The Post-consumer Economy – part 1

I wrote this quite some time ago, but can find no place where I actually published it. Perhaps it was one of those things which was submitted but never saw the light of day. One thing is certain, an updated and fully edited version will end up as a section in the Ruminations chapter of “The Phallus of AGILE and Other Ruminations” when it is released.

There are a number of trends which have taken hold which are driving America, if not the world towards a post-consumer economy. Some of them you might have noticed, the rise of the tiny house movement, the growing number of consultants to eliminate clutter or help organize by throwing things out, shows like “Hoarders,” even financial planners are now directing clients to cease consumption and buy their last house first.

Even if you have never read a financial advisor column in any newspaper (you remember newspapers, right?) You had to have noticed the rise of shows like “Storage Wars.” For those of you have have been living under such a mountain of stuff you cannot find a newspaper or one of your many televisions, let me spell it out for you. A growing number of financial planners are getting up on their soap boxes preaching that Americans are too buried in credit card debt and drowning in stuff brought on by the multi-generational marketing effort making us believe we have to own the latest and greatest whatever to actually matter. Shopping has went from a necessity to an industry.

Shopping, combined with massive increases in rent have created an unforeseen industry, storage centers. People cannot afford a place large enough for all of their stuff so the stuff they cherish, but aren’t currently using, gets hauled off to a garage. Some are climate controlled, most are not. Many offer 24-hour access to your garage as a selling point. In your mind it becomes just like your own garage, but much farther away from your house where rent is cheaper.

If you work in a major city, like Chicago, you have two choices. Live way out in the suburbs, enduring hours each day commuting or pay many thousands per month for a shoe box sized apartment which has no room for stuff. The commuting option also leaves you with two choices, spend hours on the train or even more hours and frustration driving a car on the poorly maintained arteries then hoping to find a parking place at a reasonable price. The parking situation has even created a new on-line business of dumb phone apps which identify the cheapest parking available right now. Garages which aren’t quite full have flash sales trying to maintain 100% occupancy while charging full price to those who are not tech savy.

Apartments and condos in major cities have been getting smaller for roughly 100 years, maybe longer. The taller the building, the smaller the units inside it became. This trend has even institutionalized fraud. Measuring a unit in “city feet” has yet to send any real estate agent or building owner to prison as far as I know. What are “city feet” you ask. Well, the include the entire square footage of the common hallway outside of your unit for the length and/or width of your unit in the square footage of your unit. In most cases it is measured twice because your unit includes the space all the way across the hall to the other unit and vice versa. You cannot use this space for any other purpose than walking to and from your unit. No storage, no coat rack, nothing can be placed there, but it is still considered part of your when calculating size.

 

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