The New York Times interviews Anthony P. Graesch, co-author of a new book called Life at Home in the 21st Century, based on a detailed social-science study of 32 middle-class families in L.A., meant to “understand how people handled what anthropologists call material culture — what we call stuff.”
Why do you think families are unable to manage the influx of material culture?
We can see how families are trying to cut down on the sheer number of trips to the store by buying bulk goods. How they can come to purchase more, and then not remember, and end up double purchasing.
We can see how an increasingly nucleated family structure contributes to this.
Can you explain?
It means we don’t have extended family households. We don’t live next to grandparents. And we are further away from our relatives. We go to work, we come home, and there is only four hours of time we spend together.
We feel guilty about this, and oftentimes buy gifts as a result. Grandparents contribute to possessions in no small way. Here comes Christmas, here come the birthdays. The inflow of objects is relentless. The outflow is not. We don’t have rituals, mechanisms, for getting rid of stuff.
Love that last bit (so much that I bolded it). I think that’s related to our project here at Unconsumption, and maybe particularly with our Uncollection experiment: trying to create some rituals and mechanisms around that “outflow.”