Active Thinking Topic 16 -  Clutter! What & Who is Worth Keeping?

Monday 11 October 2021, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Cafe Brunelli, 187 Rundle St · Adelaide (You must buy a drink or something. We are 'renting' the space for 2 hours)

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding

Focus Questions

1. What are some favourite useless facts you know which 'might come in handy someday' ?

2. Are you a minimalist or a collector? What do you keep & what do you throw out? Have you changed these habits?

3. Do you accumulate friends (.. hey, what's a friend?), or are 'friends' a kind of flotsam you brush against as you voyage through life? Why do people have such different patterns with this kind of thing?

4. Countries tend to accumulate historical memories ... which can be used or abused, understood or misunderstood. On balance, when it comes to countries, what is worth remembering, and what is best forgotten? Are governments ever justified in suppressing historical memories? Examples please.

5. How, if at all, has your attitude to keeping stuff changed since computing and the Internet became almost universal? [Example - For much of my adult life I (Thor) accumulated books and eventually had to drag around or store a couple of thousand of them. They were sacred possessions. Then, under pressure a few years ago I threw out almost all of them. In the new digital/Internet world I haven't missed one of those books].

6. Storing stuff on a smart phone / computer / hard disk / 'the cloud' / has become near enough to cost free. Has this created new habits of collecting and hoarding? What sort of data do you hang onto? How long will all of your digital collections actually survive? [Remember, digital storage is really a collection of magnetized particles].

7. How has industrial progress and globalization changed the calculation of what is worth keeping?
The cost of most daily possessions (but not housing), relative to income, has become vastly cheaper in the last 50 years (only oldies might realize this). Fifty years ago a good advertising pitch was that Product X was of very durable quality ('will last a lifetime') and/or was easily repaired.

8. What is worth learning in school? Schools have to teach a vast collection of supposed facts, some of which might come in handy for some students at some time in their lives ... but wll probably be useless for the rest.

9. Do you still mend the holes in clothes? Are we living in a post-fashion era or are we slaves to fashion? Do you keep a wardrobe full of clothes that are perfectly good and that you might wear again someday, but not today? The entire clothing fashion industry is (and always has been) built on persuading large numbers of people to chuck out the clothes they have owned for a short time, and buy the latest styles at great expense (ditto for phones, cars etc).

10. When you travel (in this world or the next one) do you feel it necessary to take a 40 kg suitcase full of all the things you think you might need, or do you travel with just a toothbrush and one change of clothes? What do such preferences say about a person's personality?

Extra Reading

Wikipedia (2021) "Throw-away Society" @ - a vast collection of half-baked (incomplete) inventions and ideas which might come in handy for someone sometime - 

Piximus (25 Aug, 2014) "Useless Facts That Might Come In Handy Someday" @ 

Zubair Ahmed (November 2020) "List Of Useful Websites That Might Come In Handy". Pakwired @ 

Emmie Martin (Jun 30 2017) "70% of Americans consider themselves middle class—but only 50% are." Make It website @  [Thor, comment ... example of something maybe you think you might quote someday, but where exactly ....? ]

David Rieff (2 March 2016) "The cult of memory: when history does more harm than good - It is a truism that we must remember the past or else be condemned to repeat it. But there are times when some things are best forgotten." The Guardian @ 

Aman R.Bhonsle (August 25 2018) "5 Signs To Know If A Friend Is Really Worth Keeping Around". Swirlster website @ 

Kate Leaver (26 Aug 2020) "How many friends do we need to be happy? - Technically, I have 601 friends on Facebook ..." ABC Everyday @ 

Frank Robson (11 August 2018) "Why do so many friendships dissolve as we age?" Brisbane Times @

Quora (2017) "Why is fashion important to you?" [15 answers]. Quora website @ 

Jacqueline Rifkin (September 3, 2021) "Psychological ‘Specialness Spirals’ Can Make Ordinary Items Feel Like Treasures - Have you ever bought an item and then just not gotten around to using it because the time never felt right? Researchers now have the data for what they call ”nonconsumption”—and it may explain how clutter accumulates". The Conversation @ 

World Travel Family (17/07/2021) "Why We Don’t Travel Light." @ 

Jamie Carter (November 16, 2019) "Travel-light vs travel-heavy: how much should you take on holiday? - Everyone wants to travel light. Almost nobody actually does". T3 website @ 

The People History (2020) "Comparison Of Prices Over 90 Years [USA]". @ 

Raul (28 January 2019) "Price Changes Over the Last 20 Years Prove the Economy is Rigged" [USA] HowMuch website @  [Quote: "The economy is rigged. That’s the message behind our recent analysis of price changes over the last 20 years. We looked at everything from mass market consumer items, like TVs, cell phones and apparel, to critical life-altering purchases, like healthcare, college tuition and textbooks. It turns out that the most important things in life keep getting more and more expensive, while the things that don’t really matter keep getting cheaper".]

Wikipedia (2021) "Planned obsolescence" @  [Quote: "In economics and industrial design, planned obsolescence (also called built-in obsolescence or premature obsolescence) is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life or a purposely frail design, so that it becomes obsolete after a certain pre-determined period of time upon which it decrementally functions or suddenly ceases to function, or might be perceived as unfashionable.[1] The rationale behind this strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases (referred to as "shortening the replacement cycle").[2] It is the deliberate shortening of a lifespan of a product to force people to purchase functional replacements"]

John Harris (15 April 2020) "Planned obsolescence: the outrage of our electronic waste mountain". The Guardian @ 

The Minimalist (n.d.) "The 59 best decluttering apps to cut clutter and organize your life" @ 

Lory Hough (Winter 2015) "What's Worth Learning in School?". Harvard Ed. Magazine @  [Quote: "Professor David Perkins likes to tell this story: Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi was getting on a train. One of his sandals slipped off and fell to the ground. The train was moving, and there was no time to go back. Without hesitation, Gandhi took off his second sandal and threw it toward the first. Asked by his colleague why he did that, he said one sandal wouldn’t do him any good, but two would certainly help someone else. ... By throwing that sandal, Gandhi had two important insights: He knew what people in the world needed, and he knew what to let go of..."]

Thor May (2014) "The Purpose of Education - - a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy? 
Is education most commonly treated purely as an instrumental tool (e.g. to get a job), or as a path to self-development, or both? How can a balance between objectives be achieved in public education?" The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Thor, Quote: "For my own use, I have a fairly succinct idea of the most hopeful purpose of education, and how to realize it:

a) The skill and habit of ingenious questioning. The answers we get in life depend upon the questions we ask.

b) The technical and social skills needed to search out the answers, or tentative answers, to smart questions.

c) The developed ability to synthesize the answers from cascading questions into fresh insights.

d) The understanding that a system without error has no intelligence, and that efficient learning as well as innovation requires errors.

e) The skill to coolly evaluate risk with known unknowns, and the knack of finding good rules of thumb to deal with unknown unknowns.

f) The initiative and persistence to actualize fresh insights for practical effects on the world we live in."]




 Clutter! What & Who is Worth Keeping? (c) Thor May 2021 

return to Ddiscussion