22 Nov

Diderot Effected?

The Diderot effect says people purchase things that are generally complementary to one another and that relate to their sense of identity. When something new deviates, though, it can cause a domino effect of more consumption. Perhaps the new kitchen/car/shoes make existing possessions look shabby, and suddenly everything must be upgraded. Coined by anthropologist Grant McCracken, the effect is named for French philosopher Denis Diderot, who first described it.

The term is now used in discussions of sustainability and green consumerism because when a purchase or gift fosters dissatisfaction with existing possessions, it can create a spiraling pattern of consumption. Sure, you could go buy a new lawn mower, the latest season’s fashion, or brand name appliances. I’d like to suggest, however, that a positive impact is also possible.

A new and upgraded possession could cause you to consider living with fewer, higher quality pieces – and giving the rest to charity. It could make you think about how you really use things and whether you actually need them. Perhaps somebody else could make better use of them. So do a good deed, take the charitable deduction, de-clutter your life – then enjoy something new guilt-free.

In my case, cars are used and furniture is old, or made by local artisans. Original jewelry and art by my many artist friends has supplanted prints and store-bought baubles. Something comes in, something goes out. Preferably two or three somethings. LOL  Diderot would be proud. As I always am, when someone chooses to upgrade with my original art. Recently a friend purchased my painting of a market in Provence, which brought back wonderful memories of her travels in southern France.


  1. LOL, Robyn! College would’ve been my last serious thought about philosophers, too. Have become addicted to the in/out rule, though. Love knowing someone else gets to enjoy something of mine. And thanks for the compliment on the painting!

  2. Sounds very disciplined-the in-out rule. Love the painting and I’ll try to conform to the discarding of one for the new replacement–I’d like to make Diderot proud. Hmmmm–Diderot–haven’t thought of him since college and I’m no worse for the wear.

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