More of my conversation with Claire Rubach a.k.a. “The Home Weeder.” Those who have emailed or called looking for help with their “stuff” can contact Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her website: www.thehomeweeder.com. She’s a thoughtful, empathetic guide as well as a sturdy practical helper, ready to roll up her sleeves and assist in figuring out what to do with all your “stuff”.
Real Estate of Mind: We were talking about how often people say: “I don’t know what happened or how I managed to accumulate this much stuff!” It’s almost like they’ve been sleepwalking or maybe sleep-shopping through life, caught in the throes of a deep somnambulistic trance.
HomeWeeder: In some ways it is like sleepwalking. Most of us live unquestioningly within the established confines of our daily culture. It’s difficult to step outside long enough to shine a conscious light on our own habits.
REOM: Like one fish asking another fish “What’s water?” when all the fish are so used to swimming around in it that they never think of questioning it?
HW: Right. That’s the consumer culture we’re born into. The milieu of stuff. Making it. Advertising it. Wanting it. Buying it. Showing it off. Keeping it. Struggling with places to put it. The phrase “S–t Happens” is popular, but I think “Stuff happens” is a much better existential statement. So many of us just wake up one day, look around and wonder how “it” all got here.
REOM: We were talking about World War 2 and the economic expansion that followed, accompanied by the arrival of the baby-boom generation.
HW: And those baby-boomers had their formative years in the 1950s, when consumer culture was really coming into its own. They/we were imprinted by non-stop notions of new and improved, dream kitchens, the latest fashions, keeping up with the Jones’. Madison Avenue had more products to promote even as the average consumption of TV increased to 6 hours a day.
REOM: Planned obsolescence was even considered a good thing in many ways.
HW: Growth in industry was fueled and sustained by growth in consumption. Buying stuff became an inexorable part of our Democratic Ideal. During the height of the Cold War it was considered anti-patriotic to save too much rather than buy more things.
REOM: Here we are more than a half century later. It’s been quite a ride hasn’t it?
HW: Fast-forward the culture and our attachment to stuff has been super-sized. We’ve got Walmart, Target and Costco. More things are mass produced and getting even cheaper. Planned obsolescence morphed into instant gratification. Order almost anything on Amazon.com and it can be there the next day. Our houses are bigger so we furnish them with more stuff. We have closets as big as the bedrooms we used to sleep in. And his and hers closets so we don’t have to share.
REOM: And as super-sized as our houses are, we¹ve almost outgrown them. There are acres of Storage Lockers to rent. PODS. Tough Sheds. Places like IKEA that offer new ways to hide your stuff in plain sight. There are Flea Markets, Craigslist and Garage Sales. And many of us still have two car garages that haven¹t seen a car in decades.
And so it goes! Next week, we’ll try to get to the bottom of our stuff once and for all by offering baby-steps for baby-boomers trying to get their houses in order.