Stuffocation: Living More with Less

In this radical and ingenious book, forecaster and researcher James Wallman identifies the one scourge that is plaguing the homes and minds of people all over the world today, before proffering a range of innovative solutions to destroy this specter. The problem is “clutter” – physical clutter as opposed to mental or psychological clutter. However, as Wallman proceeds to demonstrate this clutter is as deadly (if not deadlier) as the clutter haunting the internal recesses of the mind. We have been habituated to accumulating, hoarding, stuffing and layering goods in a manner that is automatic, innate, ingrained and inveterate. To a large extent this habit has been inculcated into our being drip by drip, product by product, thing by thing and upgrade by upgrade courtesy “the captains of consciousness” (to borrow a term coined by the New York Academic Stuart Ewens) constituting media czars, advertising moguls, and capitalists backed by law makers.

The result of all this maniacal subservience to consumerism and conspicuous consumption (a seminal word introduced by the sociologist Thorstein Veblen that symbolizes acquisition of goods and products as status symbols) is a miasma of accruals that pose a threat environmentally, culturally, socially and ecologically. In other words, as James Wallman eloquently states, we find ourselves, “Stuffocated”. Wallman after identifying the problem, proceeds to evaluate in a meticulous fashion the possible solutions that could be employed. Can we “De-stuffocate” ourselves? Is it possible for us to extricate ourselves from this pernicious clutch of desire and possession?

Wallman looks to the real life experiences of people, who having been vexed with their own material enhancements, decided to abhor most of their worldly possessions and lead ‘minimalist’ lives. Lest one be misconstrued, a minimalist does not signify a mendicant or an ascetic who clad in a flowing saffron robe or a spotless white loin cloth, sustains himself on the shoots and leaves, sprouting forth at the foothills of the Himalayas, while seeking salvation and transcendence in a grueling combination of Yoga and meditation. As Wallman amplifies, one need not brave the elements of weather or the vagaries of seasons to be a minimalist. As the examples of two of the most popular minimalists going about their wares today, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn bear testimony, a minimalist life seeks to abandon or let go of all the things which one does not need or use and to make do with what is essential for a basic but comfortable (as opposed to luxuriant or affluent) lifestyle. Hence, minimalists who can literally count the number of possessions that they have.

Yet another way out of this material mess is to value ‘experience’ over ‘goods’. As the buzzwords ‘experiential’ economy and ‘experientialism’ take traction, Wallman illustrates the changing mental perceptions and attitudes of a growing set of people that is fast exerting a powerful influence over our societies. Experientialists prefer memories over materials. Hence an excruciatingly uncomfortable bus journey in Bolivia or driving to Iran in a Citroen 2CV thereby re-enacting the famous rally from Paris to Persepolis in 1971 gives greater joy and contentment than possessing material objects. By the eay athe aforementioned examples constitute real life stories elaborated in engaging detail by Wallman in the book. As Wallman takes pains to elucidate, abandonment of the world is not a pre-requisite to be an experientialist. At the end of the book, Wallman also lays out a guidepost for all those who have an inclination to embrace the tenets of experientialism. The five habits of experientialism as Wallman terms it aims to entangle us from the shackles of materialism that have firmly possessed us in their vice-like grip.

A copious section for notes provides links to invaluable resources in the form of blogs, websites, webpages and books. For an initiate this will truly act as a stepping stone to successful ‘de-stuffocation’. Along with books such as ‘Freakonomics’ and ‘A Power of Habit’, this book has the capability to usher in a revolutionary change and a paradigm shift in the thinking, behavior and perceptions of people.

Read – Rejoice – De Stuffocate – Don’t Re-stuffocate!

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