Aparment Therapy on Mania

Aparment Therapy on Mania

Maxwell Ryan
Mar 14, 2005

Sunday brought many things. It brought the long awaited calm after a busy work week and the chance to slow down and restock. In short, it brought rest. However, it also gave me time to read two articles that stuck out like sore thumbs from the weekend pile.

One article from the New York Times, In New Book, Professor Sees 'Mania' in U.S., echoed themes that I have seen in my work as an apartment therapist over the past four years. The doctor in question, Dr. Peter Whybrow speaks of "our compulsive drive for more" and how "we are making ourselves sick." Dr. Whybrow, the author of a new book, American Mania: When More Is Not Enough, is not just talking about a few of us. He is talking about all of us...

Just as we are experiencing an obesity epidemic in our bodies and a clutter epidemic in our homes, something bigger is out of balance. And while we feel good in short terms, a deep unhappiness has grown up in our country.

The problem is that we Americans have grown up to "favor individualism and novelty," creating a society that has been unstoppably "competitive, restless and driven to succeed. And we have succeeded." But we have lost something very important. We have created a huge socio-economic split whereby the rich are much richer and people are too busy to enjoy their prosperity, while we have also lost what ties us together in a "social context." We have lost the gratification that comes from loving each other as friends, neighbors and family.

This has made us anxious and depressed in record numbers.

When I work in homes I see this. I see good people who want to reconnect to their home and all that it stands for: reconnection to self, friends and family. I see people who are too busy to find the time. I see people who won't let go of stuff to get their home back. I see people who are depressed and need more help. I see regular people wanting simple things and struggling against the tide that runs past all of our doors.

In addition to the paper, our latest Forbes Magazine arrived over the weekend as well. Here is the cover story: "Billionaires - The World's Richest People (131 New Billionaires This Year!)." It was the perfect illustration of the hype and the reality that Dr. Whybrow is talking about (ps. One of the new billionaires is Martha.)

A few readers have conjectured on what Apartment Therapy stands for. Well here it is: AT stands for reconnecting and enjoying your own home....however you want to do it. It stands for simplicity and modesty, but it also stands for a bit of decadence as well. It stands for doing-it-yourself and working within a tight budget, but it also stands for hiring people to help you and splurging every now and then. AT stands for finding the balance between you as an individual and you as one connected to many, many others around you.

Finally, AT stands for not just talking, but doing something about it.

"A high tide washed all the little fish onto the beach where they were all gasping for breath. So here's this fellow scooping up each fish and throwing them back into the sea, and my friend goes up to this fellow an says: 'This is a fruitless task. It's not going to make any difference.' And the fellow picks up a fish, throws it into the sea and says, 'To this one it does.'"

Story told by Dr. Whybrow


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