It’s a bit ironic that this text in fact contains quite a few words. But I feel like words are everywhere and I’m sick of it.
Let me explain.
If you’ve read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, you’ll know she advocates removing labels from things. And not just the “remove the packaging” kind of message which I touched on in my Marie Kondo blog post. She encourages people to remove the labels that we don’t normally think to remove. Here is a passage from her book which I think sums it up perfectly:
“Her friends wondered how she could be tidier than she already was, but she still seemed discontent.
‘We don’t have a lot of things but somehow I just don’t feel settled. I feel like there’s one more step I need to take.’
When I visited her house, it was tidy but, just as she had said, something didn’t feel quite right. The first thing I do at times like this is open the doors of all the storage areas. When I opened the main cupboard, I found what I had been expecting. Labels proclaiming `Great Storage Solutions!’ were stuck to her clear plastic drawers, packages of room deodorants were emblazoned with ‘Freshens air instantly!’, the cardboard boxes announced ‘Iyo Oranges’. Everywhere I looked, words, words, and more words leapt out at me. Here was the last ‘step’ my client was seeking. A deluge of information whenever you open a cupboard door makes a room feel ‘noisy’. Particularly if the words are in your own language, they jump into your line of vision, and you brain treats them as information to be sorted. This creates commotion in your mind.”
She goes on to urge people to remove product seals from storage containers, and removing the printed film from packages such as deodorants and detergents.
I had read this book about six months ago, and yet for some reason this information never really registered. To be honest, I regret not putting anything about it in my Marie Kondo blog post, as I definitely think this is one of the most important things in the book for me. Words are like noise. They’re like a pop-up ad on your screen, except that the screen is your life. We’re so used to people trying to tell us things and sell us things that we don’t realise quite how irritating it is.
It’s worse in cities. If anyone has ever frequented the London Tube, you’ll know that people are trying to sell you things everywhere you look. It’s not that annoying, until it is, and you realise you can’t actually stop yourself from reading all these things all the time. I’ve started to find myself wishing for a drab, grey underground over this. It gets worse if it’s late and I have a headache. I don’t need pop-ups everywhere I look. I sometimes wish I had a ‘Z-Eye’ from Black Mirror, just so I could download an ad-blocker for my own line of vision. Let’s hope that becomes a thing. Elon Musk, take note.
Every single food item you buy contains advertising. Every packet of pasta, every cereal carton, every can of tomato sauce. Every single home item – dishwasher tablets, tissues, kitchen roll. Most personal grooming items – razors, deodorants, shampoos. If it’s not advertising, it’s a warning label or an essay of product information. Don’t get me wrong – this stuff can be very useful. It’s good to know which brand something is in case you want to buy it again, or the ingredients it contains, or any warnings that are typically issued with that product. But with the age of information we’re currently living in, it’s fairly easy to Google these things. When I buy a pack of spaghetti, I don’t really want a suggested recipe with it – I can look up my own recipe, or get a meal prep kit if I’m too lazy to do that, thank you very much. And I feel like all this is adding to the already over-stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked portion of the population that has to deal with it every day.
I think this is particularly relevant given how environmentally conscious this generation has become. If all our grains are no longer wrapped in plastic, how will the companies that sell them be able advertise their superiority in our own kitchens?? The current trend seems to be towards minimalism, and the more I hear about this particular trend, the more I’ve noticed that minimalism goes hand in hand with less “noise”. It’s like reverting to “the good old days”, “the simple life”. Bars of soap and shampoo that don’t come in packaging. Grains that you weigh and put directly into your own glass containers. The good old milk man. If this is the future, then this form of “noise” is on its way out.
There’s also a lot more focus on taking care of our own mental wellbeing. We’re much more conscious of controlling the information that reaches us, given how much there is out there. We unfollow and block and ghost because there simply isn’t time to give everything attention that demands it of us. We all instinctively hate reading those Buzzfeed articles that have an ad every other sentence. And yet we can’t do the same in the real world. We automatically read any words in our line of vision. And it’s super annoying.
I said I’d address the fact that this post in itself contains words. But the key thing here is that you’re choosing to read them. There are no ads in the sidebars. Much like with a book, you’ve decided you want this information and you’ve clicked the link or opened the cover and now you’re getting the information. Unlike a pop-up ad, or words pasted all over your kitchen or your commute, this is information you’ve decided you want, and – most importantly – you could stop at any point. You can close the book. You can close all your tabs. What you can’t do, is remove the text that screams at you from every shop window, every supermarket aisle, every billboard. It’s like when you’re in a pub and there’s a TV in the corner and you can’t look away even though you don’t want to watch it. Except it’s everywhere, and it’s sneaky, and we don’t notice.
So what’s the point of this post? Not much, to be honest. I just want to make everyone aware of this issue. If might be pissing you off too, you may just not have realised it yet. Your secret yearning for a quiet life in the countryside may in fact be rooted in your frustration with these daily popups.
The first step is to control this in our own homes. Removing labels and stickers might just make you that bit calmer. It might make your life that little bit more peaceful. I see a future in which advertising is something we choose to endure. Perhaps we’re paid for the amount of advertising we’re willing to expose ourselves to, or else we can choose to remove it entirely. Maybe, one day, it will be easier to control the daily “noise” we experience. And we’ll lead less stressful lives as a result.