The Clutter Culture

Does your garage look like the photo above? You're not alone. According to research by anthropologists published in a new book Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century, 75% of garages in the United States are no longer used to keep cars. They're used to store stuff.

Walk into any dual-income, middle-class home in the U.S. and you will come face to face with an awesome array of stuff—toys, trinkets, family photos, furniture, games, DVDs, TVs, digital devices of all kinds, souvenirs, flags, food and more. We put our stuff anywhere in the house, everywhere there's room, or even if there's no room. Park the car on the street so we can store our stuff in the garage. Pile the dirty laundry in the shower because there's nowhere else to store it and no time to wash it.

George Carlin famously observed that "a house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it."

We are a clutter culture ...

The book details the life inside 32 dual-income, middle-class household with school-age children. That last bit turns out to be quite important, as they turned out to be one of the major sources of stuff:

Life at Home notes that "our data suggest that each new child in a household leads to a 30-percent increase in a family’s inventory of possessions during the preschool years alone."

A focus on children exists in every culture, of course, but Americans have, inevitably, taken the impulse to a whole other level. Indeed, the study found kids' stuff everywhere, crowding out their parents' possessions to such an extent that even home offices and studies (more than half of the 32 households had rooms dedicated to work or schoolwork) were crammed with toys and other childrelated objects. "Every good girl should have a whole ton of Barbies," one Life at Home mom helpfully explains.

Graesch surmises that "Dual-income parents get to spend so very little time with their children on the average weekday, usually four or fewer waking hours. This becomes a source of guilt for many parents, and buying their children toys, clothes and other possessions is a way to achieve temporary happiness during this limited timespan."

Jack Feuer of UCLA Magazine has more details: Link - Thanks Tiffany!

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