Stuff

June 8, 2010

   

Mailbox

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

My grandmother died in 2008 having just turned the corner from the age of 99.  My grandfather had died 13 years earlier at the age of 91.  In 1940, my mother, grandmother, and grandfather moved into the only house I knew my grandparents to have.  In fact, my grandfather and my grandmother’s father dug the hole and laid the block for the foundation as well as constructing other parts of the house and various out-buildings.  This is the property that was recently sold-thus ending 68 years of continuous, family, ownership.  

Dining Room Packages

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Material culture is the physical objects made and used by people and defines a lifestyle.  It is all the “stuff” we accumulate over the years.  According to  a new book entitled, appropriately, Stuff:  Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, by Dr. Randy O. Frost and Dr. Gail Steketee, hoarding is being considered for inclusion in a future edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  My grandparents most likely would not meet the proposed criteria for this possible disorder.  However, in the nearly 100 years in which they lived, close to 70 in one place, they sure did save a lot of stuff.  

Behaviour is often best understood when the social circumstances in which it occurred are considered.  Examining the social context in which people live is at the center of what C. Wright Mills (1959) referred to as the “sociological imagination“.  In consideration of this point, it would be important to note the seismic cultural events included in my grandparents’ early lives-particularly the Great Depression (which followed the stock market crash of 1929) and World War II (a time when Americans were encouraged to conserve and when many items were in short supply and thus rationed.)  Such events would have left a lasting impression on behaviour due to their magnitude and timing.  

Therefore, it is not surprising that it has taken many hours, days, and weeks to sort through my grandparents’ possessions to determine what to keep and what to sell or recycle.  The plan is most certainly not to save it all.  

Take care.

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