Book: 'Dematerializing'

marylizJuly 16, 2008

Here's another book I read recently, and that I'd like to recommend to y'all. I read it in two days flat. (It was Fourth of July weekend.)

Dematerializing; Taming the Power of Possesssions

by Jane Hammerslough

published in 2001, so it ought to be easy to find at the library

This book examines the way marketers get under our skin in order to convince us to buy, buy, buy. The appeals seem logical at first glance, but actually prey on our emotional need to accepted by others, to belong to a group, to have what everyone else has, to be free of fear, to be in control, to be just a bit better than we were before, and even to be just a bit better than everyone else. You get the idea.

After a thorough examination of these marketing ploys, the author ends the book with a chapter of ideas for defusing materialism. I am greatly paraphrasing, trying to sum up each point, for the benefit of those who cannot get a copy of the book to read for themselves.

1) "Consider that three out of four's not so bad." Go ahead and complain about the weather, but the dissatisfaction only grows. Things can't possibly be perfect, so carefully choose what you will and won't accept.

2) "Turn swords into plowshares." When others are trying to make you feel inadequate in comparison to themselves, look at the source and see them -- and yourself -- in a bigger context. The author refers to "toxic people" who deliver "zingers." But by seeing how their life really ain't so great, you can appreciate your own life more.

3) "Clear out." Declutter, but only if you will not run out and buy more junk.

4) "Dematerialize deprivation." Being poor in material resources (or even merely having less than you wish for) does not necessarily have to mean that your life is poor. You have richness in another form.

5) "Discover the intrinsic." Each of us has a physical attribute or skill or way of being that is unique, and that money could never buy.

6) "Question screen time." Limit exposure to TV and the internet, and the desires they try to create.

7) "Sleep on it." If desire arises, wait a bit. Examine your thoughts and emotions before acting.

8) "Reinstitute a day of rest." We need some "down time" to truly "get away from it all" and "be real."

9) "Create a will for living." If you had to write your own obituary, how would you sum up your "Life's Work"?

  1. "Reexamine excess." When "super size" is being pushed on you, do you give in?

  2. "Work with living things." Children, animals and even plants have needs that take us away from ourselves, and provide spontaneous surprises.

  3. "Consider yourself lucky." Yes, you have gone through some hard times. But haven't you had unexpected bits of luck as well?

  4. "See the spark." Recognize the divine in ourselves and each person we meet. (Not always easy!) See how our human spirit unites us enables us to do great things.

So, let's start the discussion. Have you seen any ads recently? What was the product being plugged? What was the underlying "logic" that tried to convince you that you needed this product? Did the ad try to make you feel an emotion? Which one? Do you consider the ad effective? Informative? Annoying? Stupid?

Do you pay attention to the way marketers try to reach us? Or do you consciously try to block all that out? Do you think that maybe some of it still gets in the back door of your mind? When you consider an ad "stupid," yet also recognize the emotion it sets off, what happens inside your head?

What are some ways you "dematerialize" your own life?
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Oh, this is really good.

We are, in fact, entirely overmatched by the marketing machine, and first, I think we have to realize that there's nothing wrong with us in this...selling things is the basis of our rich economy, and the people who have been doing it for generations know their business. So this checklist is a wonderful antidote...and this forum has become a place where we seem to support each other in resisting, which is a wonderful thing as well.

Thank you, ML...another thoughtful contribution to this community.

I approach the right mindset by poring over design publications that achieve what I hope for. I used to be in the design trade, and I think visually about things to do with home.

There are lots of books we have talked about that tell us what to do...I'd like to recommend a couple that show us.

Some of the books are pricey, but might be in your library. They are available at Barnes and Noble, I know, and you can go look at them there.

FIrst, the latest issue of House focuses on serenity this month. Their text is in the form of interviews with the designers whose work is shown, which gives you a deeper insight into the process, and how the results were achieved. The Spanish/European house in Dallas has one thing in the text that jumped out at me...(page 88, third column):
"Order always creates calm, and there are no quick ways of cultivating it - it comes from severe editing, lots of housekeeping, and deep storage."

Second, "Perfect Neutrals: Color You Can Live With", a book by Stephanie Hoppen. Preview it at Amazon.

Third, "Axel Vervoordt: Timeless Interiors" by Barron and Sarramon. Vervoordt is a Belgian architect, his wife does fabrics and interiors with him, his two sons are also part of the studio, and although probably none of us can afford any of the rooms in this luscious book, the aesthetic is deeply inspiring to me. Likewise, preview it at Amazon.

And fourth, one I have mentioned before - "A Place For Everything," by Peri Wolfman.

I'd love to know what you think of them, if you take a look.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 9:31AM
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Thank you both for your book recommendations!

I for one, love to get recommendations on books! I tried to reserve some of the ones that you both mentioned at my library. They do have " A place for everything" but not "Dematerialization". "Dematerialization" I ordered from Amazon marketplace (new) for less than $2.00 new plus 3.99 for shipping.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 10:27AM
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Lena M

Here is another book you might find interesting.
Although it was written in 1957, the concepts still apply.

Vance Packard The Hidden Persuaders

From Wikipedia: Packard explores the use of consumer motivational research and other psychological techniques, including depth psychology and subliminal tactics, by advertisers to manipulate expectations and induce desire for products, particularly in the American postwar era. It also explores the manipulative techniques of promoting politicians to the electorate. The book questions the morality of using these techniques.


Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia entry on Vance Packard

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 2:04PM
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Very thoughtful thread! I've quit buying magazines off the rack - will let several that I subscribe to expire. Most of them are half advertising. I don't think I've ever been motivated to buy something I've seen on TV ads - ever - I don't watch much TV and most of the ads I've seen are insulting to the average person's intelligence, IMHO. Catalogs I get in the mail are my weakness, but I'm getting pretty good at just tossing them - if I look through them a second time, I can usually find something that really appeals to me, so out they go! (I know, I should put a stop to them appearing in my mailbox!)
I think I read "The Hidden Persuaders" in college Psych - there's a reason why retailers do the things they do, so I try to ignore most of it. It is true that consumerism is the lifeblood of our country, but we need to remain in charge of what choices we do make with our purchasing power.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 8:10PM
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Lena M

Very thought-provoking indeed.

Scraphappy wrote: I think I read "The Hidden Persuaders" in college Psych - there's a reason why retailers do the things they do

I guess I am old and (hopefully) wise, marketing doesn't quite work on me. One grocery store tucks the most popular fruit, bananas, in the way back corner. The blatant manipulation of making nearly every shopper parade past all the other tempting (and profitable) produce ticks me off.

It is true that consumerism is the lifeblood of our country
Unless $4 gas and negative home value growth might usher in a post-consumer era?


Here is a link that might be useful: The Hidden Persuaders: Content

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 10:59PM
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Because of the direct relationship between money and possessions, I'd recommend this book:

Your Money or Your Life

Check out the link from Amazon, the reviews of the books tell you a lot about the contents of this excellent book.

Here is a link that might be useful: Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 8:42AM
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Nice post, Maryliz. The author would be thrilled to read your glowing endorsement or her work. If her book is as good as your summary of it, it is definitely one I want to find. I'm an avid reader drawn to books that address the everyday issues of our lives--how we live with the mundane, nitty-gritty tasks of our days, and the spirituality & sacredness inherent in those tasks. HOW we choose to live out our days, how we spend money, how we care for our homes, each other, the earth, & how we think, feel, & process through all the messages our culture thrusts upon us via the media, etc., are all issues of great interest to me. You too, seem to be passionate about these ideas. Will look for the book! Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 9:06AM
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Thanks for the book suggestions. I've added them to my list, but I'd like to bring the topic back to Dematerializing.

I think most people would say that they are not affected by all the advertising that bombards us on a daily basis. I like to think of myself as being too intelligent to fall for all that nonsense. Then why do I sometimes find an advertising jingle stuck in my head? It's pretty rare, but when it happens, I have to flood it out by listening to music that I get to choose. ;-P

I believe that images on TV, in books and mags, etc. will reach the subconscious, and stick there. I try very hard to look away when the TV shows an ad for a horror movie. I certainly don't want that in my nightmares!

Some ads on TV and the radio are downright annoying! I try to mentally tune them out, or turn down the volume. I tell myself I will never buy that product, just because of their annoying ad. But by being so annoying, they have broken through to my consciousness. It is like a thorn in my side. Another bit of nonsense that I have to work at forgetting. (Deep breath! Ahhhh! Peace. Calm...) I don't watch TV much, and when I do it is usually PBS, which has only minimal commercials and sponsorships. When I am in the car, I find that CDs are better than the radio, because there are no annoying commercials. But sometimes I want to listen for a traffic report, so I eject the CD.

When I am shopping for the things I need, I sometimes find something that wasn't on my list. It seems like the solution to a problem. Perhaps I will get it. But if I really think hard about it, I usually end up putting it back, with a feeling of great relief. I have avoided the temptation to get something new to try to fix that diffuse dissatisfaction with life. I have to admit, some of those unexpected discoveries have been nice additions to my arsenal of tools for living.

The more I declutter, set up my home to be more comfortable, and step back to examine how I live, the more satisfied I am with my life just the way it is right now.

I can say with confidence that sewing helps me dematerialize. I enjoy making charity quilts to give away, and making primitive / folk art hand applique quilts to keep for myself. Having something to do with one's hands is like a type of meditation.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 10:47AM
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The ads I find most manipulative, and therefore most annoying, are the lovely, moving ones for Master Card that encourage you to do all kinds of things you can't otherwise afford, because the emotional payoff is "priceless."

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 4:17PM
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ahhhh, as the economy tanks, the more marketers seem to target the richer amongst us, and their porno kitchen mags tops my list.

As I enter my near retirement years, the more I declutter of material objects, the more I resent the constant bombardment of spend, spend, spend.

I used to depend on Womans Day and Family Circle for ideas for the middle class for menus and decorating that matches a lower/middle class budget. Sadly, they too now only market to a much richer audience. But last year I did see they had the courage to post a letter from a person that echoed my thoughts!

I got so sick of all the promo junk mail that I signed up (some legit web site, sorry don't remember exact site) where you could opt out of credit report inquiries so these people could flood you with cc offers, etc. That reduced my mail considerably!

I find new ways each year to use 'free' sources for many aspects of my life, and enjoy the freedom.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 8:30AM
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The one I use is Catalog Choice.
Link below...

Here is a link that might be useful: Catalog Choice

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 6:21PM
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Lena M (run by the state of Minnesota) has some handy links for stopping junk mail and credit card offers. (Even stops the ValPak blue envelopes).

I've also found relief by getting rid of the TV, and listening only to public or listener-sponsored radio. Ad block helps a lot with web sites.


Here is a link that might be useful: reduce the hail of unwanted mail

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 10:18PM
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