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The Clutter Culture


By Jack Feuer

Published Jul 1, 2012 8:00 AM

It's Our Kids' World; We Just Live in


Life at Home notes that "our data suggest that each new child in a household leads to a 30-percent increase in a family’s inventory of possessions during the preschool years alone."

A focus on children exists in every culture, of course, but Americans have, inevitably, taken the impulse to a whole other level. Indeed, the study found kids' stuff everywhere, crowding out their parents' possessions to such an extent that even home offices and studies (more than half of the 32 households had rooms dedicated to work or schoolwork) were crammed with toys and other childrelated objects. "Every good girl should have a whole ton of Barbies," one Life at Home mom helpfully explains.

Graesch surmises that "Dual-income parents get to spend so very little time with their children on the average weekday, usually four or fewer waking hours. This becomes a source of guilt for many parents, and buying their children toys, clothes and other possessions is a way to achieve temporary happiness during this limited timespan."

Our progeny's role in the constant creation of clutter is not necessarily a sign that the toddlers have taken over the kindergarten, though. Sometimes, in fact, the relationship between our children and our possessions can even be touching. Arnold recalls one study father who positioned three rocks near his front door that in some way reminded him of his three daughters, so he was happy every time he came home.

Ochs adds, "At first we thought that children's objects flooded the house, but then we came to realize that parents as well liked these objects and displayed child-themed possessions (such as Disney figures) in public areas (like living-room shelves) and their own bedrooms."