Recently, I was waiting to get a haircut when I reached toward a glossy stack of magazines. Some were pretty-people publications chock full of what I assumed were famous younger folks. Had anyone nearby inquired, I would have had to admit that I didn’t recognize any of them and had no idea from their pouty expressions just what they might be famous for.
I thumbed my way through the periodicals and discovered that the vast majority were not about pretty people but pretty houses. I used to love home and garden-type magazines. I even had a few of them delivered over the years. Excitement stirred when looking at the gorgeous residences with their incredible landscaping often situated in exotic locales.
I did not purchase a home until I was 50, having spent a few decades bouncing around the country chasing job opportunities. So, gazing at those spectacular edifices fueled a fantasy.
But somewhere along the way, something happened to that dream. A case in point: When the magazine I was holding opened to a long shot of a featured domicile, I laughed. True, it was fabulous. But at 15,000 square feet it more resembled a resort than a home. A dozen shiny pages showcased the indoor pool, vaulted wine cellar, eight bedrooms, eight-and-a-half baths, perfect plantings, and spectacular wrap-around views. The writer described the abode breathlessly – stunning, superb, magnificent, striking, exquisite. Tasteful seemed a bit of an afterthought.
It wasn’t that I disagreed with all those superlatives, it’s just that they had me thinking about who would need such abundance. The fact that the owners spent only six months each year at the home had me wondering what their other residence might be like. Perhaps this was their summer “cottage.”
I glanced at the art-like photographs, rooms filled with perfectly-positioned treasures, every pillow in place, and not a lamp cord in sight. I flashed on my brown couch where, no doubt, a large cattle dog now splayed, shedding black and white fur, scrunching worn pillows beneath her. I looked closely at the furniture and floors in those pictures. No pets. No kids. Not possible.
You are correct in thinking that people have a right to spend their earnings any way they see fit. I will not argue with that. But how have we come to believe that these massive houses are desirable? Statistics show that the average home in the U.S. has nearly tripled in size over the last 50 years, yet the average family has shrunk considerably.
Perhaps we need the space because, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times, there are 300,000 items in the average American home. So, clearly, we love our stuff and need a big place to keep it. And yet, when on a whim, I typed downsizing into my search engine, over 91 million results popped up. Maybe we don’t want so many things after all.
I have written before about the fact that humans perhaps survived early extinction because of their ability to hunt and gather objects of value, whether for consumption or trade. And that, today, we might all carry a gene bequeathed to us from those ancient forbearers, one that compels us to find and hold on to items that might get us through lean times. But I don’t think that completely explains our unending desire for stuff.
I admit, it’s hard to get off this particular train. But I know I’m not alone. That’s why Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is all the rage. Maybe I’ll get her book.
But first I’ll tackle the closet.
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As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.