Why keeping up with the Jones’ leads to clutter

A computer user browses on her computer while surrounded by clothes.

Keeping up with the Jones’ leads to clutter

Humans are social, tribal animals. We get comfort from the approval of our community. 

That means we like to ‘Keep up with the Jones’, or look over the fence and covet what our neighbour has. In tribal days that meant wanting someone’s dwelling or clothes, while now it means – well possibly the same.

Alain de Botton’s book Status Anxiety discusses the angst about what our tribe thinks of us, and whether we’re deemed a success or a failure.

It is not a new phenomenon, but the problem is, via social media the Jones have multiplied. They now encompass Tiktokers, Flavour-of-the-Month media stars, and all manner of online parasocial relationships. Our community is big, hungry and impossible to please. Keeping up with the Jones’ is like chasing a runaway train.

Why keeping up with the Jones’ leads to clutter.

Globalisation has not only connected the online world, it has made products cheap and accessible. So if we want Kim Kardashian’s soft pink throw rug, or another influencer’s shade of lip gloss, we can find them cheaply on Amazon or at Kmart. So we buy. And we buy. And we buy!

Then you throw into the mix the Diderot Effect effect – the phenomenon whereby acquiring a new possession leads to a spiral of consumption – scope creep in other words. And the Endowment Effect and other psychological difficulties around decluttering and letting go, and you have an inevitable buildup of clutter. 

Keeping up with the Jones’ leads to clutter – what can I do about it?

  • Stay away from the shops. Find a different hobby and a different dopamine hit.
  • Simplify, and organise your home so you know what you already own.
  • If you must shop, keep in mind what you already have. (see previous point)
  • If you STILL must shop, declutter as you go. Consider a one-in, one-out policy.
  • If you see something you want, have a cooling off period. Sometimes desires feel like urgent needs and they are not.
  • Shop early in the day and on a sated stomach to avoid decision fatigue and impulsive behaviour.
  • Unsubscribe from all retail information.
  • Take a break from social media. Or at least unfollow the bits that encourage you to acquire.
  • Follow the money. Think about who is making money of your insecurities. Marketing is smart, but you are smarter.
  • Remember that You. Are. Enough.
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