47 pages 1 hour read

John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas Naylor


Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2001

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Part 1, Chapters 2-6

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “Symptoms”

Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary: “All Stuffed Up”

This chapter focuses on the relationship between overconsumption and space. By the 1980s, many homes were built with three-car garages that contained the same square footage as entire houses constructed just a few decades before (28). A comparable phenomenon of the domination of our possessions over our personal space is manifest in the condition of hoarding; “[d]o we have stuff”, the authors ask, “or does it have us?” (29). Similarly, increases in automotive and air traffic leave our highways congested and our airports swamped with passengers.

The authors argue that “overconsumption has become the dominant trait of our culture”, with governments, advertisers, co-workers, and even friends and family all acting as compulsive forces telling us to spend more (32). The challenge of finding the right job, social circle, and romantic partner are each tied up with displays of identity and self-expression through our stuff: the things that we wear, drive, read, watch and listen to, eat and drink, and so on, are all supposed to say who we really are and what we find important. As the authors note, the level of consumption and accumulation in current American households outstrips that of all other periods of history put together (33).