How many magnets do you have on your fridge?
If you ever get close to a human
and human behavior be ready,
be ready to get confused
There’s definitely no logic…
to human behavior.
~Bjork -- Human Behavior
In a fascinating study and new book, Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century, researchers from UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families spent nine years looking at what goes on inside the homes of middle class families in Los Angeles. A period of these years culminates in the research for this book.
Highlights of the research show just how much stuff is collected within households and how this can impact our spending patterns, stress levels and family relationships. According to the authors, who carried out detailed psychological and stress tests on the participants, women in particular had higher stress levels, than men when confronted with clutter. Mothers would often use words like "mess," "not fun" and "very chaotic" to describe their homes when talking to the researchers, whereas fathers were proud of the possessions and did not seem troubled by the clutter.
The families were all dual income (both man and woman worked full time), had children at school, owned their own homes, and represent a wide range of occupations: teachers, firefighters, nurses, small-business owners, lawyers, airline pilots and contractors, among others.
The project generated almost 20,000 photographs, 47 hours of family-narrated video home tours and 1,540 hours of videotaped family interactions and interviews. But Life at Home is not just a scholarly catalog; it also delves deep into the psychological and social meanings of our possession obsession.
The researchers provide some fascinating reasons why they think we are collecting and hoarding more stuff:
The extent of hours spent working and the busyness of life means we have less time with our loved ones and feel guilty so end up compensating for this buying gifts as a way to achieve temporary happiness.
Grandparents and other family members contribute to possessions with many gifts at holiday times.
In an effort not to overspend and cut down on the frequent trips to the store, families end up buying in bulk when they do go shopping and don't always remember what they have at home so end up double purchasing.
One of the lead authors, Anthony P. Graesch, 38, an assistant professor of anthropology at Connecticut College, said: “We know how much we spent on those objects. But we’re confused about value: even though we’ve upgraded to a new fan, say, we don’t want to part with the old one because we don’t know how to recoup that value. Maybe we think we’ll sell it on eBay or have a garage sale. So it goes into the garage and there it stays because we’re so busy, we’re hyper-busy.”
In an intriguing discovery the researchers noticed a correlation between the number of objects families put on their refrigerators and the rest of the stuff in their homes. They write that “a family's tolerance for a crowded, artifact-laden refrigerator surface often corresponds to the densities of possessions in the main rooms of the house.”
The typical fridge of the families studied had 52 objects stuck on the front panel (and sometimes on the side panel, as well). The most crowded refrigerator was covered with 166 different objects. This stuck-on stuff, in fact, often covers as much as 90 percent of the fridge with a representation of the family's history and activities, highlighting the personal (photos, child's art projects or school work, awards); the practical (calendars, schedules, coupons, invitations, rosters, phone numbers); or the pretty (the most common objects displayed were decorative magnets).
The researchers believe: “the refrigerator panel may function as a measuring stick for how intensively families are participating in consumer purchasing and how many household goods they retain over their lifetimes.”
So if the clutter on the fridge door tended to predict the amount of clutter in the home, stress levels, strained family relationships and overconsumption… how does your fridge door look and does this ring true for you? Post a comment below and a pic of your fridge on our page at www.facebook.com/cashyme
Pic: UCLA CELF