TMS= Too Much ummm STUFF.
I've seen it in so many ways. My wife and I were talking about the mortgage crisis and home much homes have gone up. We grew up in the 1960's and I remember by parents buying a 1200 square-foot-per-floor split level tract house for $19,000 in 1966. That was a four bedroom two, bath house (after we finished the basement).
I live in the city rather than the suburbs now, and many of the houses around me were built in the late 1940's, to take advantage of the housing opportunities provided by the GI Bill for WWII veterans. Most of those houses were quite small by today's standards--- 850 or 900 square feet on the main floor, 2 bedrooms and one bath. A big one might be 3 bedrooms and 1 and 1/2 bath. The kitchen, dining room, living room, etc were all smaller too. Those houses were built with 60amp electrical services too-- the minimum today is 200 amps and 400 amps is not at all unusual. Electric dryers tipped the scale to be sure, but when you look at those post-war houses, they have very few outlets-- it wasn't a priority.
I think that is a good paradigm for the changes in the last half of the 20th Century in the US. We have more cars, several televisions, a couple computers, microwaves, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Our cars are a good example of the same. My first car was a 1961 Chevrolet Impala. 283 V-8, 2 speed automatic transmission, manual windows, AM radio-- pushbutton tuning was a big deal, no air conditioning. It did have power steering. It was $300 in 1971 with about 50,000 miles on it and it had a fresh set of Sears radials-- quite a new type of tire then.
Years ago I started a thread on my BBS about simple living and being able to get by with the basics. I came up with the idea of giving everyone a box that was a one meter cube and all your personal possessions had to go in that box. The other forum members said it was impossible. I don't think so and I'm working towards it-- cleaning out my closets and paring down my "stuff." I'm going to get a washing machine box and start there.
There is a photo of the total worldly possessions of Mohandas Gandhi when he died.
It says it all: one of the most respected men on the planet and he left behind a couple pairs of sandals, a book, his glasses, a couple bowls, a cotton spinner, and three ceramic monkeys.
I've run through this exercise several times over the years and it is exactly like making an ultralight gear list. You are getting down the the essentials for sustaining yourself. It is very enlightening to sit down and say, "how many pairs of socks do I need?"
There are many books and Web sites on the concept. Search on "simple living".
I think I've brought it up here before. You might think this is anti-materialism, but I call it hyper-materialism, particularly when we talk abut ultralight hiking. Performance with light weight is the issue. We want only the essentials, and those must be the best in terms of weight and performance-- keeping the heat in, the rain and hot sun out, covering as many uses as possible and so on. We can take the same principles to everyday life in picking transportation, communication gear, entertainment, and so on.