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anele_gw

A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance

anele_gw
8 years ago

I would be interested in seeing how much this applies to people here who might otherwise be described this way (middle class, 2 incomes, with children).
My guess? Because the people on this forum are more focused on design than the average person, I think it is less likely to be true. In my case, we are a one-income family, so maybe we don't fit the mold from the outset anyway.

Parts 2 and 3 are available on the side bar or as you watch the video.


Here is a link that might be useful: Part I: A Cluttered Life

Comments (105)

  • Joe
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    One aspect which has not yet been identified in the thread is the very REAL potential to be ostracized by the peer group for toy AND clothing selections.

    Spend any time in a daycare or school environment and you will witness how pervasive attitudes are, at very young ages, for brands. The marketing machine has done a terrific job of conferring status to objects. And, as parents, we also transmit our preferences to our offspring.

    Young children are often taunted by their peers for what they have and what they wear. A truly gut wrenching scene often played out when a child is classified as unpopular based strictly on possessions.

    ~bgj

  • anele_gw
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Fourkids, my kids also want to have garage sales! I don't mind having them once every 5 years (maybe), but I'd never save things for the purpose of a sale. My mom did/does and that is how we were raised. She is still holding onto my aunt's jewelry (she died over 15 years ago) because she thinks she will sell it to a consignment shop-- it's all costume jewelry. I think she actually DID take it and they offered too low a price. I agree about saving clothing! When they are far apart in age and/or body type, there is no purpose. Mine are all close in age and all the same gender, so we have constant pass-downs going on. My kids love it! That is so sweet about your mom saving your picture!!!

    Red, my parents also grew up in the depression and they are/were not hoarders. My mom has some things she does hold onto (like her work papers, since she used to do research) but not bad at all. OTOH, my ex boyfriend's mom says she grew up poor (I'm not sure how poor) and she is a true hoarder. Not the gross kind, more of the shopping addiction kind. Who assumed anything on this thread about working mothers? I must have missed that. My mom was always a working mom. I've worked from home on/off during my years home with my kids. I know I WOULD do things differently if I went back to work out of the home, though. We would definitely have more prepared foods like the people in the video. It is hard enough to cook as it is with the younger kids (getting easier), but if I were gone? Like I said above, as an adult, I get why my mom did a lot of stir fry meals. Not only was she working, she was a widow. Also, the video said that only 1 in 6 meals were eaten together. While we always eat dinner together, my husband does not-- he often gets home late, so it's just me + the kids. Technically, we are not eating dinner together!

    Billygoat, I was very worried about that with my own kids, esp. since I have all girls. I am thankfully that there is not any of that going on w/my girls, even the one who is in middle school. I don't know if it's because we have a mix of people but it's OK.

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  • mitchdesj
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I just got around to watching those videos, I like that it was factual and clear. Growing up my parents gave us what they could, we were not rich, and our home was small but never cluttered, but I must say my mom was a super housekeeper, it was almost a religion for her.

    Years ago I remember reading this sentence

    "you are what you surround yourself with"

    this gave me permission to discard and purge what did not represent me, it also motivated me to create an environment that was more streamlined. It was not easy and I had to fight my messy nature in order to achieve my goal. I still have to push myself to be orderly.

    I have great empathy for the people in the videos who are struggling with their overabundance and tight quarters, and such busy lives , it's not easy for sure.

  • Sheeisback_GW
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    As for the working/not working mom comments go reread what was written.

    Billygoatjoe makes an excellant point. I often found myself wondering about this. I recently even was thinking I'd prefer our child doesn't eat the school lunches when he starts school. Then I found myself wondering if there would be teasing because the packed lunch wouldn't consist of, what seems very common and typical, junk food. (I know of this scenario happening!)

    I don't mind toys, but I'm seeing where it could easily get out of hand. Every bithday and holiday (mainly Christmas) there are more and more toys. DS doesn't need anything and when we say that, we usually end up with toys for an older age range that isn't able to be used yet and the cycle continues. For now it makes sense for us to pack toys away until we're finished having kids, but I feel cluttered at times by it.

  • Debbie Downer
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I first saw this book years ago (see link) it left an indelible impression on me - at the time I didn't have much of an income and hence very few possession. Now 20-25 years later I still don't have all that much stuff in comparison to the average American but I do have a house and furnishings - and Im aware of the trade-off, that I've sacrificed a certain amount of mobility and freedom in order to have more material comfort. Just cant up and go like I could back in the day.

    One thing that struck me about the photos is that many of the families had very few possessions but what things they did have were so beautifully and artistically made. It kind of challenged my notions of "what is wealth," is it about quantity or could it be more about quality?

    Here is a link that might be useful: Material World: A global family portrait

  • anele_gw
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Shee, I hope anything I said was not interpreted negatively toward working mothers. If so, please tell me.

    I do think there is a big difference between both parents working. When I worked (from home) I had no time to do anything. Cooking for dinner was horrible, since I had young kids (inc a newborn). I would attempt making dinner and then go to work (in my own house) w/o time to eat. We had a lot more fast and prepared foods. Part of the reason I quit is because we spent so much money on that, and I wasn't making that much to begin with! It became expensive to work!

    During that time (3 years) I had a wakeup call. I noticed my DH did not help more. I had to do absolutely everything I normally did + work. I also did student teaching several years earlier when I was pregnant and had a toddler. I was a fairly experienced teacher by that point (long story) but it was still extremely demanding. Again, no help from him. (My mom watched my daughter.)

    I also worked out of the home part-time and brought my daughter with me when I just had one child. My DH was laid off at the time! And yup, still no help. I don't see him as lazy, believe it or not-- I don't think he is mean or is doing this intentionally. He is very smart, but clueless.

    Anyway, I realized at that point that, if I went back to work, I would STILL be doing everything I do plus work. And, while the kids are easier in many ways as they get older and I make every attempt not to overschedule, things still come up occasionally. If my kids get sick (which they do), I think I'd always have to be the one to take off. Even when my 2 kids had to go to the ER, my DH insisted on going back to work that day. When I work, I put my all into it-- I would want to do my best at work, but then how would I possibly do it at all at home, or even the minimum????

    I am sure there are families where the work is divided equally, but I've seen what would likely be my future and it isn't pretty. Even if it is divided equally, there is so much to do.

    Sorry to go OT . . .just want to be clear that in no way do I support fighting between WAHM/WOHM/SAHMs. There are challenges to all of them.

    Oh, and Shee, if it makes you feel better, my kids always bring their own lunches and no teasing ever. But, like I said, they go to a diverse school so maybe that helps.

  • Oakley
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Packing toys is a great idea, Shee. My son & his wife pack all the toys that the kids get tired of. They gave away the ones for younger kids. Since kids just love their toys, lol, when my grandkids get bored with all their toys again, they swap them out for old toys that are "new" again.

    I do save my good knick knacks...or "dust collectors." Just like a kid, when I get bored I shop from my closets. And I'm getting at the age when I find something really cute that's tucked away, I say, "Oh, I didn't know I had that!" lol

    I can't watch hoarding shows. I start itching. :)

  • blfenton
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I do not like clutter. We completely purged our house four years ago. We were moving out for a complete reno so it made sense. We moved out for six months and there were a bunch of things in storage that I didn't need nor did I miss.so I did another purge when we moved back in.

    But I have never felt the need for a lot of things. Our kids didn't have a lot of toys however what they did have was ski equipment and ski passes, bikes and helmets, basketballs and skateboards (and more helmets), gortex jackets and boots. Our basement is still full of ski gear.

    My MIL just downsized out of her 4000 sq ft home that she has lived in for almost 60 years. I told my DH up front that he can bring in one thing from her house if he wants to but we are not a storage facility for her *carp* (which is what her stuff is - she borders on hoarding). He was really respectful of my wishes and took only her blanket box that was an engagement gift from her long deceased DH. It would have had to go into storage and probably would have been ruined.

    I am a SAHM and I don't understand how this discussion became a SAHM vs everyone else discussion. However, I do object to being told that I probably buy my kids toys so I can spend my day on my IPhone. That's insulting.

  • roarah
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I only said many parents from both camps are disinterested in engaging with their child, not all and certainly not anyone in particular. I am not the only one to notice this phenomenon, many studies have recently documented this sad, but certainly not the only, parenting style.Again, I meant no insult. Just noticing a sad trend in how many families are raising their children.

    Here is a link that might be useful: a sadcreflection of the times.

  • DreamingoftheUP
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I had to chuckle about the NG magazines. When an elderly neighbor (widower) died, his kids had to toss decades worth of NG and other magazines. He had a complete set of Life magazines (which was published weekly) going back to the 30's. They contacted a "get Life magazine from the week you were born" company that sells an issue for $10. Even they didn't want it or would only offer pennies an issue. So, the neighbors kids passed them out and tossed the rest. I've got an issue from the week I was born. :)

    The other trap to run into is the "Oh, it's worth a lot of money, I'll sell it on ebay (someday)". For a few items, that might be a strategy, but if you're talking years of accumulation, it could take forever. The "Antiques Roadshow" TV program doesn't help any and it's going on almost 20 years in the US.

    The best rule, which I admit I don't always follow, is "When in doubt, throw it out!"

    This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Tue, Mar 18, 14 at 20:44

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    When does clutter become hoarding? Check out this .pdf. If your home looks like #4 or higher, you've got a problem.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Clutter image rating

  • graywings123
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I love the non-judgmental commentary of the researchers. Excellent videos. Thanks for posting this, Anele.

  • kswl2
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Re the savings issue--- did not say there were hundreds of thousands of dollars of toys in those homes. But there were probably hundreds of thousands of CHOICES to spend money on this perceived abundance rather than savings. If you understand the principle of compound interest earnings then those choices, made when the parents are young (and we know that because of the age of the children) will make a sigmificant difference in their lifestyle and comfort when they retire.

    In terms of the relative term "middle class," I would not call spending tons of money on cheap junk middle class behavior. It's the behavior of a person who is impulsive, perhaps needy, poorly disciplined, etc. , and you find that across all income and education levels.

    Speaking of conspicuous, pathological consumption, has anyone watched the movie Queen of Versailles? Same behavior, larger scale.

  • Sheeisback_GW
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Anele - Oh, that wasn't at you. Rorah commented about working parents, but she also said how it can apply to the non working parents too. A few posters seem to be misreading.
    I'll admit I'm not looking forward to the school years. :(

    Oakley - We're trying the toy rotation thing too and it seems to be working for us.

  • awm03
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'll defend shopping at Costco, which the narrators dismiss with a sniff as a "big box store." (Oh the horror. Imagine, not shopping at Whole Foods...) The authors make it look as if Costco only sells convenience/junk food, but there is plenty of fresh, frozen, or canned items for those of us who actually cook meals from scratch. And you can buy frozen mixed berries or veggie packs in the frozen aisle, ya know, not just corn dogs... I thought the video was misleading in that regard.

    When I was working with three teen sons at home, it helped a lot to buy food, toiletries, & cleaning supplies in bulk and to store it in my basement pantry. I'd shop at the local grocery store for fresh produce and items not available at Costco, but it was a time saver to have a store of staples at home that only needed replenishing every two or three months. "Some researchers found the families were only shaving off 12 minutes per meal." Well, 12 minutes times seven days is almost an hour and a half per week, assuming they only mean dinner, and even more time if they mean other meals too.

    A 12-pack of pineapple is an exaggeration -- a 6- or 8-pack is more like it. But I was glad to have 8-packs of canned veggies on hand to throw into quick stews or soups or casseroles. I'd use fresh & frozen, of course, but could stretch it with canned.

    A gallon of milk is a lot cheaper at Costco than at my local Stop & Shop.

    Had to laugh at the scene in the food video where the woman is explaining about buying meat in bulk and dividing it up into dinner-sized portions along with other ingredients stored in the freezer for quick meals. The co-author looks amazed at this clever idea. Really, is she so out of touch with the workings of the middle class family cook that she's never heard of this time-honored tip before?

    I'm with oakley -- too much labeling. "Why do Americans have so much stuff?" Such a sweeping pronouncement based on a sampling of only 32 families.

  • anele_gw
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Awm, I think you hit the nail on the head-- this was a sample size of 32 families! And, in the video, they seemed to focus on one family in particular. I did not see 32 homes. Perhaps the book is more comprehensive and the video just sensationalistic.

    I also did not think the actual video commentary was impartial. Some of it, yes, but there was one woman in particular who gave some non-verbal disapproval.

    I know plenty of people who fall into the "middle class" category and do not live like that. However, I am thankful for all the discussion, and am more motivated to keep plugging away at decluttering when seeing this type of thing. (I was not in the mood to clean at all the other day, but Hoarders came on and I happily started cleaning within minutes.)

    Personally, I don't even want it to come into the house in the first place. I am often paralyzed with making decisions about what to buy as a result, which creates its own problems . . .I think of the waste of money (even small amounts) and it's horrifying to me, as well as how I will then have to find a new home for the item.

    This is why I have a love/hate relationship w/my home. It represents a lot of what I do not like-- my pickiness, lack of money to fix what I want, reminders of mistakes, etc.! But, when I see people (esp. my kids) enjoying it, then I forget all that (sort of!). I am ready to be done w/my LR in particular and call it "good enough." Change is often what leads to clutter!

  • chispa
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Annie, I'm a 1 or less in all the rooms on the Clutter image rating! What I find interesting is that they don't differentiate between clutter/stuff and being a lousy housekeeper. In many of the photos the rooms go from neat to messy not because they got/bought more stuff, but because they started dumping their trash on the floor or other surfaces. So hoarding seems to occur more due to the inability to throw out everyday things and trash versus the ability to go out and buy lots of new material things.

  • kswl2
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Awm03, you have misunderstood that scene in the food video "where the woman is explaining about buying meat in bulk and dividing it up into dinner-sized portions along with other ingredients stored in the freezer for quick meals."

    The homeowner was talking about a commercial kitchen like Dinner A'Fare, where people order meals they put together themselves using the premade sauces, ingredients and meat provided. Each meal is sealed in plastic, then a ziplock and frozen, and comes with printed cooking instructions. The interviewer was remarking on the cleverness of that type meal preparation. It's not available in all places, so she may not be as "out of touch" as your comment suggests.

  • polly929
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thank goodness for my local freecycle! I regularly give away toys, baby items and household items I no longer use. Clutter makes me itch. This has been a long winter in NJ, I am planning on a really good spring cleaning/purge very soon!

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I didn't find the study particularly critical as much as it was reporting the facts. Perhaps some of the facts hit too close to home for some, but don't shoot the messenger. I thought it was interesting that the mother mentioned the toys coming from birthday parties and such...makes it easier to blame outside forces than recognize the role one plays in contributing to their own clutter.

    I thought it was interesting when one researcher remarked that there is a firm process in place in the home for acquisition, but fundamentally no process for ridding the home of the stuff. (I know I suffer this with magazines, esp NYers, where they come in at a rate far faster than I can read and toss them...they continue to accumulate.)

    I also thought the fact one researcher stated eye opening. America has 3% of the world's children and 40% of the world's toys. Amazing! The sample size may be small but from what was shown, it certain would seem to be representative of that fact. Old neighbors of ours, both working parents, added on a 3-car garage (they already had a 2 car garage) and built a large bonus room over the garage which became the play room. We went there and the place looked like a warehouse for Toys R Us. What I found most interesting was all of the children there, surrounded by these fabulous toys, were in front of the TV playing video games. Everything else was untouched.

    About shopping at costco, etc. I didn't think the nonverbal communication was disdaining shopping at costco, but more at the effort that goes into the transporting and warehousing the material, which results in its own inefficiencies including not remembering that you already have plenty of whatever so end up buying even more and having to warehouse even more.

    Anele, re hoarding and mental illness. Oh absolutely the real hoarders are truly mentally ill. To live the way they live is unbelievable. And for many, if they house is cleaned but they aren't treated, the hoards return in a matter of weeks. However, as with many mental illnesses, their roots are in human nature which we all share. So I may not weigh 500 lbs, but I can relate to self indulgence and overeating. I may not have a house crammed to the rafters, but I can understand emotional attachment to objects and the struggle to deal with loss. I don't have a shopping addiction, but I have experienced the emotional high one can get from shopping.

    Beyond just paying for all the stuff that's stuffing our houses is the rapid growth and the expense of self storage units. Here are some interesting facts:

    . rentable self storage space in the US is now 3x the size of Manhattan and the fastest growing segment of commercial real estate market

    . nearly 1 in 10 households rent self storage space, up from 6% in 1995

    . 10 x 10 unit costs an average $115/month to $146/month if climate controlled

    . 68% of self storers live in a single family home

    . 65% of all self storage renters have a garage but still rent a unit; 47% have an attic in their home; and 33% have a basement

    Here is a link that might be useful: Self Storage fact sheet

  • fouramblues
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I was horrified by Annie's link - there's TRASH on the floor in option 2! I'm 1 or lower in most rooms of my house now (except the attic, which is starting to look like an episode of Hoarders, no lie). When I was working, with 3 small children, my house keeping was lacking and there was plenty of stuff (toys) on the floor, but not garbage!!

  • joaniepoanie
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Annie.......you made my day....my rooms are a 1! Although I do admit some drawers/closets might nudge towards 2, over all my living areas are in great shape! The basement is another story.....maybe a 3/4.....but not messy like in the pics....just too much stuff we need to purge. Nice to know Im not as bad as I thought I was!

  • kswl2
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    That's exactly what I'm talking about Annie, that $100 per month, invested at an 8%average return for 30 years.....

    And people complain they have no money for retirement. I look at poor people who smoke and think how much that money they're burning could improve their financial lives, not to mention health. As the king of Siam says, it's a puzzlement...

  • awm03
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    kswl, you're right. And the 12 minutes time savings per meal comment was about using such prepackaged meals, not buying in bulk vs. shopping locally as needed. Shame on me for not double checking before posting.

    Still, there's just something about these videos that grates. "There is over 400 linear feet of frozen foods in the big box stores..." But it's not all cr@p like they imply, and grocery stores have large frozen food aisles too filled with much of the same, so why pick on Costco? Is there true dysfunction in these families or are they just harried, hard working but otherwise loving families muddling through life? If their only problems are clutter, prepackaged dinners, and lack of storage, I'm not so sure there's a real issue here.

  • anele_gw
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Annie, I didn't say the study was critical. I agreed with others that 32 families is not a large sample size.

    I also didn't mean that there were non-verbal criticisms in the Costco portion. I don't remember where they were in the series, but one woman was very impartial when relaying info, whereas the other gave some subtle cues that indicated disapproval. (She was also supportive in other areas, but this was only when discussing things directly with the homeowner.)

    Awm, like I said, I don't shop at Costco because I don't think we'd use it wisely, but as I mentioned, I have a frugal friend who does. She gets higher quality food there at a price she can better afford. I've also heard that Costco treats their employees well, which is another plus.

    And you're so right about the local grocery store . . .we had some friends visit from a small town in Ireland. They were shocked by just the cereal aisle.

    RE: the number of toys people have . . .not a surprise that US children have so many. We are a society of overindulgence.

  • kswl2
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Awm, I agree with you that they have singled out Costco--- unfairly, as the local kroger's grocery store in my town sells a lot of bulk goods and even sells leather furniture in the lobby!

    The focus of the videos is clutter, and how the acquisition, storage and payment for it affect the way a family lives. I think they are trying to convey that the clutter itself causes many problems--- not saying that underlying problems are the cause of the clutter. In some families, clutter may just be a bad habit. In others, it may signal deeper problems, but in all, it negatively affects the way they live. The videos seem pretty objective.

  • Circus Peanut
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    From an outside perspective, I simply don't understand why having children means one must have miles of Chinese-made plastic tubs filled with Chinese-made plastic toys in virtually every room in the house. They're cheap, hideous, possibly carcinogenic and certainly not durable; they have no virtue other than (perhaps?) a passing sentimental attachment to the person who sought them out.

    Why?

  • persnicketydesign
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've been on the boards for years, but rarely get the chance to post very often, but I found this fascinating. I probably looked at it from a little different perspective than most.

    I own an estate sale/downsizing company, so I'm afforded the opportunity to go into lots of homes and look in all those nooks & crannies that no one wants the outside world to see. Here are a few things that I see everyday....

    The estate sale homes usually have an abundance of linens. I'm talking about 20-30 sets of sheets (all more than 20 years old) and dozens of blankets for a 3 bedroom house. 50 year old furniture is generally in immaculate condition. Cleaning supplies are sparse, but stored neatly under each sink. There's only one vacuum. The small appliances are minimal & in working order. There is an abundance of Tupperware & cookbooks. The freezer is full of Ziploc bags with things grown in the garden. I don't recall ever having done an ES where there wasn't a sewing machine and sewing supplies. There are always yard and hand tools to fix things around the house.

    The downsizing families (45-65 age range) are selling large furniture, clothes, TVs & other electronics, books, clothes, china & glassware, artwork, clothes, vintage toys & games, decorative sit-abouts, yard tools and CLOTHES! Everything is generally in good shape although we do find a few repaired or damaged items.

    Moving sales for young families are a whole different story. We do these most often for people who are being transferred for work and don't want to take anything with them. The garage is lined with metal shelves full of cleaning supplies...although the house is upside down and hasn't been cleaned in ages. There's a vacuum on each floor, carpet cleaner, and more Swiffers than household members. There are bikes & helmets in the garage, but the kids are buried under piles of stuffed animals in their rooms watching TV or playing video games on their unmade beds (even though the families know we're coming for a walk through). There's normally a stocked freezer in the garage. The furniture looks like rabid raccoons have been living in the house for the past year. Clothing is piled in corners. Toys are piled higher. Empty plastic storage containers are everywhere. There are broken appliances that were never thrown out, although a brand new one will be sitting beside it. The den is lined with shelves of DVDs and framed photos. The dining room, master bedroom & master bath are almost always immaculate.

    I know that young families are busy...we were once young with small kids too. I've heard time & time again "Sorry about the mess. We both work." If everybody works & the kids are at school, there's nobody there to mess it up. Declutter, please. :)

  • TxMarti
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Oakleyok, I see where the conclusion came from. I thought the video producers made it. But I tend to agree that people who spend a lot of money on stuff don't have as much savings.

    However, my kids had tons of toys so it probably looked like we spent a lot of money on toys. Way too many for their rooms. But I didn't buy it - their grandparents did.

    I used to watch The Hoarders all the time and most of those people had spent their savings on stuff. It was so sad to see the older people losing their homes and all their hoarded stuff and no money to live anywhere else.

  • TxMarti
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Oh, and thanks to that video I felt totally guilty when I was buying 3 huge boxes of Ritz crackers at Costco yesterday. ;)

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    anele, sorry for the misunderstanding. The only paragraph I addressed specifically to you was in answer to your question to me about hoarding and mental illness. I didn't mean to imply you said things you didn't.

  • anele_gw
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Circuspeanut, having children certainly doesn't mean that at all. That's the unfortunate part about those videos-- leads people to generalize.

    Persnickety, what a great comparison. I do know of some older people who have way too much (more along the lines of books, papers, etc.) but overall, I get your overall message. I think the reason some people have so many cleaning supplies is that they don't clean and use what they have up, then they have too many things to find the bottles they originally bought so they buy more, etc. Crazy cycle. I think I would pass out if I had to live in the 2nd type of house you described.

    Marti8, my friend has the same issue re: grandparents buying toys. One grandfather alone buys so many toys (big, plastic ones that she would never buy). For him, the bigger the better. It is really hard because he is involved in the kids' lives . . .doesn't live close by but makes the drive often to see them, even for little events. Nothing she can really do that would not involve hurt feelings. LOL about the crackers! Life is too short to feel guilty!

    Annie-- sorry for misunderstanding!

  • writersblock (9b/10a)
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    >I know I suffer this with magazines, esp NYers, where they come in at a rate far faster than I can read and toss them...they continue to accumulate.

    You know, Annie, our local library maintains a magazine box. You can bring the ones you've read and rummage through for something you haven't seen yet. I think it's a great idea. Maybe your local library could start one.

    Well, although I'm not at all in the target group for the videos, being single, I would have said my house is usually fairly cluttered before I watched those videos. I guess I'm tidier than I thought. But I have to say that I don't personally know anyone who lives like that, regardless of their income level or age. (Not saying it doesn't happen; I just wonder how widespread it is.)

    While I don't do Costco etc because I have no storage space for all that stuff, I'd point out that even an uber frugalist like Mr Money Mustache (who would definitely tell them to invest that hundred bucks instead of spending it) approves of it if you have self-discipline:

    Here is a link that might be useful: Is costco worth it?

  • TheRedHouse
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    When the mom interviewed talked about how stuff just comes in from all directions it really resonated with me. Clearly, that particular family chose many of those items that make up the clutter, but with young kids, junk really does come in from everywhere.

    I have two kids and almost every time they leave the house, they come back with something. It might be school papers or projects, stickers from the grocery or doctor, a craft from camp, or a prize bag from a party. Once, my kids even came home with tiny bird bones in an Altoids tin. Thanks a bunch nature camp! It was quite some time before they were willing to part with those. The gifts they receive are not things I would ever chose for them- when we have cheap, plastic toys in great quantities it's almost always because they were given as gifts. When their grandparents visit they love to take the kids to the dollar store to pick things out, despite our asking them not to do that.

    I feel for these families. My clutter tolerance is near zero so I'm constantly battling The Stuff That Is Everywhere. It doesn't take a ton of energy to acquire things, especially when they come from outside sources, but it does take a lot of effort to get rid of things. When the anthropologists talked about the families not having a mechanism to de-clutter, I think they really overlooked the time commitment, the emotional energy, and the physical work of putting in place a mechanism for regular de-cluttering.

    So far, my own keep-it-neat strategies have included:

    -Stashing prize bags and the like until the kids forget about them, and then tossing/recycling the contents

    -Tossing junk toys the minute when they break- provided they're unfixable/unusable.

    -Donating toys and clothes they're done using that are still in good shape

    -Craigslisting the nicer toys and kid gear and putting the proceeds in their college accounts. I do this mostly with the high quality wooden toys I've purchased.

    -Giving things we no longer use to neighbors and friends

    -Asking the kids to consider whether or not they really want/need papers from school etc. They have a "special box" to save things that are important to them and the rest we recycle (minus the examples of their work that I save)

    -Teaching the kids that they can decline something that's offered to them

    Frankly, it's exhausting.

  • blfenton
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My niece just had her second son on the weekend and she hates clutter and to that end she has made it perfectly clear to the grandparents that they are NOT to give the baby or her first son any toys, clothes, etc to the kids. If they do give anything like that it will go back. If they want to give them anything it is to be money for the kids educations.

    Her mother was a spender of money on junk (she still is but now she is an -ex so my brother doesn't have to pay her bills anymore) and my niece grew up in a house of clutter and junk.

    Costco is a great place to shop but like ALL grocery shopping you have to go with a list and not get sucked into buying extra things. The Canadian Costcos have, except for local meat markets, probably the best quality and prices for meat. And I was one of those people who brought the meat packets home and repackaged them into smaller portions and froze them.

  • mejjie
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Very interesting videos and discussion. Thanks for posting this.

    Would the reactions have been the same, specifically the "itchiness" many people experienced, if instead of possessions cluttering up living areas the video showed shelves and shelves of Rubbermaid bins neatly lined up in the basement of some 3000-plus square foot house? Is neatly organized excess more acceptable than messy excess?

  • mjlb
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Neatly organized excess definitely is more acceptable -- to me, at least!

  • Oakley
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Blfenton, why don't you tell your niece about toy rotation? As a grandmother I'd be devastated if I weren't allowed to buy things for my grandkids. Of course I don't lavish toys on them all the time, but I will buy them something special here and there.

  • deegw
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Neatly organized excess gives me the heebie jeebies too.

    I often have people come into my house and say "where's your stuff?". Part of it is personality, part of it is that we have moved often and that forces you to ruthlessly purge.

    Thankfully my children are older and we are out of the stage where everyone and their brother showers them gifts. It wasn't just plastic stuff - there was expensive lifelike baby dolls, American Girls and all their stuff and electronics. Of course, even the expensive stuff looks like junk when it's in a big, tangled pile.

  • mejjie
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Our toy closet would definitely give you major heebie jeebies, deee!

    Sometimes I think the neatly organized is worse-I've spent significant amounts of time organizing stuff and money on storage containers in my lifetime! And I don't even have those rows of shelved bins.

    Something else to think about-if we citizens of first world nations stop consuming the goods of developing nations then how are those nations going to lift their citizens out of extreme poverty, as China has lifted millions?

    Like I said before-fascinating topic!

  • fourkids4us
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I guess I should be thankful that my parents do not shower my kids with toys and other material things. I remember when my kids were little and were always getting stuffed animals as gifts. My mother saw how many they had and vowed never to ever give another stuffed animal as a baby gift to anyone-she didn't realize so many people gave them as gifts that kids were overwhelmed by them. My mother, as mentioned before, frugal as well as extremely practical, asks me what to get my kids for Christmas and birthdays. Much of the time, I can't even think of anything much, so often she'll get them one thing they want and then give them cash for their personal savings accounts. MIL used to give us things that my kids had no interest in or were just clutter toys they didn't use (she lives far away) but thankfully now she sends Visa cards or a check.

    Coincidentally, today I went to visit my parents for lunch - my father wanted to show me where he kept all their personal financial/bill paying info in case something should happen to him (my mother is mostly computer illiterate except for googling on an iPad). While there, my father mentioned that he was going to clean out the attic soon. When I mentioned that I didn't think he had anything up there, he said it wasn't much, but much of it apparently mine! I didn't even realize they still had it (an old bike rack from my car, an old ride on toy my kids used to use). I looked around their kitchen and told them I was so thankful they were not collectors/consumers. If they ever downsize or when they both pass, it won't be too difficult a task going through their things. Well, except for the hundreds of books on my father's office. Aside from that, not too much stuff.

    For the most part, my friends, though consumers, do not live amidst clutter. In fact, the majority of my friends have fairly well-kept, clutter free homes. Even when I stop by unexpectedly...their homes are not full of clutter. Do they look lived in? Sure, but that doesn't mean clutter necessarily. There might be stuff on the counters from breakfast, or a laundry basket full of clothes waiting to be folded, but not toys everywhere or piles of stuff everywhere. Offhand I can only think of one friend who has a lot of clutter...mostly toys, and yes her kids are totally spoiled and are the definition of spoiled brat.

    I totally agree with TheRedHouse that it doesn't take much energy to acquire things, especially in my family with four kids who seem to bring home paper and more paper from school despite being a "green" school. As for projects, I stopped being sentimental long ago and throw most of their projects out. If something took a lot of effort and they want to save it, we take a picture of it. My son has a science project due soon and they've even stopped doing the tri-fold displays...now all the info is entered into a google doc online where they can be creative using downloaded images, fonts,etc. Heaven!!!!! And to think I saved my other kids' tri folds for him to use as examples-now I can throw them out!

    Oh, does anyone have any use for Madame Alexander dolls? :) I'm not sure why MIL thought they made a good gift but for years she gave them to my dd-knowing we had absolutely no storage/display space for them. And why a kid would want a doll that just sits on a shelf? for years they've been sitting on a shelf in her closet in their original boxes b/c I couldn't bear the idea of just giving away these expensive dolls! And too lazy to try to sell them on Craigslist or eBay. See, this is how some of us obtain clutter....

  • mjlb
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I just went to website for Madame Alexander dolls, and depending on which ones you have, some may really appeal to adults. Which reminds me about my grandmother -- she was too poor to have a doll when she was a child, so she collected them when she was all grown up.

    Less sentimentally (but honestly!), if you ship then all to me, I'll sell them! After I give a couple of choice ones to my niece, that is -- she's um, 38 years old.

    This post was edited by mjlb on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 17:55

  • teeda
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Here's a link to an NYT article interviewing one of the anthropologists in the study.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Interview with UCLA Researcher

  • peegee
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Anele - thanks for this thought-provoking thread. You posted on a Monday - on Saturday before, I felt compelled to post my reflections in a long-winded post entitled "OMG - What a wreck" after emotionally experiencing the impact of possessions at an estate sale. There was so much stuff I wondered how the owners fit. Few people likely read my ramblings - my post dropped like a stone - but I felt it a real coincidence; your fascinating video's were to me so timely! For anyone interested, I'll bump up mine.
    I'm wondering if there may be a backlash afoot regarding unrestrained consumerism and new parents. I know my daughter has set very firm rules about what she will have in her home for her new baby, and basically anything plastic and/or from China, not organic or BPH free, etc. etc. is out, and overall quantity is limited.

  • kswl2
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Peewee, good for your daughter! We had a very strict "no toy guns" policy that was occasionally not respected, and I threw the toys away without any guilt whatsoever. When our children were very small we lived in a three bedroom Manhattan apartment and toys were carefully edited to them from taking over. At birthdays and Christmas we had a "one in, one out" rule...when our kids made their Christmas list it was never more than a few items, because they knew toys would have to go to make room for the new stuff.

    In our family, Grandparents bought toys that stayed at their own houses. My parents kept very few toys and the inlaws stocked a lot more at their house, but many dated from DH's childhood. We weren't inundated with stuff for the kids. My brother's stepson at the time, 11 years old and at an English boarding school, usually received only three or four gifts for Christmas. Even with our relatively anti consumerist attitudes we all felt sorry for him even though his mother assured us that it was their norm. I was struck by the difference in consumer attitudes between countries.

  • tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Peegee, I wonder if it is more of an adjustment than a backlash. The world has been changing so much and so very quickly that it has taken this long for many to adjust and figure out how to cope. Dh and I got each kid one present for Christmas and even though they received gifts from other people and have no unsatisfied needs, I still felt bad about just one gift.

  • pnbrown
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Tell me about it. We are cleaning up a large property we co-own with my parents for sale and the sheer amount of stuff is utterly staggering. We none of us had any idea how much, and we didn't think it was sparse, either.

    I am totally committed to low-clutter now.

  • sapphire6917
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My mother raised five of us in a three bedroom, 1 bathroom house. She was a single working mother without a lot of disposable income when we were younger so we never had an issue with an abundance of anything. When we got older, she started to accumulate things, ranging from nice brand new items to estate sale cast offs.

    When I became an adult, I realized that my mother had absolutely nothing from her youth and precious little from our youth so I started keeping everything. Some was in boxes at her house and the rest were in boxes with me. I moved almost every four years and would lug it around with me. Then I rented a two bedroom apartment with an attic and basement access for almost ten years. It was a very tidy place since I had no kids or pets with associated items and all of my excess was in the storage spaces. And then I bought a house and had to move. In the process of packing, I couldn't believe the kinds of things I was holding on to -- pay stubs from jobs I hadn't worked at in over a decade, receipts and/or manuals for items that had long since been disposed of, greeting cards from people whose names I didn't recognize anymore. I can't even remember how much I trashed. Yet, after getting rid of all of that, it still took me a full week to move from that apartment and I still left stuff behind and had a gigantic pile of discard on the curb for the scavengers and garbage men. I was mentally scarred by that experience.

    When it came time to unpack at the house, I was ruthless with the things I kept. There was so much on the curb, it looked like I was moving out instead of moving in. This is a much bigger space than the apartment but I have a fraction of the items I had there. I don't believe in storage anymore. I turned a large portion of my attic into a walk in closet. The unfinished side has a few suitcases that also hold out of season clothing and less than ten boxes of keepsakes. My basement holds construction materials for the work I'm having done and inventory for my side business. Everything is easily accessible. I only own two pieces of furniture that are designed solely to display or store items and one is a china cabinet. I don't bring items into my home unless they have a clearly defined purpose. I have a wine rack that I use for magazines and if there is no open slot for a new magazine, I have to get rid of one, whether I've read it or not.

    I have tried to get my mother to get some discipline around her home but it falls on deaf ears. So I often tell her three things. 1. You are too old to deal with all of this stuff so I will help you purge but I won't help you manage it. 2. You will still "look like you're asleep" when all of this stuff hits the curb. 3. If you even get halfway to the Hoarders level, I will drag you out of the house by your ankles and burn the house down.

  • sherryquilts
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Those videos & all the posts have been so interesting to read. My parents married in 1955 just out of high school. My dad passed away in 2005 at age 68 after a short fight with cancer and my Mom is in a nursing home with Alzheimers. I know when we had to move my Mom out of her home she shared with Dad for so long, their dream home, there was so much to go through. My Mom didn't like to throw away anything, but she wasn't a hoarder. She still had an item my hubby made her & Dad when he was in woodshop in high school when we were dating. They had so many wonderful heirlooms from the family but they had a large home & it took a long time to go through things. I've always been a neat freak when it comes to my home but I do love my collections and decor. After watching those videos, our family is no where near where those people are, I couldn't stand all that clutter! I'm gonna have hubby watch those videos and tell me my sewing/quilting room is NOT so bad afterall! That woud be the only room in my house that gets messy and cluttered. I tend to purge things after awhile & give away to family or Good Will. Getting older though I do think about getting rid of some things so our kids won't have such a chore. But, I think live with what makes you happy. Enjoy what you love in your home, you only get one chance. I have so many wonderful heirlooms from my family from furniture to quilts made by my Grandmas & Great Grandmas, crocks and wonderful dishes, cups & saucers from Grandma, etc. Those things mean the world to me, to my kids, probably not much. That makes me sad. It's a different generation!

  • patty_cakes
    8 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think there comes a time when you know it's time to get rid of things and have the mindset to do it. I've told my kids when I'm 80, I'll have a living estate sale~I'm 71 now. They won't have a clue what things are worth, so I've decided I need to take the bull by the horns and do it myself to make sure they don 't give everything away. Should I downsize and get a smaller home before then, there's a good possibility I'll do a bit of purging. I don't really have any collections, but I do love my white vintage tureens/covered bowls......and my Christmas decorations. ;)