Material World

Tom Brezsny
- Tom Brezsny

Material World

We’re talking about “stuff” and wondering whether it’s just a coincidence that at the same time so many folks turning 65 are struggling to define their futures, there’s also a national obsession with Reality TV shows about people struggling with all the stuff that’s sitting in their garages, basements, attics and storage units? I think not. 

Sound familiar? We’re up to our necks in shows about hoarders and can’t seem to get enough stories about their struggles to organize, declutter, find ways to store, give away, clean up after, sell, recycle or just pay someone to haul their stuff to the dump. Why do we keep binging? What do we see when we stare into the abyss and catch glimpses of our own reflection.  

Unless you’re a modern day ascetic living in a tree or a monk occupying a cell in a remote monastery, you already know you’re someone with too much stuff. Especially if you’re an aging baby boomer raised in a consumer culture during the largest economic expansion the world has ever known. For a reference point – see  “Material World,”  a book featuring portraits of families from around the world with all of their possessions displayed in front of their homes.

Those Reality shows aren’t designed for poor hoarders getting buried alive or trying to dig out from piles of stuff just to be able to get from one room to another. They’re made for the rest of us who reside in comfort zones closer to the gentle end of the hoarder scale. Especially those feeling vulnerable and a little trapped by their own possessions and conflicted about how to move gracefully into the future with all that baggage in tow. 

Watching other people struggle with stuff makes us feel better. It’s a guilty pleasure that reminds us we aren’t alone and confirms that we’re normal. Compared to extreme hoarding, our modestly overstuffed drawers, crowded closets and jam-packed attics aren’t so bad. Since things could be so much worse, why worry about them at all? Ironically, hoarders offer a perfect excuse to put off dealing with the pain of our own stuff.

If you are an active, everyday Realtor, you know what I’m talking about because you’re on the front lines of the struggle many of those people turning 65 find themselves caught up in. Battles are being waged from house to house in neighborhoods all around us as aging boomers keep discovering that if they really want to downsize, they actually have to start getting rid of some of the stuff they’ve spent a lifetime collecting. 

Next Week:  You can never get enough of what you don’t need

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