Book review: Stuffocation by James Wallman

After someone I know raved about this book, I approached Stuffocation expecting to be goaded into ditching our CD collection and living life on the cloud, etc, etc. Yes, there is some of that – but there is much, much more to this book than decluttering. Stuffocation just might change your wallet, your next weekend / month / year – and your life.

Wallman is a writer and trend forecaster and it shows in how he’s really done his homework here. Assembling great real-life examples, academic research, records and statistics, he weaves a rich and readable series of stories. Wallman brings real people who’ve made real choices vividly to life, from the reformed spender turned radical minimalist who bagged up his possessions to see which ones really got used, through families who sold up, packed up and went travelling, to less drastic lifestyle changes with less stuff, less debt (and less ambition), more time and more meaning.

Drawing on the work of anthropologists, historians, economists and psychologists, Wallman provides insights on our journey from pre-Industrial Revolution scratching a living to the present day – and Stuffocation. He charts the rise in over-consumption, such as the post-Depression-era boom in spending, the Mad Men of the post-WWII era, and our ‘look at me’ compulsions that social media play host to. He chronicles our acquisitiveness and search for status in stuff – and the stress and sense of overwhelm that this brings.

This is a compelling read, as the author shows us something we may admire, adopt or reject, and then questions himself. Yet clues start to emerge from Wallman’s highly engaging interviewees, his own experiences and search for meaning. We may not want to make quite such radical lifestyle changes, and the good news is we may not need to – but we do need to shift our thinking, significantly. He sets out how we can break free of Stuffocation and why we will want to, making the shift from merely acquiring to experiencing, from emptying our wallets to enriching our lives. And just when we might be wavering, Wallman hits us where it hurts. But I won’t spoil it for you. I hope Stuffocation helps and inspires you as much as it has me.

Find Stuffocation here on Amazon.

You can also watch James Wallman’s talk at the RSA here.

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