The way that we choose to live our lives is a hot topic. Many people have found what they feel works for them and would love for others to follow them by doing the same. There is the mainstream materialism and the more fringe ways of life like minimalism, simple living (as close to off grid as possible) and a way of life called “the medium chill”. I have never felt like any of those were a good fit for me. So when I heard James Wallman interviewed on the television a couple of weeks ago about a different way of living called experientailism, I knew I needed to read his book, Stuffocation, to find out more.
From the cover you might think this book is all about minimalism, but it’s really not. It is actually a study into what the mainstream alternative to materialism is likely to be in the next century. It’s all about the trends that are popular in subsets of the world now, and whether or not they might catch on, on a larger scale. It might sound a little dry, but it was actually quite fascinating to read. It’s written in a really balanced way and the research is explained in an easy to understand (but not dumbed down) way.
The term ‘stuffocation’ refers to the feeling of having so much stuff that you feel suffocated by it. Whilst the book is about possible solutions to this (and is so much more than just it’s title), it also describes how this is impacting lives and the different studies that are being done to understand this further. The concept really helps to tie in the different ways of living that Wallman discusses in detail.
For me, minimalism and the other ways of life I mentioned above have never felt right for me. I’m not going to lie, I love stuff. I’m not a hoarder, but things of sentimental value (and of practical value too) mean a whole lot to me. But I also don’t really love to buy things because they are ‘on trend’ or just for the fun of it. I feel like I curate carefully and I put a higher value on things that allow me to have great experiences over just owning things. I prefer to buy great quality, less often and are things that serve a purpose. That’s just how I’ve always been.
In reading this book, I learnt that there are more people like me. (I may got a little teary at that point) That I fit into this term that Wallman calls an ‘experientalist’. Someone who values experiences over things. They still love stuff, but they buy more with the thought of how it will help them do things than just because. I’ve always felt a little alone in this, so it was really reassuring to read case studies and examples of people who have gone down this path and have found both happiness and freedom through it. (It also explains my love of my lululemon training gear when generally I don’t love buying clothes at all)
I also love that it looks different for everyone. The experiences they choose and the way they live differ from person to person. I make a big point about that on this blog. That my happy home and your happy home will look different, but they can still both be equally happy. The idea of experientalism is that the memories we make take precedence to how much stuff we own and what we own, and that sits well with me.
In reading this book I found there was a term for the way of life that I’m living. I don’t fit perfectly into the box, but I don’t think we ever completely do. For you though, you might find a way of living that suits you, if you’re not feeling happy with how things are for you right now. The book may be about what the mainstream is likely to follow in the future, but it also talks in detail about these other, currently fringe, ways of life that might suit you better. It doesn’t take pot shots at one over the other, it only follow the rules of trend forecasting from the perspective of if it will be taken up on a large scale. If that’s not important to you, you might find that one of those suits you better.
If the idea of experientalism sounds interesting to you or even if one of the others I mentioned does, you might get a lot from this book. It has a couple of quizzes in it that I found really interesting to take and there’s a section at the back on some ways you could try experientalism for yourself. If the idea of a life of experiences sounds like it could be cool, then I’d highly recommend this book. The science behind all the different ways of living is fascinating even if experientalism doesn’t sound right for you.
Get the Australian version here*
Get the US version (out March 17, 2015) on Amazon here*
Have you read this book? What did you think?
*Note: I am not a booktopia affiliate. The Australian version link is affiliate free. I am an Amazon Affiliate. The US version is Amazon affiliate link. If you choose to purchase through this link, I will receive a small commission that assists with the running of this blog. As always, I only recommend books that I love and think you’ll enjoy.