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After Black Friday, Cyber Monday – the best holiday deals? Clean out your closet.

Consumer spending can drive economic recovery, but a recession created by a culture of excess can't be healed by more excess. As my kids learned by cleaning up their rooms, sustained economic health comes from knowing what we really need and what we can do without.

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That philosophy is sharply at odds with the message that Americans have been getting through festivals of consumption such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Those banner days of the shopping season seem grounded in the notion that happiness comes from buying more and more stuff.

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I welcome a healthy retail economy. As a newspaperman, I depend on a strong retail sector to support the advertising that pays my salary. I also know that a rebounding retail market can help advance the economic recovery that so many suffering Americans have been desperately awaiting.

But a recession created by a culture of excess cannot truly be healed by resorting to more excess. Real, sustained economic health comes from knowing what we really need, and what we can afford to do without.

Which is why, before you head to the local mall this season, I’d suggest you do what my kids have already done:

Look around the room you’re in, and decide what you truly value

Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Baton Rouge Advocate, is the author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.”


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