I saw a book in my counselor’s office last winter that was fairly eye-opening. It was a book published by UCLA researchers who studied 32 homes and families in the L.A. area. The book is titled Life at Home in the 21st Century, and here’s an article about the study.
Flipping through the book actually caused me some anxiety. Seeing photo after photo of rooms jammed full of stuff left me stressed. Good thing I was in my counselor’s waiting room. That’s not the type of thing that usually bothers me. In this case it did.
Part of it was thinking about how it would feel to live a life in pursuit of stuff. Chasing that next object for fulfillment, seeking approval with a gift, needing to finance a house full of items only to run out of room and restart the cycle in a bigger house.
I definitely enjoy buying gifts for my family. I definitely have some things that I treasure. The bass guitar I bought my senior year in high school, that I took to Hollywood with me, is one of my few possessions that I would hate to lose. But even then, it wouldn’t be ruinous to lose it. I will always have those memories.
I also think it is important to have a bookcase full of books. Having something tangible to read is different and I think it matters on some level. My kindle is cool but I regularly read a real book.
One of the factors in the study was dual-income households. Those seem to be fading these days, either by choice or the failing economy. The upside of that may be less of a focus on stuff and more of a focus on things that matter. We’ll see.
On a side note, seeing this book was one of the sources of inspiration that sent me back to school. After seeing the book that showed the study and findings, I felt intrigued and excited. I told my counselor I read it in the waiting room and that I would love to a study like that. He said he could see me doing a project like that as well.
The article mentioned a lack of research on this area, which is a shame in my opinion. With the pace of life, consumerism, and technology in the modern age, studying how these conditions impact our lives is paramount. Even more so with children in the home. Everything we do in front of them we are setting the standards for them; how they will live, think, behave, and view their worlds and the people around them. They will carry those lessons – good and bad – to the next generation.
Hopefully you will read the article and ponder the study. It may even have as much of an impact on you as it did me. Maybe if we’re lucky, there will be more studies on this important subject in the future.