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Things Worth Keeping

Things Worth Keeping

The Value of Attachment in a Disposable World

Christine Harold

A timely examination of the attachments we form to objects and how they might be used to reduce waste

256 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9780816677245
  • Published: June 9, 2020
  • Hardcover
  • 9780816677238
  • Published: June 9, 2020
  • eBook
  • 9781452963877
  • Published: June 9, 2020


Things Worth Keeping

The Value of Attachment in a Disposable World

Christine Harold

ISBN: 9780816677245

Publication date: June 9th, 2020

256 Pages


8 x 5

"For too long, the contemporary individual’s relationship with ordinary things has been prematurely chastised as commodity fetishism or blindly embraced as conspicuous consumption. Christine Harold offers a welcome alternative, in which objects are cast in complex, subtle roles amid a broader human drama."—Ian Bogost, author of How to Talk about Videogames

"With thrift stores overflowing with ‘fast fashion,’ China hitting its limit for outsourced recycling, and even decluttering queens suddenly hawking crystals, it’s clear that Westerners buy too much shit. But permit yourself one more acquisition: Christine Harold’s beautiful new book, which explores how practices ranging from hacking and crafting to artisanship and storytelling can help us forge more sustained and, thus, sustainable relationships with the objects in our lives."—Nicole Seymour, author of Bad Environmentalism: Irony and Irreverence in the Ecological Age

"Things Worth Keeping pushes audiences to be shaped by their emotional reactions to the environmental impact of their consumption. Harold suggests that the days of trying to make environmental arguments via statistics—and “finger wagging” or “shaming”—ought to give way to emotional catharsis via art."—Women’s Review of Books

"Harold offers the book as part of an existing conversation that will continue in a variety of contexts, including the domains of design practice and vernacular experience, not to mention the university classroom."—Material Culture

"What to get and how to get it, how to take care of stuff, and what to get rid of and how—these are vexing everyday matters, with vast if often unseen consequences. Christine Harold’s Things Worth Keeping: The Value of Attachment in a Disposable World takes up these issues by analyzing big box stores and offbeat brands, mainstream trends and rogue artworks, political economic theory and journalistic hot takes."—ISLE

A timely examination of the attachments we form to objects and how they might be used to reduce waste

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.

Christine Harold is professor of communication at the University of Washington. She is author of OurSpace: Resisting the Corporate Control of Culture (Minnesota, 2007).



Introduction. Turning toward Things: Accumulation, Attachment, and Agency

1. The Dreams Stuff Is Made Of: Attaching to Inanimate Objects

2. On Target: Aura, Affect, and the Rhetoric of Design Democracy

3. Some Assembly Required: IKEA, Project Value, and What Happens When Things Come Apart

4. The Value of Story: Extending the Value of Objects

5. The Handmade Tale: Crafting, Making, and the Lure of the Artisanal

Conclusion: Expanding and Intensifying the Value(s) of Objects