How does clutter equate to hope?
Some years ago I did a book signing at the Ideal Home Exhibition in London, and there was a big display with copies of my book ‘Banish Clutter Forever’ for people to browse through. The organiser told me that although they had books and talks scheduled by much more famous names, that a lot of people seemed interested in mine, and in the subject of clutter in general.
Buying clutter, buying hope
Maybe that should have surprised me but it didn’t. I felt surrounded by examples of conspicuous consumption. The kind of people who go to the Ideal Home show are well-off and interested in investing in their homes. That’s great, but whilst they’re trying to make a decision about what they need in order to live a life they love, they’re encouraged to pick up an awful lot of other stuff on the way. So there they were at the book stall, both accumulating clutter at the show, and simultaneously wondering how to be free of it.
Do you buy hope?
I think those people at the book stall are a neat representation of most of us. Those of us who are 50 and under have been raised with the idea of consumption as a good thing, and the idea that somewhere out there, there is an object that will solve our every problem, if only we could find it. Wrinkles? No problem… buy this anti-aging cream.
How people ‘buy’ hope, and (say) youth
Now I’ve nothing against moisturiser in general as it helps my skin to feel comfortable, but it’s not going to make my wrinkles go away. And the key is in the name of the product. It’s called ‘anti-aging’ cream because it’s actually a placebo to help me feel better when I worry that I’m looking old. I could spend £150 on a pot of the finest anti-aging cream every month easily. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t take care of myself, but it’s much cheaper to get an adequate moisturiser and accept myself as I am.
Much wiser too, when, short of surgery (which I think would make me look and feel like a freak) there’s not much else I can realistically do. But accepting my own aging face (when I was hoping I’d remain young forever!) takes a lot more painful effort than shelling out £150. Crucially, it actually requires me to think for myself, and to come up with my own psychological solution, and one that’s not necessarily validated by others. (£150 is starting to sound like a bargain, isn’t it? Just kidding…)
And even ‘wealth’
Isn’t every lottery ticket bought the same? Something much more often than not, completely useless, but which for a few days, allows the purchaser to dream of financial solvency, stability or even abundance? And if you’re poor or in debt, that’s far cheaper than therapy – or even a fancy coffee – and it may help you get through the day… When the national lottery first started, in the interests of balance, the actor Richard Wilson was wheeled out on various programmes because he was against it. I remember him saying the lottery was a ‘tax on stupidity’. These days, it’s starting to look like a ‘tax on desperation’.
How I aid companies in selling me clutter
As long as I have a knee jerk reaction to my own problems and desires, then it’s easy for companies to sell me the latest (quite often useless) product to make me feel better, and help me to kid myself that I’m actually doing something about it. Basically this is ‘buying hope’ that my anxieties will get solved without my putting any more thought into them than simply taking something to the till.
How do you know when an item is simply ‘hope’? When you never use it…
Obviously some of the things we buy to enhance our lives really do work and help us do just that. But a lot of what we end up calling clutter, is actually stuff that we thought would solve a problem just by virtue of the fact that we purchased it. I’m guessing a lot of you with unused fitness equipment will be nodding here! And it feels so difficult to let go of, because doing that means finally conceding that we don’t yet have a solution to the original problem of getting fit, for instance.
The insidious belief that every solution comes in the form of a product….
This isn’t just a harmless and amusing little error. It’s an idea that has serious implications for all of us, even aside of those who end up in debt because they feel compelled to buy the clothes/cars/gadgets that make them feel attractive or even just adequate as a person. There is one thing that will catch up with all of us in the end, as a result of collectively perpetuating this myth. Our planet will not stand being denuded and polluted at the current rate, and if we continue to do that, we’re going to have to live with the consequences.
Make your own hope
So the next time you are tempted to purchase something that isn’t a true essential, or is even a bit of an indulgence, ask yourself if the feeling you want to have is really resides in that box? Sometimes you’ll find that you can save yourself the money and make the feeling you want, all by yourself, either by changing your mindset, or your habits, or with what you already have.
If you’d like to understand more about how you can organize your house so that it serves you and not the other way around, download a free excerpt of ‘Banish Clutter Forever’.