Companies move into larger suites so that they have more storage room.All of this accumulation creates stress in our lives. We know we should be doing something to clear this out, but we never get around to it. Is a stressed consumer the best citizen?