Just saw Paul Mullins’ post, “Cannibalizing Suburbia: ‘Storage Wars’ and the Ruins of Affluence“, on his Archaeology and Material Culture blog. His post lives up to its wonderful title, and you should go over to his site and read it.
A followup comes to mind based on reading and thinking about ways to live other than in houses. It’s about what Mullins calls “the failures of idealized middle-class materiality”. More specifically, our unstoreable, unaffordable mountains of suburban stuff are fallout from the collapse of an unsustainable myth: what top HUD political appointees used to call “the American dream of homeownership.”
Americans had bought the fiction that a single-family detached house was the only truly mature or respectable way to live. That fiction was as destructive and unrealistic as an eating disorder. People gave up their savings, their credit, and in some ways their freedom to choose jobs, home towns or leisure activities, all for the American Dream of Homeownership. Looking back, it’s as tragic as the mentality of a teenage girl who, instead of following her own path to adulthood, decides she isn’t normal or even fully real if she doesn’t look, act and live like her models on television.
We’re not all thin, we’re not all beautiful, we don’t all live in New York or Beverly Hills, beauty isn’t the same for everyone, we don’t even all want to live in “little boxes on the hillside“, and a home isn’t always a house.