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DematerializingReview - Dematerializing
Taming the Power of Possessions
by Jane Hammerslough
Perseus Publishing, 2001
Review by Diana Pederson
Nov 21st 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 47)

What me, materialistic?  I'd never seen myself that way.  But there I was, pricing waterfront property instead of enjoying the view, agonizing about depriving my kids instead of noticing the pile of unused CD-ROMs they already owned, and sweating over fabric swatches for a fantasy family room--instead of spending the time actually doing something with my family.  If I wasn't materialistic, I sure was giving a lot of thought and meaning to material things.  And I was beginning to find that my expectations of objects to do something--as well as the time and energy I was devoting to them--wasn't giving me what I wanted.  [Page 3]

Hammerslough presents several startling statements in the first chapter of this book.  Did you know you hear around 3,000 marketing messages daily?  She also discusses how dramatically our choices of each product desired have increased in the last few decades.  Technology has increased our wants dramatically.

I seriously doubt that anyone has considered that "buying" new things takes time.  Taking care of those things also takes time!  According to the author's beliefs about this subject, too many of us are spending time buying instead of doing things with people.  We are trying to solve psychological needs with things instead of relationships.

Chapters 2-10 are spent discussing how material things are trying to solve our need for:  peace with the past, feeling good about ourselves, understanding others, and belonging, love, doing the right things, being a better person, freedom from fear, and a sense of control.  These chapters will prove enlightening to most readers (particularly adults nearing retirement assuming they are discovering that "things" can't provide the meaningfulness they want in their lives). 

The final chapter, Dematerializing, presents some questions to ask ourselves about our possessions.  These questions can work two ways.  First, if asked BEFORE buying some item, they may keep us from doing so.  Second, if asked AFTER buying the item, they may help us give that item away in the future.  These questions are:  "Why are you holding on to something?  Do you still need it?  Do you still want it?  Will you run out and buy something else just like it if you get rid of it?  Will you still want, want, and want? Page 255]"

One step to dematerializing is to "clear out" the unneeded stuff in our lives and homes.  Here the author discusses the difference between true deprivation (not having food or shelter) and not having some new object that isn't linked to the essentials of life.  If only we could get this difference across to our children at a young age!  Get rid of what isn't really needed.

Step two is to discover the real reasons we choose to keep certain things.  Do they have some emotional value for us?  She gives the example of a mother with a son begging for a basketball hoop.  She has him consider the fact that you can't buy "being tall enough to play". 

Limiting the time we spend in front of televisions, movie screens, or computers will free up time for other things -- such as spending time with our family playing a game -- instead of being fed more materialistic messages.  "Sleeping on it" is yet another means of getting us to stop and think before making a purchase.  Instituting a day of rest (that isn't spent shopping) helps people refocus their lives on what is important.  "Create a will for living" -- list your values, things you want, and what you already have -- is another suggestion.  Think about what you would really like to leave behind for others when you leave this earth.  Rethink the size of what you buy -- do you really need that extra large cup of coffee?  Spend time with living things (people, animals) instead of inanimate objects.  Learn to view yourself as "lucky" because of what you DO have, not unlucky because of what you DO NOT have.  Look for the "spark" or "realness" in people you meet -- don't look just at what they wear or have.

Recommendation: I am reluctant to recommend this book to the average reader.  The title may lead you to expect to learn how to get rid of excess belongings instead of learning a new viewpoint towards things.  If you like a bit of philosophy, this is definitely a book for you.  If not, pass it by.

© 2003 Diana Pederson

 

Diana Pederson lives in Lansing, Michigan.


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