Things Worth Keeping

The Value of Attachment in a Disposable World

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Christine Harold

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Rampant consumerism has inundated our planet with pollution and waste. Yet attempts to create environmentally friendly forms of consumption are often co-opted by corporations looking to sell us more stuff. In Things Worth Keeping, Christine Harold investigates the attachments we form to the objects we buy, keep, and discard, and explores how these attachments might be marshaled to create less wasteful practices and balance our consumerist and ecological impulses. 

Although all economies produce waste, no system generates as much or has become so adept at hiding its excesses as today’s mode of global capitalism. This book suggests that managing the material excesses of our lives as consumers requires us to build on, rather than reject, our desire for and attraction to objects. Increasing environmental awareness on its own will be ineffective at reversing ecological devastation, Harold argues, unless it is coupled with a more thorough understanding of how and why we love the things that imbue our lives with pleasure, meaning, and utility. From Marie Kondo’s method for decluttering that asks whether the things in our lives “spark joy” to the advent of emotionally durable design, which seeks to reduce consumption and waste by increasing the meaningfulness of the relationship between user and product, Harold explores how consumer psychology and empathetic design can transform our perception of consumer products from disposable to interconnected. An urgent call for rethinking consumerism, Things Worth Keeping shows that by recognizing our responsibility for the things we produce, we can become better stewards of the planet.


  • rights
    The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance provided for the publication of this book by the Margaret S. Harding Memorial Endowment, honoring the first director of the University of Minnesota Press.

    Copyright 2020 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota

    Portions of chapter 2 were originally published as “On Target: Aura, Affect, and the Rhetoric of ‘Design Democracy,’” Public Culture 21, no. 3 (2009): 599–618.
  • publisher
    University of Minnesota Press
  • publisher place
    Minneapolis, MN
  • restrictions
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
  • rights holder
    Regents of the University of Minnesota