Why ‘peak stuff’ isn’t all that bad

Iona Bain

Steve Howard has helpfully told us all that we have hit “peak stuff”.

We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak home furnishings. Peak peak.

Mr Howard joked that the new age of abundance could be called “peak curtains”. But the thing is that Steve is the Chief Sustainability Officer for…IKEA!

Now Caroline Lucas, parliament’s only Green MP, has joined the anti-stuff brigade, saying: “There is a debate to be had about whether more stuff is making us happier and is our society focused on stuff rather than experiences.” And she points out that some people are so swamped with things that they have to rent storage space (the question is how much?)

Research by the think tank New Economics Foundation suggests our priorities should be health, a good job that pays enough to provide a decent standard of living, well-being, fairness and protection of the environment and planet for future generations. I bet they’ve got loadsa stuff though.

This is all part of a movement to get us all living more simply and more “cleanly”. We are all minimalists now, eschewing the clutter that our parents’ generation enjoyed (or should that be endured?)

Having detoxed our bodies, we are now exhorted to detox our homes. De-clutter is now the trendy clarion call.

But I say: take the pressure off. Of course we all want to live in tidy homes and most of spend a good deal of time trying to make it happen. What’s annoying is that the lifestyle that’s shown in magazines and on TV is unachievable in real life and must cause a lot of stress among those brave enough to try and live the detoxed lifstyle.

Just take the kitchen. Cooking from scratch is a great way to make the most of our income and also very healthy because we are in charge of the ingredients. But, boy, it is messy! Especially when we are just getting started and the dirty bowls and pans are building up in the sink. We are flustered, we drop the flour on the floor and we can’t remember where we put the spiraliser. Of course we don’t give up – we persevere and learn how to clean up after ourselves and keep the kitchen looking presentable. I say PRESENTABLE – not showroom ready.

So can I put in a good word for clutter? We are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Things made in the past are very often better made and of nicer, more durable materials. Like bookcases (yes, bookcases.) Have you noticed how rare second-hand bookcases are? And they can be used for purposes other than storing books. Old ones tend to be made of wood, which is sturdy and doesn’t sag. I notice that Steve Howard says he is increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products. No need to repair my brother’s old bookcase which he bought when he was at uni (somebody must have been de-cluttering!) He painted it white and it looks great. Its small and it will last forever. So if you see old bookshelves cheap, snap them up before somebody else does.

Talking of bookshelves, Caroline Lucas has got some lovely ones. Right up to the ceiling, going right into the corner and stuffed, absolutely stuffed, with books. She was photographed in a magazine recently sitting in front of them!

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