Rob Walker‘s column Consumed first appeared in the New York Times Magazine back in January of 2004. His final column titled, “Websites That Collect Stuff So We Don’t Have To” appeared in last Sunday’s edition. In it, he offers some closure on the topic that he has been considering for the last 7 years; ‘stuff’, and how and why we collect it.
His conclusion, is that regardless of an economic downturn, stuff still matters to us, though our methods of its collection may have changed.
Websites like Things Organized Neatly and Collection A Day have come to replace tangible collections of stuff. The objects on these sites are often trivial; erasers collected from garage fairs or a pair of socks organized neatly, for example. But our need for stuff subsists, and it this way, we can collect stuff without actually having it clutter our living rooms, or our minds. He writes:
Best of all, we don’t even have to deal with these collections as physical things; we can simply enjoy them as digital presentations. It is everything we love about stuff — but without the stuff. In a reversal of the desire to have your cake and eat it too, we can consume these lovely objects and not-have them, too.
He offers one last concluding thought on the topic that has helped shape his career: “Possessions may not be the object of life, but life without objects would be a lot less interesting. Ultimately, we all may just really like having stuff.”
Rob spoke last year at our PSFK Conference in New York. See video from his presentation here.