Saturday, December 8

The problem with nagging people about "Stuff"

A couple of days ago, No Impact Man posted a link to this video on "The Story of Stuff". It's an entertaining video, but a few hours later I was reminded of how frustratingly general advice can be ignored. I was stuck in traffic and idling behind a huge SUV that sported a bumper sticker that said "One nation has 5% of the world's people, uses 50% of the world's resources, and generates 50% of the world's waste. That nation is US."

Well, when we talk about "Stuff" in general, we leave it to people to draw their own conclusions. The general is a principle, and a rule drawn from it gets specific.

There are three ways the general "stuff" discussion can get misapplied, I think:

1. "Buy used when you can" can lead to having an excess of stuff. I used to have a friend who spent every spare dollar she had at the thrift store buying everything nice that fit her or her daughter. She always looked great, but every place she moved had to be physically large enough to house her stuff.

2. "Buy multipurpose when you do buy" can turn into a justification for cars that can fit a family of 6, the dog, stuff for a two week vacation and the power to pull a boat too. The heavier an item gets, the more it contributes to both the resource use and the waste production. So, if you're really worried about what you're doing to the world with your consumption, look to buy lighter and used.

3. "Get rid of what you don't need" can turn into an insensitivity to how you are contributing to the waste stream. Many pack rats I know are stuck because they don't know how to pass items on to a good cause, while others I know think nothing about hauling perfectly good stuff off to the dump to get it out of their sight. Borrowing from Robert Kiyosaki who writes that you have to weigh the sale of a property when you buy it, and only by doing that will you make a profit, shop with the end of the product in mind.

I have too much stuff in many ways, much of it bought new or "on a great sale" because I "might need it some day." I tied up money that could be used for people on stuff. I am using space that people could be living in to store my stuff. So I'm not a paragon of this, and I realize that any rule drawn is going to cross part of my life and I have to deal with the discomfort of that. But I really think when we entertain "rules" in our heads that we find areas where we can make change.

1 comment:

monkey said...

well... with anyhting the trick is to do it mindfully.

that thing we're so good at telling others but we're not so good at ourselves sometimes...
thinking it all the way through ^,^

ganbatte anne chan!!!!! ^,^

Unbox Videos


NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.