Lion of the Blogosphere

Clutter, a sign of a post-scarcity economy

I came across The Minimalist Plate, yet another blog devoted to getting rid of clutter.

The Google Ngram Viewer shows how the word “clutter” exploded in use in the 20th century.

And no, “clutter” is not a newly invented modern word, it has existed in the English language for a long time. In the Webster 1828 dictionary, clutter means the same thing as it does today. It’s just that in the 19th century, people didn’t have enough stuff for clutter to become a problem worth mentioning in books.

It’s a sign of post-scarcity that stuff is so cheap that getting rid of it is a bigger problem for most Americans than acquiring it in the first place.

* * *

maryk writes in a comment:

There are tons of books out there about how to “de-clutter.” But don’t buy more than one or two or you’ll make the problem worse before you make it better.

I am never again going to buy another dead-tree book, they just take up too much space, and it was so emotionally painful throwing out hundreds of books from my childhood and younger adulthood.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 22, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Posted in Economics

61 Responses

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  1. Yeah, these days when you go to a convention, a store, or whatever, people are always giving you little tchotchkes.

    In the same way that poor people used to be skinny but are now fat due to overabundance of food, the same people will probably have residences overflowing with baubles, trinkets, electronic goods, etc.


    December 22, 2017 at 12:00 PM

    • There is even a website devoted to “de-cluttering.” It is called Unclutterer.. It has a regular feature where they show you a useless appliance and tell you that they don’t want you to buy it, only laugh at how anyone could think the appliance is needed. Once they showed a frankfurter slicer in the shape of a hot dog “dog.”
      There are tons of books out there about how to “de-clutter.” But don’t buy more than one or two or you’ll make the problem worse before you make it better. However, books about how to save money are usually a good idea and pay for themselves quickly if you follow the advice given in the books.


      December 22, 2017 at 1:31 PM

      • Prolier types throw good stuff away, while the better ones find ways to get rid of them productively, ex. donating their personal books to the local library.


        December 22, 2017 at 3:23 PM

      • Take the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Mari Kondo out of the library & follow its prescriptions to the letter. It will change your life, for a while anyway.


        December 22, 2017 at 9:53 PM

      • It’s one of those books I started reading and never finished. She’s a little bit on the weird side.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 22, 2017 at 10:35 PM

      • She’s totally weird, but her method works. At least for a while. She says ppl don’t backslide, but I did.


        December 23, 2017 at 12:31 AM

  2. The really sad sack of news, most Americans hoard junk that have no resale value. Even a pawn shop wouldn’t loan them money, if they needed it to buy more, because sh!t has no collateral.


    December 22, 2017 at 12:44 PM

    • Most stuff has little resale value, JS. My mother had a great library but I was told that none of the books were worth anything because they weren’t 1st editions. I had a 2nd edition of the Origin of Species. Close but no ceegar.


      December 22, 2017 at 9:54 PM

      • Books can definitely fetch money more than other items, especially if they are hardcovers with their dust jackets and in nice condition.

        Most people who are hoarders seem to gather items that other people find repulsive, either because one of these or a combination of them 1) used/tattered 2) boring and no longer in vogue 3) lack any utilitarian value


        December 22, 2017 at 11:06 PM

      • Second editions of “The Origin of Species” are running for hundreds of dollars on Abebooks. Even a copy printed before 1900 can be expected to go for $30 or more.


        December 23, 2017 at 11:01 AM

      • I wouldn’t sell it for $30. Also, it’s not in pristine condition.


        December 23, 2017 at 11:40 AM

      • OK, I looked at the link – mine would go for $250 (nice price) but my mother & the previous owners wrote their names in it. Sadz. I think that would cut down on price.


        December 23, 2017 at 3:38 PM

  3. I figure if you leave an open dumpster anywhere in America, it will fill up with trash over the course of the day, but I’ve noticed that open dumpsters in prole areas fill up almost immediately with all kinds of junk. It’s like proles just sit around with an abundance of waste and can somehow sense when someone has left a dumpster open in the neighborhood. If it were legal to hunt proles, dumpsters would be a good lure.

    Horace Pinker

    December 22, 2017 at 12:49 PM

    • the trash cans at bus stops here in the dc area are always full

    • If it were legal to hunt proles, dumpsters would be a good lure.

      Very funny. Although I’m pretty sure thinking about it in terms of hunting is itself prole (at least in the US).


      December 22, 2017 at 3:00 PM

    • “I think I saw a pwole”


      December 22, 2017 at 3:25 PM

    • “If it were legal to hunt proles, dumpsters would be a good lure.”

      ”This is not a test. This is your emergency broadcast system announcing the commencement of the Annual Prole Purge sanctioned by the government of the New Lion Republic. Weapons of class 4 and lower have been authorized for use during the Prole Purge. All other weapons are restricted. SWPL’s of ranking Middle and higher have been granted immunity from the Prole Purge and shall not be harmed. Commencing at the siren, any and all crime, including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours. Police, fire, and emergency medical services will be unavailable until tomorrow morning until 7 a.m., when The Prole Purge concludes. Blessed be our New Founding Persons and the Lion Republic, a nation reborn. May Fussell be with you all.”


      December 22, 2017 at 5:59 PM

    • I know an eccentric 70-year-old dumpster diver. He’s come up with a few good finds over the years, including some alternate takes of Frank Zappa recordings.

      Lewis Medlock

      December 23, 2017 at 9:42 AM

      • I’ve found things just walking around – but I would never go out & hunt for them.


        December 24, 2017 at 10:21 AM

  4. This is from PKDick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep:

    “‘Kipple-ized’?” She did not comprehend.
    “Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.”
    “I see.” The girl regarded him uncertainly, not knowing whether to believe him. Not sure if he meant it seriously.
    “There’s the First Law of Kipple,” he said. “ ‘Kipple drives out nonkipple.’ Like Gresham’s law about bad money. And in these apartments there’s been nobody there to fight the kipple.”
    “So it has taken over completely,” the girl finished. She nodded. “Now I understand.”
    “Your place, here,” he said, “this apartment you’ve picked – it’s too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apts. But—” He broke off.
    “But what?”
    Isidore said, “We can’t win.”


    December 22, 2017 at 12:58 PM

    • Garr,

      Clutter & litter is proof of a wealthy society. When I was in Russia in 1990, I saw zero litter. Drunks, I saw, but no litter. Because everything was in use. Every piece of string, every piece of tin foil, every dirty cigarette butt. I wonder what it’s like now.


      December 22, 2017 at 9:56 PM

  5. If you look at late Victorian homes there was a lot of clutter. Before gas lighting you were forced to keep the clutter down or else you would always be tripping on things. So even very wealthy households were fairly sparse. And then obviously industrialization during that period also allowed more and more people to clutter their houses.


    December 22, 2017 at 1:38 PM

  6. I’ve been watching Orville (just finished ep 11) and finally realized that a consistent theme of the show is how to find meaning in a post scarcity environment with no practicable borders (a major or minor theme in over half the episodes so far)

    cliff arroyo

    December 22, 2017 at 2:08 PM

  7. Having too much stuff in the house is a serious issue for most Americans of moderate means. I’m fairly sure it’s the women who do it, in most cases. Online shopping hasn’t helped.


    December 22, 2017 at 2:09 PM

  8. Declutter the mind- that’s my new year goal. Again.


    December 22, 2017 at 2:33 PM

    • There’s actually a book with that title. It’s by S.J. Scott. It is available in soft cover or ebook on Amazon.


      December 23, 2017 at 7:34 PM

      • My mother used to say, “there’s a song for everything!” Same goes for books.


        December 24, 2017 at 10:22 AM

  9. “Clutter, a sign of a post-scarcity economy”

    Exactly right. People always want what others dont have.

    No way to get to happiness.

    Lion of the Turambar

    December 22, 2017 at 2:51 PM

  10. It’s a sign of post-scarcity that stuff is so cheap that getting rid of it is a bigger problem for most Americans than acquiring it in the first place.

    It doesn’t seem like a lot because what isn’t needed is usually put away somewhere out of sight.

    It only becomes apparent how much useless goods there are when it’s moving time.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    December 22, 2017 at 4:12 PM

  11. Whatever you are not using, whatever doesn’t make you happy, toss it. Been following this advice for the past year and am gradually, but steadily decluttering.

    When I was younger, i never had any possessions. Two pairs of blue jeans, some tea shirts and 2 button downs, one pair of shoes. That’s it. I don’t know what the hell happened to me, but I became a clutterer. It takes effort to turn your mind around.

    BTW, Bitcoin is down 40% from its high. I hope that any who bought cheap had already sold, if you bought at the top, well you are a sucker. Wait until Bitcoin drops 90-95% from its high then go back into it.

    Stock market will probably roar in 2018 year taking it to absurd levels.


    December 22, 2017 at 4:21 PM

  12. However, not owning printed books in the home is prole.

    Oswald Spengler

    December 22, 2017 at 4:48 PM

    • Many proles own books. This is a poor criteria.


      December 22, 2017 at 7:30 PM

      • Your inability to form the proper contrapositive and test against it is prolish enough to make me uncomfortable.


        December 22, 2017 at 7:43 PM

      • When you think about how cheap used books are when purchased online (between $3.50 and $8 for a vast array of titles) you have to wonder why proles spend their money on junk food and overpriced clothes and other “stuff.” Books last, they are entertaining, they can validate one’s viewpoint (which always feels good) and they can be a source of self-improvement. Also, when done with them you can donate them so others can benefit from them. Not much else can provide this much for $4-8. But then, books can pile up quickly threatening to take up all your free space. Also, they are heavy to transport in large number.


        December 22, 2017 at 8:34 PM

      • You can download books for free from the internet. And yes, books weigh a ton.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 22, 2017 at 10:31 PM

      • I’m convinced that the main reason people buy books is to clutter their houses and fill up bookcases.

        Maryk: Why do you present yourself as some kind of guido expert when you know so little about prole behavior. Proles don’t behave rationally, they flitter from one self created crisis to the next before it all culminates in one kind of early death or another.


        December 22, 2017 at 11:33 PM

      • Marky grew up and lives in prole area of Brooklyn, which makes her an expert I think.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 23, 2017 at 8:01 AM

      • I take books out of the library. Return them, too.

        The problem is DVDs. Library DVDs are invariably scratched – plus you never get the deluxe version with all the special stuff. I enjoy that. But I’m too cheap to spring for Netflix. (Maybe because I sold the stock before it zoomed off, gnash gnash.)


        December 23, 2017 at 7:05 AM

      • You could download movies from Pirates Bay, make sure you use a VPN while torrenting.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 23, 2017 at 8:06 AM

      • “Why do you present yourself as some kind of guido expert when you know so little about prole behavior. Proles don’t behave rationally,”

        Magnavox, didn’t you read what I wrote? I am AGREEING that proles don’t behave rationally. I’m only saying that it doesn’t take a genius to see that a lot of the “stuff” they spend money on is either useless or overpriced – this is well known anyway. Many would see noticeable changes in their lives quickly if they made even small changes in what and how they purchase. But your picture of proles flitting from one crisis to the next before they die an early death seems too stereotypical. Not every prole is a college-dropout, drug-using, non-marrying basement-dweller.

        Also, is a “guido expert” an expert who studies guidos or is he or she an expert who happens to be a guido?


        December 23, 2017 at 9:45 AM

      • A fancier term for the prole area of Brooklyn is Southern Prole Brooklyn.

        Northern Brooklyn is mostly SWPL niches with outlying NAM areas.


        December 23, 2017 at 11:23 AM

      • I call it Belt Parkway Brooklyn.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        December 23, 2017 at 11:45 AM

      • If Guido Island is Richmond County then Prole Island should be Nastysaw and Suffocating counties. Long Island sucks just as much as Staten Island. Although I think Staten Island residents are nicer.

        Many prolier types who grew up in NYC call it a triumph of the American dream when they get to own a house out in Long Island.

        This opioid epidemic rampant among the suburban areas of the tristate area should lay its blame on suburbia. You’re in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do, and boredom needs to be relieved and opioids is the answer.


        December 23, 2017 at 12:05 PM

      • Maryk: You seemed bewildered and surprised by their irrationality which screams amateur observer.


        December 23, 2017 at 12:29 PM

      • “Maryk: You seemed bewildered and surprised by their irrationality which screams amateur observer”

        I guess in a way I am surprised that more people don’t spend wisely, yes. Not saying I’m surprised that they aren’t willing to go all “Dave Ramsey” and do nothing but save, save, save. And of course, anyone who is not a social psychologist or anthropologist is in the literal sense, an amateur observer of mass (prole) behavior.


        December 23, 2017 at 4:54 PM

      • You are probably more aware of the phenomenon of sh!t talking among the masses, after reading this blog for years.


        December 24, 2017 at 8:44 AM

      • Maggie — Saying proles are irrational is like saying proles eat, breathe and shit. It may be true but it applies to everyone. Money and intelligence don’t immunize one against irrational ideas and behavior. SWPLs are vulnerable to many of the same foolish things that proles are. Only SWPLs are slightly less likely to wreck their lives with them because they tend to have a little more self control.

        That’s one type of irrationality which I consider dysfunctional. But there’s another type of irrationality which I consider ideological. If anything SWPLs are less ideologically rational because their money and intelligence insulates them from the consequences of their idiocy. Without consequences there’s little incentive for correction. So they follow their irrational whims. In many ways, proles are more ideologically rational. If you doubt this then spend some time in an elite private school or prestigious university and listen to the views and opinions spewed by faculty and students alike.

        I suppose it’s a natural consequence of circumstances. One is more rational at the lower end of the “hierarchy of needs”. It’s very rational to pursue food, clothing and shelter. Once those basic needs are met then one has time to indulge their desires which they fulfill through status whoring, virtue signalling, etc. SWPLs are so susceptible to social pressure that it becomes their compass instead of rational thought. I rate pretty high on disagreeableness which makes me fairly immune to social pressure. In fact, it’s one of my values. Which is probably why I find SWPL preening so contemptible.


        December 23, 2017 at 6:48 PM

  13. Instead of downsizing, ten years ago, my then-70 y/o father sold his 950sf single family home and bought a 3000sf 4 bed/3 bath/5 car garage. He’s a trash picker and has filled every room w/ other people’s cast off, though clean, furniture. He’s got six couches and six TVs in the place! His 5-car garage is jam packed w/ two vehicles, boat, motorcycle, trailer, tools, scrap wood, lawn equipment, etc. Shelves are packed w/ useless junk. He won’t get rid of stuff he no longer or ever will use. He’s got 30 y/o repair manuals and old parts for cars that he sold 20 years ago. He’s got 4 non-working chainsaws. Everything is reasonably neat and orderly, not overflowing and unlivable like the people on “Hoarders.” He just grows to fill whatever space is available. And he’s very hesitant about loaning out or giving anything away, even if he hasn’t ever used it, even cheap stuff.

    No Where Man

    December 22, 2017 at 5:21 PM

  14. There is an accumulation stage of life, then a decumulation stage. You have to live long enough to see the cycles. Its a lot like an annuity. Lion is very observant.


    December 22, 2017 at 6:08 PM

  15. I wonder if this was inspired by a comment I wrote a while back about me being a very frugal minimalist. Perhaps it’s been rattling around and subconsciously percolating until it manifest in Leon’s post?

    Well, my previous post only told half the story. I’m naturally frugal. But I’ m not naturally minimalist. I’m a hoarder. If I let things go I’ll end up with a house packed with all kinds of stuff that’s “too good to throw away.” But I’ll also end up with piles of stuff that should absolutely be thrown away. I just can’t stand to waste anything even garbage.

    It was a very painstaking process to slowly go through everything and get rid of it. That’s part of why I’m a minimalist and why I’m so careful about what I buy or bring into my home. Part of it is values and part of it is fighting my hoarding instincts. But no one who visits would ever know it. People are usually amazed at how uncluttered and clean everything is. You could walk into any room at any time and it would look like a photo from Architectural Digest. It’s either one extreme or the other. So I chose minimalism. But I’m still a hoarder. Kind of like an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic even if they never take another drink.


    December 22, 2017 at 9:29 PM

    • My Mom has an almost totally unworn mink coat she’d like to sell. Female, black, size 4. Bought it for $1500 in 1976. Make an offer.


      December 23, 2017 at 1:07 PM

      • Your mama had it for 40 years and didn’t wear it. Now you want to sell it to me so that my wife can have it and not wear it. Well, hell, I don’t have to buy it for my wife not to wear it! Just messing with you, man. But, seriously, that’s why I’m so frugal. Because I don’t buy stuff I don’t need. The problem was that I used to keep stuff I didn’t need.


        December 23, 2017 at 11:14 PM

  16. “Prolier types throw good stuff away, while the better ones find ways to get rid of them productively, ex. donating their personal books to the local library.”

    I hang out at the local library every week (for a club). It has so many donations and books being removed from circulation, they encourage us to take those donated books for free. To non-club members, they sell them ‘all you can carry’ for a dollar.’ Those donated books take up the entire basement floor of two libraries in the area, and are a burdensome hassle for the library staff.



    December 23, 2017 at 7:24 AM

    • I once rummaged though a library “books for sale” shelf and found a gem “The Story of the Irish Race.” I bought it for $1. I figured I should start to learn something about the non-guido part of my heritage!


      December 23, 2017 at 10:00 AM

  17. St. Agnes Library in Manhattan has a monthly book sale in the basement. Very good selection of fiction and non-fiction. Popular and scholarly titles. Most books are $2. Well worth checking out.

    Lewis Medlock

    December 23, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    • Most NYPLs are NAM jammed. St. Agnes is one of the few that aren’t. The same with the Lincoln Center Music library.


      December 23, 2017 at 11:26 AM

  18. OT: (Well, sort of…) I looked up housing prices in Bull’s Head Staten Island (an area with a lot of Italians.) I noticed that a large number of the houses there are in foreclosure. In fact, more are in foreclosure than are being sold in the regular way. WTF? Italians are usually pretty good about meeting their mortgages. In 56 years I’ve only known a handful of people who lost their house. I wonder if this has something to do with the opioid epidemic. Not trying to be funny.

    A relative of mine had a cousin who won a million dollars in the Massachusetts state lottery in the 1970’s. The government took half so they were looking at 50K a year for 10 years. Even so, that was big money back then. But this husband and wife were smart enough not to get carried away with their newfound wealth. They both kept their jobs. What they did with the money I don’t know.


    December 23, 2017 at 9:58 AM

    • Only proles and NAMs waste money on lotto.

      Smartest Woman on the Internet

      December 23, 2017 at 12:22 PM

    • Rank these singers in terms of voice, and looks (sexiness): Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, Vic Damone, Al Martino, Dion Demucci.

      You Know Me

      December 23, 2017 at 4:23 PM

      • From most impressive to least impressive (in my opinion, of course) – Sinatra, Vic Damone, Bobby Darin, Dion, Al Martino, Dean Martin


        December 23, 2017 at 7:41 PM

  19. ‘I am never again going to buy another dead-tree book, they just take up too much space, and it was so emotionally painful throwing out hundreds of books from my childhood and younger adulthood.’

    I wanna read a real book! The books are cheap, I buy them, read them and pass them on. If nobody wants them, I leave them in Park Slope in those book exchange boxes on the streets, or just leave them in a park with a note ‘Please take’. Most get passed on, but some aren’t of the kind that I want to be passing on, you know. Lolz.


    December 23, 2017 at 6:09 PM

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