Monthly Archives: July 2014

Emptying Your Rice Bowl

UnknownContinuing the discussion…. Emptying the rice bowl: Re-thinking our relationship with all the “stuff” we buy and cram into our houses until the bitter end.

A necessary precursor to designing more graceful strategies for growing older, facing change and moving into the future. Mindfully engaging in real life experiences rather than living a life defined by “things”.

It’s a perplexing time for baby boomers. They’re feeling the onset of their own mortality. Even as they venture down the road towards the last third of their lives.

There’s a dawning awareness that in order to take that next step in the journey, they need a viable exit strategy for the place they are in now.

Making room for the new begins by getting rid of the old. All the baggage that’s been collecting, literally and figuratively, in closets, cabinets, junk drawers and garages. Freeing up space (in the rice bowl) acts an open invitation to replenish the soul with something different.

Thanks to all who sent photos of their overflowing garages after last week’s column. Specially the clever person who photo-shopped in a mountain of rice cascading out of their half-opened garage door.

When you are an over-the-top, habitual collector of “stuff”, it’s helpful to know you aren’t alone in the world. Specially if you harbor at least a modicum of self-awareness about your own pack-ratting proclivities.

As someone who makes house calls to thousands of homes and regularly peers into the intimate recesses of all those overwrought secret stash and storage spaces, I’m convinced that everyone in America belongs somewhere on the spectrum of disorder known as the Horder’s Scale.

Is it a fluke that so many current Reality TV shows are centered around people’s addiction to stuff?

How many shows are there about Horders? Storage Wars? Pawn Stars? What’s all the morbid fascination really about? Why do we love watching people swimming/drowning in their own seas full of stuff?

I think we’ve come to a tipping point in a national crisis of “content(s)”. There’s a shift happening among members of the most privileged generation in history (post-war baby boomers). A realization that perhaps they’ve been filling their lives up with the wrong form of sustenance all this time. A sense that more really does become less when there’s way too much of it.

Sorta like that odd aha moment most children of the TV generation have spontaneously had: The more cable channels there are the less there is that you really want to watch.

It’s as good a metaphor as any for the fundamental struggle of our waning times. Not the struggle between the haves and the have-nots. More like the struggle the haves are having with themselves.

Even as billions of people in less privileged countries are aspiring to become credit card carrying members of the global consumer culture so they can own more of the same stuff that so many Americans have sitting in piles in their garages.

The world economy is based on continuous growth. Expanding production of goods matched by the ever-expanding consumption of goods. Without a lot of thought given to the depletion of the natural, non-renewable resources of the planet.

Look up the tortured definition of the world “consume” On one hand it means eating, drinking and absorbing the nutrition necessary for survival. More often it means the destruction, using up and squandering of anything that gets in its way.

Tuberculosis was once known as “consumption”. A reference to people wasting away from the inside. Perhaps the ultimate challenge for the baby boom generation lies in modeling the way for future generations to step out of the bonds of a consumer culture.