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Why do so many people hoard so much?

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In a comment, Hannah wrote:

I have to wonder: Is the inability to value one’s time (rather than hyper-accumulating Things) simply an inability to accept one’s inevitable departure from this world? Do people who have an acquisitive mentality towards life have an inherent denial of death, and thus seek to “escape” into their goods, which are for all intents and purposes replacements for “immortality” (objects do not “die” after all, although they do depreciate! )

I don’t think it’s a desire to own something that outlives us, that is, a way of transubstantiating our soul into a blender 😀 Most of the crap sold and bought nowadays is purposefully engineered for planned obsolescence. I lean more towards the theory that people (or rather our culture) are not yet used to everything being abundant and practically available on demand that everybody is still hoarding their own tool collection, their own library, their own car, their own home cinema, etc.

I think it’s similar to how people undergoing a demographic transition from an underdeveloped area still have many children whereas more mature cultures, which went through their transition generations ago, have much fewer children. The reason is that in more mature and civilized countries having a lot of children are no longer seen as a source of financial security, retirement safety, cheap labor, good life, or simply joy and happiness but rather as a liability.

There is clearly an overabundance of people now which is why more people are seen as a liability, but I think we have yet to undergo a transition in terms of the abundance of stuff. The problem is that most people do not yet see their collection of stuff as a liability, which it actually is in this day and age, but as a source of wealth, which it no longer is.

Open source, freecycling, or just extensive “used”-markets like amazon or ebay are great examples of this mature attitude towards stuff.

Originally posted 2008-03-05 07:20:48.

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