The Great Depression changed a generation of free spenders into one of thrifty savers. Will the Great Recession permanently change us too? Futurist David Houle investigates the long-term ramifications of our current economics.
In an earlier column, I wrote about why this recession feels different from other recessions we have lived through. It is a historically significant economic downturn by almost any measure, and its severity has been quite painful. It has also unleashed an interesting and unique social development.
In the past 12 months, as I have traveled across America and Canada giving speeches about the future, there has been a verbalization of something I have not heard in my lifetime, or at least not with such frequency—"I have too much stuff."
"I don't need any more stuff!"
"I am getting rid of a lot of my stuff."
"Our family is getting rid of a lot of stuff."
And most significantly, "I am going to live with less stuff in my life."
It is very interesting that this recession has become the trigger for these realizations.
In the past 18 months, people have dramatically lowered spending, except on necessities. This has meant that they have decided to make do with what they have, and to do without. Instead of impulsively buying new items of clothing, for example, we are choosing to wear what we already have. This has made us look into our overstuffed closets and realize how much clothing we already have, some of which we have rarely worn. We realize that in our ongoing process of constantly buying more stuff, we have accumulated too much of it. Thrift shops have become inundated with our stuff in the past year.