Life. Simplified. column: Disney represents the very definition of clutter |

Life. Simplified. column: Disney represents the very definition of clutter

Evan Zislis

I’m in the no-fluff, tough-love business of helping families clear their clutter. When I locate the elephant in the room, I name it and challenge folks to justify its existence in their lives. I’m not talking about rote rationalizations for keeping stuff around; I coach my people to get clear on what matters most and to follow through with intentional resolve. I’d like to discuss a clutter culprit of the highest order.

Before last week, it’d been over three decades since I was last in Disney World. This year, my wife and I resisted, but my parents insisted on footing the bill so they could host my 5-year-old daughter to a weeklong theme park extravaganza. The reunion was in honor of their shared retirement celebration, and I was instructed to show up graciously, with a cheerful disposition. Truth be told, I grumbled a little and then promptly thanked them for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share the memorable experience with my family.

Nostalgia for the planet’s most famous mouse may be what inspires aficionados to buy that stupid hat, year after year. When it comes to Disney, we are divided. For loyalists, the resounding sentiment is simple: “It was good enough for me, and it’s good enough for my kids.” For them, anything with the official Disney brand says it all: “This is a wholesome product, good for humanity and safe for kids. I know because it says, ‘Disney’ right there on the label — and that’s good enough for me.”

The rest of us aren’t so sure.

If Mickey and friends have done anything since the late 1920s, they have indoctrinated no fewer than five generations into a global franchise fueled by creativity, imagination, industry supremacy, profit — and global influence. For better or worse, The Walt Disney Co. has become a dominating force. Employing more than 180,000 people, Disney is currently listed by Forbes as the 11th most valuable brand in the world, valued at $179.5 billion in 2015.

Touted as the world’s largest media and entertainment conglomerate, Disney owns several movie studios; a major television network; leading cable channels; theme parks in the U.S., France, Japan and China; a cruise line; numerous hotels and resorts; a book publisher; and colossal retail operations, manufacturing and profiting from seemingly infinite quantities of licensed merchandise.

A global icon synonymous with children-oriented entertainment, Disney is single-handedly responsible for much of the world’s clutter. Most of their retail is toxic, cheaply manufactured drivel, mass-produced in impoverished nations by indigent laborers, working in dangerous sweatshop conditions for pennies an hour. Local water supplies are frequently contaminated by factory runoff. In a 2012 investigation against corporate misbehavior, Disney was found to be in violation of over 2,000 labor violations in offshore operations. One study concludes, “Disney has a chance to be a leader in the revival of American manufacturing. This would result in an influx of local jobs, a decrease in environmental waste and increased safety assurances.”

On the surface, The Walt Disney Co. takes public measures to appear wholesome. According to the official Disney website, in 2014, Disney reported $315.7 million in charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations. To date, the Disney Conservation Fund has given more than $30 million to conserve wildlife and wild places through its annual conservation grants program. A paltry drop in the proverbial bucket, considering the harmful impacts of corporate negligence and irresponsible manufacturing. At the end of the day, what are they selling really: negligent interpretations of history, sex appeal and the elite-class’s conquest over an ambiguous evil.

I’m not interested in eccentric conspiracy theories about Illuminati propaganda, ties to the FBI, or subliminal messaging intended for children. What I find fantastically offensive, however, is that one company can do so much damage under the guise of wholesome, family-friendly entertainment. In my estimation, Disney represents the very definition of clutter.

Ready to declutter? Need less, support businesses that put environmental sustainability and human rights above corporate profits, and show your kids what matters most: who we love, what we do, how and why we live, because everything else is just stuff.

Evan Zislis is author of the bestselling book “ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World” and “Aphrodisiac: Clearing the Cluttered Path to Epic Love, Great Sex & Relationships that Last.” He is founder and principal consultant of For more information, like ClutterFree Revolution on Facebook, call 970-366-2532, or email

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