On the Genesis of PMS (Part 6: On the Fifth Meditation)


As a standalone piece, the fifth essay of PMS: Meditations on the Post-Modern Syndrome would have carried the title On the Tyranny of Possessions. I’ve posted at least two essays on the subject (see On the Cultivation of Space and On the Preservation of Space), and I’m far from exhausting what I have to say on the matter.

In a nutshell, I find having too many things around me suffocating. There are many reasons for this, all connected in various ways to eccentricities that border more on the annoying than on the endearing. To wit:

  1. The amount of effort needed to maintain harmony in my universe is directly proportional to the number of objects that occupy said universe. So the fewer things I have around me, the less energy I need to expend in battling the forces of entropy. Entropy can take many forms:
    • Aesthetic entropy: needing to coordinate the look of things—colors, styles, sizes, shapes, textures, locations; even bohemian chic is the result of a very deliberate effort (e.g., aging, bronzing, staining, etc.); as Steve Tyler, the lead singer of Aerosmith once said upon receiving a Grammy Award on behalf of the band: Do you know how expensive it is to look this cheap???
    • Material entropy: needing to maintain the functionality of things—patching, sewing, wrapping, washing, drying, dry cleaning, polishing, waxing, varnishing, painting, repainting, repairing, replacing; the things we own own us back—and the subordination is an asymmetric one (in whose favor it is is easy to guess)
    • Financial entropy: giving in to the gravitational pull of things towards other things—the force of which increases the more objects there are; this is easiest to observe in the buying patterns of homeowners who frequent household depots: you start by wanting to buy a kitchen sink hose—and end up leaving the shop with a new kitchen
  2. The amount of gravity anchoring me to a particular location is directly proportional to the total mass of objects contained within said location. So the fewer things I have around me, the less energy I have to expend to relocate myself at will.

Practically speaking, what all this has translated to is a massive fondness for: multipurpose devices, just-in-time home inventory systems, minimalist (and therefore easy to mix and match) styles, and using things until they’ve given up the ghost (this applies to bags, shoes, pants and electronic devices, among many others).

Of course, every so often, I’ll visit a friend’s designer home, marvel at the sheer density of stuff filling up the space, and feel the rise of that urge (built into every woman) for building nests. The only thing that stops me, every single time, is remembering that nests are also intended as takeoff points for flight.

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