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Americans are Obsessed with Stuff


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Human Events:


Americans are Obsessed with Stuff
by Skyla Freeman
08/10/2010

Forget about pets, raptures, "whirled peas," and babies on board—the universal American bumper sticker should be "I Love Stuff." From the flea markets of upstate New York to the mega malls of Minnesota, from the dollar stores of Alabama to the co-ops of San Francisco, we all share one, unifying cause: acquisition.

It doesn't matter if you're a minimalist, environmentalist, or neat freak, you're still going to buy stuff: It'll just be streamlined stuff, eco-friendly stuff, or Container Store stuff that will keep all your stuff from touching your other stuff. From our houses to our sneakers, better stuff is a cherished American Dream.

Pessimists have bemoaned our over-packed wagons since the founding of the nation, preaching the pitfalls of too much ownership. Even that great paramour of America, Alexis de Tocqueville, couldn't resist complaining about our avid attaining: "The desire of acquiring the comforts of the world [in America] haunts the imagination of the poor, and the dread of losing them that of the rich."

He wasn't alone. Wherever American pioneers reached a new frontier—the West, the Continental Divide, the Pacific—there was an alarmist right behind them, ready to fret over their devotion to Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogues and the desire to add an addition to the sod house (more room for the quilt collection).

Most Americans were just trying to keep up with the Jeffersons. Our third President, like many of his contemporaries, wasn't deaf to the siren song of stuff. Thomas Jefferson's book-buying compulsion filled his home and emptied his wallet until he had the inspiration to invent government contracting. Congress purchased his collection as the foundation of the Library of Congress; he made a tidy sum and bought more books. snip
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"dollar stores of Alabama to the co-ops of San Francisco"

 

The author, Skyla Freeman, may come from Alabama but I resent this bastardization of the word co-ops.

 

Co-operatives have a great history with farmers, electric power companies, and other providers of services to rural areas.

States such as Alabama have more real co-ops with real working men and women than San Francisco has dilettantes.

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pollyannaish
Container Store stuff that will keep all your stuff from touching your other stuff.

 

:lmfao:

 

I love the container store. I hate to admit this, but I do love stuff, even as I try to say I don't care.

 

But don't you think this is a human thing...not just an American thing?

 

And Peppershout I agree on co-ops. Our local farmer's co-op is great and it is most certainly not a patchouli oil filled hippy thing. If that's what the author was implying. :lol:

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I hate to admit it, shoutpollyannaish, but I think this is an American thing. It might be the negative side to our "exceptionalism," the go-get-em spirit that is still typical of lots of Americans.

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I hate to admit it, shoutpollyannaish, but I think this is an American thing. It might be the negative side to our "exceptionalism," the go-get-em spirit that is still typical of lots of Americans.

 

I agree, and this is one of the reasons for the high level of personal debt in our culture.....most of just have to have the latest stuff. I am an exception to the rule. I abhor debt and therefore resist the temptation of the latest technology. Moreover, the current need to be in 24/7 communication with the world at large irritates me to no end.

 

Just think of all the "stuff" that have become social necessities that weren't even SciFi components when many of us on TRR were teenagers.

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pollyannaish

Maybe us naturalized Americans are immune?

I can't stand stuff, or clutter! :o

 

Oh, I am with you there! I am a total throw-er-away-er and I hate having a lot of clutter and knick-knacy stuff that has to be dusted. But, I do like nice things when I can afford them.

 

If I have the opportunity to buy, say, a better sofa (or one I like better) and I could do it without buying it on credit...I would. Same holds true for the car, or clothes or a bedspread. An old sofa (or car or clothes) can be perfectly functional...but in many cases I'd like to get a new one. In fact, we HAVE old furniture and haven't been able to buy new stuff. Sometimes I'm very embarrassed by the state of our furniture after 22 years of wear and tear, children and pets. But that doesn't keep me from wanting new, less beat up furniture.

 

Is this drive different in other countries?

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Pollyannaish,

I think the obsession with "stuff" is universal.

But, in the 15+ years we've been here we have noticed that many Americans seem to be obsessed with having more and more things...often things they can ill-afford! There seems to be more of a "keeping up with Jones's" attitude here?

I know of people who have changed their home decor, bought cars and even horses -- just so they can fit in with other people in their neighborhoods! (Not to say it doesn't happen elsewhere, I'm sure it does.)

 

Nickydog,

Yep! I'm back...just about getting back to what passes for normal around here! Last of our visitors left last Thursday, and we are slowly getting back in our groove...enjoyed seeing everyone, but also enjoying not having to think about where to take/show them next, and enjoying home-cooked food. Eating out almost daily gets tiresome, no matter how enjoyable!

 

Cast my Primary vote after lunch - civic duty done

Walked and did weights this morning - exercise duty done

Popped into TRR - catching up duty/pleasure done :)

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pollyannaish

Pollyannaish,

I think the obsession with "stuff" is universal.

But, in the 15+ years we've been here we have noticed that many Americans seem to be obsessed with having more and more things...often things they can ill-afford! There seems to be more of a "keeping up with Jones's" attitude here?

I know of people who have changed their home decor, bought cars and even horses -- just so they can fit in with other people in their neighborhoods! (Not to say it doesn't happen elsewhere, I'm sure it does.)

 

Nickydog,

Yep! I'm back...just about getting back to what passes for normal around here! Last of our visitors left last Thursday, and we are slowly getting back in our groove...enjoyed seeing everyone, but also enjoying not having to think about where to take/show them next, and enjoying home-cooked food. Eating out almost daily gets tiresome, no matter how enjoyable!

 

Cast my Primary vote after lunch - civic duty done

Walked and did weights this morning - exercise duty done

Popped into TRR - catching up duty/pleasure done :)

 

 

That makes total sense AnneV!shout I often wondered where people got their stuff and how they made so much money. I quickly learned that many, many people spend their lives paying for a thrilling moment yesterday. What a price!

 

I second Nickydog! I'm glad you're back. The wedding photos I saw on FB were beautiful! Congrats.

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One of my favorite movie lines is from "The Jerk" when Marie (Bernadette Peters) as she and Navin (Steve Martin) learn that they are losing all of their worldly possessions.

 

Sobbing she says, "It's not the money... it's the stuff!"

 

the-jerk.jpg

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