Women Should Skip Shopping Because All The Stuff Is Stressing Them Out

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shutterstock_145029349James Wallman thinks we are all suffering from “stuffocation” — a term he coined to describe the anxiety Americans are feeling from having too many THINGS.

[O]ur problem is often having much more than enough, which means more hassle, more to manage, and more to think about. In our busy, cluttered lives, more is no longer better. It is worse.

This problem is the other side of the pendulum that swung in the ’80s and ’90s and into the new millennium — the age of materialistic consumerism.  We believed that to be more, we needed to have more, which meant spending more.   And now we want to get rid of all that STUFF.

I thought the idea of feeling “stuffocated” was one that was more or less unique to living in an insanely crowded city like Manhattan, with four people squeezed into less than 1,000 square feet, trying to remind ourselves that the entire city is our backyard (except if we left our bikes and scooters in our “backyard” we could expect them to be gone 20 minutes later).  According to Wallman, however, this is a systematic and widespread epidemic that everyone is feeling — and lots of people are studying.

An environmentalist will tell you we’re feeling this way because we’re worried about landfill, carbon footprint, climate change. A social commentator might say we’ve had enough of stuff because it’s giving us affluenza. A philosopher might explain we’re fed up with the status anxiety that comes with materialistic consumerism.

And an anthropologist might tell you – quoting from the most extensive study into daily life ever conducted by the Los Angeles, California-based Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) – that we’ve had enough of stuff because we are living in “the most materially rich society in global history”. We are at a point of “material saturation”. And we are facing a “clutter crisis”.

One look at my Facebook page confirms that I’m not the only one feeling this “clutter crisis.”  Many friends post about living a minimalist life and wanting to purge their belongings — and it’s not even spring.  I’m not talking about people’s fascination with the show Hoarders — these are normal families who just want less around them.

And while a majority of Americans are experiencing stuffocation, research shows that women are more deeply affected.

UCLA psychologists Rena Repetti and Darby Saxbe found that women who have issues with clutter have the signature pattern of cortisol [the stress hormone] that is associated with people who have chronic fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a higher risk of mortality. Women who struggle with the stuff in their homes, in other words, are more likely to feel tired, depressed, and die.

So do yourself a favor this week and skip those tempting after-holiday sales — because “30% off” may translate to years off your life.

(photo: holbox/Shutterstock)


  1. ElleJai

    January 6, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Nope, I definitely watch too many episodes of Hoarders.

    It’s generally that which sends me on an immediate cleansing purge (yet strangely, stuff keeps creeping back in. I swear it breeds!)

    Btw, has anyone got any tips for how to politely remove unwanted presents (given to your already over-endowed children) from your house? Is there some kind of etiquette I’m unaware of?

    I’m looking squarely at the GIANT owl money box my best friend gave to our son for Christmas here… He is already in possession of 2 money boxes, culled from 5, has nowhere to keep it, and I know she’ll check that I still have it :/

    • darras

      January 6, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Tell her that it stays if she fills it? 😀

    • Kay_Sue

      January 6, 2014 at 8:52 am

      “Oh, darn, I have no idea how it happened, but you know how kids are–things just get broken!”

      It’s one of those scenarios where I feel a white lie is perfectly acceptable…

    • ElleJai

      January 6, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Ooh, that has promise! We’re looking at moving soon, it’s highly possible a box or five may never appear at the new house. Strangely the moving company can’t seem to find any missing boxes, what a mystery!

    • Bethany Ramos

      January 6, 2014 at 9:05 am

      My dad was a cheap ass hoarder, which always makes me want to throw stuff away. I also hate thrift stores now because I was only allowed to shop there in high school. I’m not extravagant at all, but I have my boundaries. 🙂

    • Bunny Lucia

      January 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      The cheap ass hoarders are the worst. It’s like “WHY AM I STEPPING ON ALL THIS JUNK?!”

    • Bunny Lucia

      January 6, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      Just throw it in the trash when they’re not looking if it’s been taken out of the packaging, or give it to charity. Then tell her “OH! I must have misplaced it! Pity, it was so nice.”

      I was super lucky in the fact that I only threw away about 20% of the presents I got this year. Most years it’s much closer to 50-60%. I hate junk and the holidays are a great time to get nothing but junk.

    • pineapplegrasss

      January 6, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      “oh, its around here somewhere…”

  2. Kay_Sue

    January 6, 2014 at 8:59 am

    I can commiserate. I feel stuffocated in my kids’ room. My older son was the first grandchild. He was also the first boy on my mom’s side since 65. He received every truck, train set, car track imaginable…it was ridiculous. I mean, we appreciated all of the thought, but I wish they’d listened to suggestions like books, puzzles…

    We’ve purged…and purged…and purged. Now with the age gap between him and my second son, we’ve got the whole “Yes, big A doesn’t play with it, but little A does.” Then there’s the added bonus of having more stuff as people purchase for the littler one too…I’m just so tired of stuff.

    I think we’re going to do a big purge this weekend. We have a few favorites, it’s just time to say good bye to the stuff we only play with occasionally. We have a great local homeless shelter with an awesome thrift store that supports it. I bet they would appreciate it far more than we currently are.

  3. NYBondLady

    January 6, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I put my foot down and told my son’s grandparents to go easy at Christmas. They obliged, happy to say. As for birthdays? We put on the invitation “No gifts please” or “No presents, just your presence!”
    I also think part of the problem is that people are used to shopping in their free time. I find if I don’t go to Target, then I don’t buy useless crap. Just stay home.

  4. Rachel Sea

    January 6, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    So much. The way things were growing up my family used everything we owned until it fell to pieces, and then we saved the pieces, just in case. My wife was raised to replace things as soon as they were worn out. As a consequence, we have an insane amount of crap, just taking up space because for 10 years she’s been replacing, and I’ve been saving.

    I’m learning to be a little more middle class, donating stuff that is unwanted, throwing away stuff that is worn out. I’m becoming more, and more of a minimalist, anything that doesn’t actively have a place, and a purpose, goes.

  5. SusannahJoy

    January 6, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Despite being married to a man who makes good money for 2 years, I still can’t get over that feeling of being broke all the time (which I guess makes sense, 10 years of deciding whether to eat the last packet of ramen today, or saving it until tomorrow vs 2 years of financial comfort? It’s gonna take more time than that), so I hate shopping. I felt guilty buying a new bra when I was pregnant, because I still had bras. They didn’t fit, but pretty soon the new one wouldn’t fit either, so why waste the money? The plus side to this stress is that we don’t have a cluttered home, and our savings and retirement accounts look awesome!

    • Bethany Ramos

      January 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      And we are hosting the mommyish meetup at your house! 😉 I do know what you mean about spending guilt though. I hate that.

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