Stuff makes us sad, especially in America


In the Boston Globe, Beth Teitell discusses Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century: 32 Families Open their Doors, an accessible, illustrated text that summarizes the research of four archaeologists and anthropologists who did a long, deep study of 32 middle-class LA families, and who report that nearly everything that these families had striven for -- material possessions, good jobs, extracurricular enrichment for their kids -- made them wholly miserable.

The rise of Costco and similar stores has prompted so much stockpiling — you never know when you’ll need 600 Dixie cups or a 50-pound bag of sugar — that three out of four garages are too full to hold cars.

Managing the volume of possessions is such a crushing problem in many homes that it elevates levels of stress hormones for mothers.

Even families who invested in outdoor décor and improvements were too busy to go outside and enjoy their new decks.

Most families rely heavily on convenience foods even though all those frozen stir-frys and pot stickers saved them only about 11 minutes per meal.

A refrigerator door cluttered with magnets, calendars, family photos, phone numbers, and sports schedules generally indicates the rest of the home will be in a similarly chaotic state.

The scientists working with UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families studied the dual-income families the same way they would animal subjects. They videotaped the activities of family members, tracked their moves with position-locating devices, and documented their homes, yards, and activities with thousands of photographs. They even took saliva samples to measure stress hormones.

Boxed in, wanting out (via Making Light)

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