Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Story of Stuff

This struck a chord with me. I do have too much stuff, and that fact gets driven home more after the Christmas season than at any other time of year. Now is the time the Christmas decorations are packed away in way too many boxes waiting to go back up into the attic. That's a task I cannot do alone -I can't even get them upstairs on my own, much less up the pull-down stairs into the attic. I've got tree decorations dating back to elementary school and brownie scout craft projects that bring back fond memories, but do I need so much of it all? I've been getting rid of some every year and not buying new, but there is still too much. And that's just for Christmas! It's not that I can't purge. I can and have: we got rid of more stuff than many people own when we moved into this place. How, then, is it possible I still have so much?

"It wasn't always like this. The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago. Ask your grandma. In her day stewardship, resourcefulness and thrift were valued."

"Each of us in the United States makes 4.5 pounds of garbage a day. That's twice what we each made 30 years ago."

Glenn Beck calls it "anti-capitalist". The New York Times calls it "a cheerful but brutal assessment of how much Americans waste". The video doesn't argue against capitalism at all. It argues for a change in method from a system that's wasteful and hazardous to one that's more sustainable.

The Story of Stuff Project has a web site, a blog and a Facebook page.

HT: re-nest


  1. People think stuff makes them happy. So if we aren't happy we buy more stuff. Not realizing that if we were happier with stuff we wouldn't need to buy more stuff.

  2. Anonymous8:15 AM

    But, isn't "stuff" such a good word for most of it?
    A Pal

  3. But isn't it wonderful that we have so much stuff? Yeah, wealth has its disadvantages, but the alternative is poverty.

    Here's the way I see it: the problem isn't that we're too rich; the problem is that other people are so poor. Our focus should be on helping other people get rich, rather than reducing our wealth.

    And the way to do that is capitalism.

  4. Woo-hoo! Commenting works again!

  5. Welcome back! :)

    I don't see it as a wealth issue, as I know some well-to-do folks who don't buy nearly as much stuff as poorer folks I know. It's just way more expensive stuff. So the poorer folks end up with lots more clutter than the rich folks and have less space to keep it in.

    I just wish I had bought fewer Christmas decorations through the years... When the kids move out I can give a lot of it to them, thus passing my stuffitis down to the next generation.

  6. Some folks do fall for the consuming-makes-you-happy idea and buy stuff or eat when they're unhappy. My first thought these days, if I see something I like, is this: "But where will I put it!!!" I don't buy stuff now except for books and DVDs. But I've got no place to put them...

  7. I am reminded of this great line by Andy Warhol:

    What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

    Abundance does not create happiness, but the absence of abundance creates misery.

    I remember reading a book by Dinesh D'Souza in which he remembered a conversation with a poor Indian who planned to immigrate to America. D'Souza asked him why. "Because I want to live in a country where the poor people are fat."

    Think about that: we live in a country where the greatest health problem affecting the very poor is obesity. Historically speaking, that's simply amazing. Sure, obesity (and over-abundance) can cause problems, but in the grand scheme of things, they're incredibly small problems.