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Why too much stuff is bad for your stress levels

The key to managing your stuff isn’t getting rid of it all, it’s about finding a balance, says James Wallman, who’s advised businesses from Google to Burberry on what the future holds.
Why too much stuff is bad for your stress levels INSTEAD OF BELIEVING THAT MORE SHOES WILL MAKE US HAPPY, WE’RE BETTER OFF SPENDING OUR TIME DOING THINGS
January 3, 2017   |    James Wallman

When people hear I’ve written a book called Stuffocation, the first thing they do is ask, ‘What’s it about?’ I always answer: ‘What do you think it’s about?’ Partly, because I’m that sort of annoying person, but mostly because I want to see if the word ‘stuffocation’ works. Nine times out of 10 it does. ‘Something about stuff, too much stuff (…) we’ve got too much stuff’ – are the usual replies. When I first started working on the idea, people thought I was wrong. But now, they nod their heads.

Someone will say: ‘Totally agree with you, mate. I’ve been saying that for years.’ And another person will declare: ‘I bet your home is all clean, and spare, and minimalist.’ Which is when I ’fess up… You see, even though I’ve done all this research, talked with and been inspired by some of the world’s great down-sizers and minimalists, there’s a Very Big Thing between me and a clean, spare, minimalist space. I live in London. There are four of us: me, wife, two kids. And I’m not a banker. It turns out a two-year-old and a four-and-a-half-year-old come with a lot of crap.

At this point, the person I’m talking with thinks: ‘This guy’s a fraud. Even he’s not walking the walk!’ But wait! I enjoy this confession because this is when the conversation becomes interesting. Often I get rolled out in radio or TV interviews as the pantomime baddy who hates stuff. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The message of Stuffocation isn’t anti-stuff. It’s anti-too much – and anti-wrong – stuff.

A PRACTICAL MANIFESTO

You’d have to live with your headphones and eye-mask always on, not to be aware of the problems society faces today: especially the issue of the environment, and what I think of as the ‘happiness deficit’ – the anxiety, stress and depression that comes with materialistic consumerism. When I look at the solutions on offer – for example, the anti-capitalism and anti-consumerism movements like Occupy and Buy Nothing Day – I don’t believe any of them would work.

Over my years helping companies to prepare for the future, I have discovered that we’re shifting from materialism to ‘experimentalism’. Instead of believing that more shoes and shirts will make us happy, we now realise that we’d be better off spending our time and money on doing things instead – like going to a pop-up bar or food truck or Secret Cinema.

DOWN TO EXPERIENCE

I’ve mentioned the two most important reasons why this shift is happening: the happiness deficit and the environment. But there are many more. The rise of social media, for instance, has seen millions getting status by posting pictures where they’re doing cool things (not having cool things). Then there’s the march of technology, which means we don’t need so much stuff anymore. Why own CDs at all when you can use Spotify?

There’s urbanisation: more of us are swapping the space of the country for the excitement of the city. Just how often do your parents point out how much you could get for your money if only you’d move out of the capital? Your answer: what would you do out there? By choosing to live in London, you have chosen experiences over stuff. www.stuffocation.org

Do you want more Balance in your life?

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