Overstuffed: Clutter, consumption and the study that shows how possessions shape us

Published: Monday, Oct. 8 2012 4:59 p.m. MDT

But Graesch did have children and now has a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. “Now I can fully empathize,” he says. “We are in the thick of it.”

Graesch says the study influenced the way he and his wife think about possessions. “We are very discriminating consumers now,” he says. “We try to create processes that require us to think several times and talk about whether we need something. We reflect a lot on consumption.

“There are a lot of rituals and mechanisms by which stuff comes into our homes,” Graesch says. “But we really lack regular or institutionalized ways of getting rid of stuff.”

Clutter rituals

Graesch walks through his house every couple of weeks with his 4-year-old son looking for toys that are not being used. They pick out 10 things the child is not using and put them in a sack and donate the toys to a Salvation Army thrift store. The child comes along on the trip and learns about giving to people who do not have things. As a reward, he also gets to pick out one “new” toy from the store.

“I love this,” Graesch says. “It’s just a hoot every time. You get a sense of satisfaction from cleaning up and helping somebody else. And you set the objects on a new phase of their life history.”

Repath-Martos, however, doesn’t think the study has changed her family very much.

“Am I any neater today?” she says. “No. Are our lives jam-packed? Yes. It’s very, very full and very, very fun.”

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