Oppressed by stuff

This is a display window down the side of Kisahalli (built 1935 as “Messuhalli” by architects Aarre Hytönen ja Risto-Veikko Luukkonen, and enjoyed since being turned into a sports venue in the early 1950s, by generations of sweaty Helsinkians). The display always makes me smile. “Do you feel oppressed?” it asks. The problem it addresses is excess stuff, the solution it offers is access to more space. Yes, temporary storage, that fast-growing industry growing in the cracks between multi-lane highways and “affordable” homes in a city near you.

We’ve mentioned before that Finnish people inhabit, on average, quite modestly sized homes compared to their European neighbours, but we’ve also pointed out that somehow homes here seem uncluttered and light. (Perhaps it’s all that spring sunshine coming in at an angle – washed the windows yet?) So we’ve assumed that folks in Finland don’t go for the “abundance” of material possessions that’s such a drain on lives in many other places (for a laugh try putting “too much stuff” into google!) or for the often sick-making amounts of consumer tat that’s thrown at children before they’ve learned to say: “no”. All of which is eloquently and angrily covered in the Worldwatch 2010 report, intro available for download here.

Anyway, “ahdistaa” is  a fun pun. “Ahdas” means cramped and the word “ahdistaa” derived from it means feeling cramped=oppressed. Of course, one might think that in a time when space is such a luxury there might be easier ways of lightening the load, individually and collectively. That lovely phenomenon, the pamphlet, has come to our aid here too – for Finnish readers though, here and here. For English readers, yesterday’s Observer covered yet another report about how excess riches/stuff make us people miserable. It noted that evidence-based policy on this front, as elsewhere, is not to be expected any time soon.


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