Valerie Feigen, who co-owns the Edit boutique on Lexington Avenue — “a luxury shopping experience for women of distinction and style” — has hired Ms. Reich repeatedly over the past three years. “The perfect bag or a great pair of shoes can give you so much pleasure, but it can torture you when you don’t know where to put it,” Ms. Feigen said. “When your possessions are out of control, I think it’s very hard to be organized in general about your life. You don’t want your possessions to own you.” (Organize This! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09)Today, the Times brings us a new example of how the rich spend their spare cash: they pay a certain Prada-toting Ms. Reich (or another like her) $150/hr to tell them to throw out garbage bags full of their lightly used toys, clothes, appliances, and other possessions and to organize the rest of their expensive crap into pricey plastic boxes. This is how the rich stimulate the economy, how they create jobs. Ms. Reich's organizing services even help save the rich some money by exposing pilfering by their nannies whom they can then fire.
All of this seems mildly nauseating to me. Perhaps it shouldn't. After all, the rich earned their money and should be free to spend it as they wish, without the judgment of the less enterprising. Plus, such outlays are justified because they reduce stress. And with mountains of unneeded stuff comes a lot of stress. Ms. Reich points helpfully to the leveling character of stress: “It’s a high-end problem, but the stress is the same either way." Biochemically, maybe--and I would want to see some proof of that. But qualitatively, as experienced, all stress is not the same. I despair of the capacity of the rich to conceive of what stress means in the lives of many of the rest of us. Most of the middle class refuse to see the difference as well, because they want to share something with the rich, even if it's just the experience of "hardship." Finally, I wonder what Thoreau would think of Ms. Feigen's (inadvertent?) allusion to Walden in the last line above.