I Am Not My Stuff

I Am Not My Stuff

Netflix Amazing Interiors
[lead dropcap="yes"]Last night, I was tooling around Netflix for something to watch and happened upon a new show, Amazing Interiors. The promo had that HGTV feel and being curious about how people renovate their homes, I decided to watch. I made it through one and half episodes and turned it off.[/lead]

The premise of the show is that people have these homes that look ordinary from the outside, but are “amazing” inside, with fantastical decorations or opulence or unusual accoutrements. But what I concluded is that it’s all about the stuff.

One guy loves the Chicago Cubs so much he turned over 2,000 square feet of his basement into a Cubs-themed sports bar with hundreds of thousands of dollars of Cubs memorabilia and tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) in custom cabinetry, painting, and furnishings. Another couple had an old riverboat on the Thames in London that they renovated into a Scandinavian-style apartment. A guy in Austin, Texas, sold his condo to build an apartment in his garage to be closer to his sports cars. A police officer somewhere in the South has an ordinary tract home that is filled with a movie prop collection worth more than $1 million in his estimation. A writer in England has renovated his home so that each room feels like its from a particular time period and place with a story about what’s going on in it, filled with stuff he’s purchased on his trips around the world.

The common element among them all is that except for two of the homes, every one was owned by a single person, apparently living alone. And of the couples, there was no sign of children. In fact, the riverboat house has no provision for a second sleeping space at all.

It turns out that the show isn’t really about how home renovation. It’s about people’s stuff and how much they love their stuff and how much they define themselves by it. The British writer so loves his stuff that he’s afraid that when he dies someone will sell it all off, so he’s given the home— lock, stock, and barrel— to a friend who thinks loves his stuff as much as he does and he’s moving into a retirement home.

Of course, such shows never tell the whole context about the people they profile so maybe they aren’t as materialistic and shallow as they come off. Maybe there are children or significant others who didn’t want to be profiled. But even so, even giving the benefit of the doubt, it was still enervating and discouraging to see people so motivated by the stuff in their lives.

Not to harp on him, but the British writer’s dining room was decorated like a Victorian-era chapel and on a shelf, among all the other tchotchkes and souvenirs, was a big empty monstrance, and I i thought to myself how emblematic it was of the vast Christ-shaped hole in their lives so many people are trying to fill with material possessions.

Sometimes I get consumer product surveys to fill out and one of the questions on such surveys is “Does this brand/product fit with how you see yourself?” I don’t know how to answer that. What does it even mean? Why would I ever make a brand or product part of my very identity? I am not my stuff.

(For a completely different take on the show, check out the review from the Daily Beast. I acknowledge I am not the target demographic.)