Coping with Excess
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Coping with Excess

How Organizations, Communities and Individuals Manage Overflows

Edited by Barbara Czarniawska and Orvar Löfgren

What does a stockbroker in Istanbul navigating the rush of incoming trading figures have in common with a mother in Stockholm trying to organize a growing pile of baby clothes? They are both coping with excess or overflow. This book explores the ways in which institutions, corporations and individuals define and manage situations of ‘too much’ – too much information, too many choices, too many commodities or too many tasks.
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Chapter 12: Managing inflows, throughflows and outflows: mothers navigating the baby stuff scape

Helene Brembeck


The first thing I did [when I found out that I was pregnant] was to book a date with a friend who has children. Together we wrote a list of what was necessary to acquire on two A4 pages. Then it remained just to start checking off the list. (Kajsa) Today, the market for things for the baby – clothes, toys, blankets, watchers, gyms, nappies, baby bottles, strollers – is expanding. This chapter demonstrates that parents, and particularly mothers, are engaged in continuous and time-consuming work to manage the inflows, throughflows and outflows of baby stuff, and that this work is necessary in order to maintain control and prevent overflow in the home. The chapter also highlights the new digital market of buying, selling and barter sites on the Internet, a market which can be perceived as a response to and a necessity for the management of these flows that are increasing in size and rapidity. Judging from the introductory quote and similar statements from women in this study, they appeared to be well-informed and rational consumers, demonstrating no sign of the impulsiveness that is often ascribed to female consumers. There are, however, other more intriguing ways of conceptualizing their utterances. When applying an overflow perspective, the managing of the acquisition process emerges as part of the regulation of inflow of baby things in the home.

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