Materialism Gone Amuck: A Nation of Hoarders

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

When I was at the library last week the book Shiny Objects caught my eye. I brought it home and couldn’t put it down. The book’s subtitle says it all: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy.

The message of the book dovetails with a range of thoughts I have been having lately (again) about clutter. One of these thoughts had to do with storage facilities. It’s bad enough that our homes are stuffed to the gills. Our nation has more stuff stored in storage lockers than any generation in human history.

According to this Huffington Post article, “There are more self-storage facilities in America than there are McDonald’s restaurants, according to a recent report from the commercial real estate publication REJournals. There were 48,500 self-storage facilities in America at the end of 2014, Curbed points out, compared to a mere 14,350 McDonald’s restaurants.”

I dug into another site and found these startling storage industry stats.*

Annual revenue generated: $38 billion
Number of storage facilities: 45,000–52,000
Total rentable storage space: 1.7 billion square feet
Self-storage space per person: 5.4 square feet
Percentage of households renting storage space: 9.4%
Average monthly cost per unit: $88.85

Public domain.

The book goes into detail about many aspects of consumption, including credit card debt, the American Dream’ false hopes, and a pointed chapter about The Prosperity Gospel. Our unhealthy consumerist culture of accumulation is not only killing us but also our relationship.

In the Sixties there were many voices emerging to warn us about this mass consumption. I remember a 1973 book that I read in college called Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. I liked the subtitle here, too: Economics as if People Mattered. The Oxford-trained economist argues against excessive consumption.

One reviewer says Schumacher’s book should be placed alongside many of the most important and influential in history, writing, “I think this is the most underrated book on economics out there-because with the sheer degree of soundness of its discussions and the scathing critiques of our current materialist economic paradigms (both capitalist and socialist), it provides a blueprint for HOW to think about what economics actually IS in the context of its place in human civilization on planet earth.”

For a good read about what it’s like to grow up in a home where hoarding has gotten truly out of control, check out Eddy Gilmore’s Emancipation of a Buried Man.

Shiny Objects has many important messages. One is to live within our means. The second is to question the messages of our culture that prod you to consume more, as if things can truly lead to happiness.

*Storage industry stats

Originally published earlier today at

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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