Induced Demand

OK, is this a term you’ve come across before? I was reading the blog Root Simple recently when I encountered it for the first time, and now I can’t stop applying it to, well…everything.

What does induced demand mean? Well, have you seen Field of Dreams? OK, well, me neither. (I’m a terrible daughter.) But nearly everyone knows that line — “Build it, and they will come.”

In my reading I’d come across the idea before that expanding roads doesn’t ultimately help with traffic congestion but the author of Root Simple brilliantly applies it to home storage. The gist is that your junk expands to fill the space you allot for it.

That’s certainly true for me. For the first seven years of our marriage, we lived in apartments ranging from 400-800 square feet. The house we ultimately bought is twice that. Certainly, kids come with a great deal of junk, but I’ve expanded on every front in my personal possessions: more books, more kitchen gizmos, more everything.

But I don’t tend toward excess in the areas of my life I keep tightly capped by physical limitations — for instance, I keep kid hand-me-downs in storage tubs in the basement, and I can only keep as much for a size as I can fit into its respective box(es). If something better comes along, I have to fish something out to pass along so I can cram everything in. The problem sneaks in with areas in which I allow myself expanding storage — buying new bookcases, for instance, seems harmless, maybe even virtuous, but probably sometimes I just need to weed.

Now that I think about it, J even has this principle in regards to clothing: in graduate school he put darts in all his dress shirts and still occasionally loses weight in order to keep fitting his fitted pants. He theorizes that changes in menswear help allow modern men to become so heavy: if you have a big billowy dress shirt to hide your beer belly, you have no incentive to keep it in check. If, like him, you have tailored shirts that fit you when you’re fit, you have a strong incentive to keep thin enough to wear them.

My parents are excellent models to me of not giving induced demand a foothold. Since 1993 they’ve lived in a house big enough for their needs, and never given in to upsizing, storage units, or a hoarder mentality. They taught me that frugality does mean sometimes saving items for just-in-case scenarios, but also demonstrate that keeping extra stuff down is attainable and desirable.

I find myself committed again to paring down, using up and passing on. I don’t want my house to become a mausoleum of someday-useful gadgets and someday-read books. I don’t want to fall back into my winter funk where I can feel all our possessions pressing in on us as we slowly succumb to cabin fever. Induced demand: it’s something to keep in mind as we wade into the material excess of Christmastime.

Keep the surplus moving!

3 thoughts on “Induced Demand

  1. yes yes yes. (also i totally do what J does. i’ve been wearing the same pants since college and when they start to feel tight i adjust my diet/exercise routine just enough so that they fit again. the goal is to not have to buy ANY new pants — smaller or bigger — because why?)


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