Stuffocation | James Wallman

Summary of: Stuffocation: Living More with Less
By: James Wallman


In ‘Stuffocation: Living More with Less,’ James Wallman confronts the pervasive issue of accumulating clutter in our modern lives. Wallman calls this ‘stuffocation,’ a term that refers to the anxiety and unhappiness caused by owning too many material possessions. The book delves into how people’s values have evolved, with many now seeking happiness in experiences rather than material goods. Additionally, Wallman explores various approaches to overcoming stuffocation, including minimalism, leading a simpler life, and embracing ‘medium chill.’ He also emphasizes the need for an experiential economy that focuses on memorable experiences.

Finding Happiness by Letting Go of Our Stuff

Cluttered with things we don’t use? Feel like owning more doesn’t make us happy? You’re not alone. The age of materialism is over, and there’s a growing trend towards prioritizing experiences over possessions. Our minds evolved to be conscious of the threat of scarce resources, but in today’s abundant world, we need to change the way we think. Environmentalists, political scientists, and economists all have different reasons for our turning away from materialism. Regardless of the reason, the focus is now shifting towards the enjoyment of experiences over possessions.

The Perils of Materialism

Our culture of consumerism has led to an obsession with material goods that has replaced our desire for meaning and satisfaction. Not only is our mass consumerism causing increased rates of depression and anxiety, but hoarding behavior can also be life-threatening. Our connection to material goods needs to be re-evaluated before it’s too late.

The Vicious Cycle of Overproduction and Overconsumption

The history of American economics has shown that overconsumption requires overproduction, which creates a vicious cycle leading to materialism and environmental imbalance. In the 1920s, Keynes and Kellogg suggested cutting work hours to address this gap while others, such as Hoover and Sloan, advocated for more consumption. The latter was embraced as a solution, leading to more jobs, higher wages, and benefits for everyone. This model of prosperity dominated the 20th century but has become the root cause of the 21st century’s most pressing problems, including burning waste and lasting environmental damage. However, we can all change this by speaking up and making more conscious consumption choices.

Overcoming Stuffocation

To beat stuffocation, one can choose minimalism, a simpler life, or medium chill. Minimalism involves decluttering possessions and consuming less, which is beneficial for the environment. A simpler life rejects modern consumer goods and focuses on surviving with the basic necessities. Medium chill involves prioritizing free time over work, which is a more popular option. The big chill, on the other hand, involves working excessively until retirement.

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