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Stuffocation by James Wallman


Brief background: A few months ago I started changing my approach to stuff. As in I have accumulated a lot of things up until this point in my life and have not let go of many of them. This is something I am now working to change. I picked this book up as I am curious about this issue.

Wallman talks raises some interesting points during this book but throughout the process of reading it I felt uneasy in a way that comes with a side of greasy salesman. Wallman starts by looking at the issue of what he calls 'stuffocation', the acquiring to stuff when in search of happiness and ending up just with things. There is some interesting research done and the points are valid and important.It also provided an interesting history of consumerism and how change can be tracked.

Wallman then looks at three solutions to this problem that people have embrace. Minimalism, Simple Living and Medium Chill are each examined and dismissed for what he terms experientialism. It looks quite shallowly at three movements and their 'failings' only to pitch his own branch/solution. This annoyed me as it read like an advert rather than a calling. The writing style in places felt odd, particularly when describing people. Wallman felt the need to add in a few overly saccharine sentences describing the people's physicality.


As I have said above I am a newbie in the field but I have been spending time reading around the issue of minimalism. With only the the past few months to research this area of interest I have found that getting rid of the excess stuff in your life is just the starting point. I listen to the podcasts created by The Minimalists, two men he references in this section, and they are very clear on the following point: the how-to is not as important as the why-to. The idea is that the the processes of getting rid of your stuff is just a way of making room in your life for things that matter more. This can include time with family or friends or spending the money on experiences. This focus is not mentioned at all and the deeper intent of minimalism is casually dismissed by Wallman. 

There then followed the chapter on Simple Living, the idea that the technological advancements have been detrimental to human development. People who adhere to this reject the developments and desire to live in a way that allows them to live in a way that is closer to the way their ancestors did. There can be variety of motivators for this, health, social or environmental issues, but again this philosophy is dismissed by Wallman. I did find that point he made about Henry David Thoreau interesting. Thoreau's book On Walden Pond may be the inspiration for people who wish to 'live deliberately' but the author himself stayed out in the woods for just offer two years. This in Wallman's view seems to discredit the experience.

The medium chill section has been described as ' abandoning the quest for the ideal in favor of the the good-enough' in this interesting article . I had not been aware of this idea but again, this concept was discarded as lacking. 

The section on experientialism was, quite frankly, insulting. This was the -ism the Wallman was championing but it was ridiculously skewed to the wealthy. That a restauranteur can run his business from a far away beach using technology such as security cameras was the example given. It was barely noted that there aren't a large number of people for whom this way of life is feasible. Not even a full page was given to discuss and apply this -ism for those without employment autonomy. The paragraphs seemed to be an addendum requested by an editor or a last minute consideration. Following a huge section detailing people who had t
he money to go off and have global adventures it seemed dismissive. 









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