Enuf Stuff

by Catherine Haug (originally published 5/20/2009; updated & republished 2/23/21012)

See also my earlier post: Living a Simpler Life (October 30, 2011)

A New Trend

Recent news reports in this down economy indicate Americans are changing their habits, from spending to saving. This trend means we are discovering we can live with the stuff we have, at least for now. And the longer we can last with no new stuff, the more this new habit will become part of who we are. How freeing! to know I don’t need more stuff to live day to day; I don’t need more stuff to fortify my self identity; I don’t need more stuff to prove I’m at least as good as my neighbor.

Anyone who has been in my house can attest that I do have a lot of stuff. It’s a wonder to me that in my growing-up years, I shared this small house with my parents, and now its just me and stuff is crowding me out!

OK, I’ll admit it; I hold on to things.  It’s hard for me to let go of what I have.  I can say NO to more stuff, but I find it very hard to say goodbye to what I have. This is what I need to work on.

The time to say “Enuf Stuff!” is here, to give us a chance to analyze what stuff is essential:  food, water, air, shelter, family, community. Then cherish the essential and let go of all the other stuff.

The Story of Stuff

There are so many people, like me, who need to work on saying NO to more stuff. So perhaps a re-viewing of The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard is pertinent. This excellent 20 minute animated video really gets the point across. (But clearly, Annie needs to let up on the caffeine). Check it out: www.storyofstuff.com

She takes the viewer through the five stages in the life of stuff (Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, Disposal); this is a linear process that results in depleted resources and overfull landfills. And a society that is no happier as a result of accumulating stuff.

Annie closes with a chapter she calls “Another Way,” and offers 10 Little and Big Things You Can Do:

  1. Power Down. “Look for opportunities in your life to significantly reduce energy use: drive less, fly less, turn off lights, buy local seasonal food (food takes energy to grow, package, store and transport), wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, vacation closer to home, buy used or borrow things before buying new, recycle.”
  2. Waste Less. “The more we visibly engage in re-use over wasting, the more we cultivate a new cultural norm, or actually, reclaim an old one!”
  3. Talk to Everyone About These Issues. “Talking about these issues raises awareness, builds community and can inspire others to action”
  4. Make Your Voice Heard. “As individuals, we can influence the media to better represent … important issues.”
  5. De-Tox Your Body, Your Home, The Economy. Much stuff is riddled with toxic substances we don’t need in our lives. “Getting the toxics out of production at the source is the best way to ensure they don’t get into any home and body.”
  6. Unplug (TV and Internet): Plug In (The Community). “Spending time in face-to-face civic or community activities strengthens the community; many studies show that a stronger community is a source of social and logistical support, greater security and happiness. A strong community is also critical to having a strong, active democracy.”
  7. Park Your Car and Walk … and When Necessary, MARCH (as in protest). “Driving less and walking more is good for the climate, the planet, your health, and your wallet.” When leaving the car at home is not possible due to “inadequate bike lanes or public transportation options … join with others to demand sustainable transportation options.”
  8. Change Your Light Bulbs – Then Change Your Paradigm. A paradigm is “a collection of assumptions, concepts, beliefs, and values that together make up a community’s way of viewing reality. .. To really turn things around, we need to nurture a different paradigm based on the values of sustainability, justice, health, and community.”
  9. Recycle Your Trash … and Recycle Your Elected Officials. There are those who argue that recycling is a net energy loser; others see it as a way to defer extraction of more materials. I think recycling has merit, but it must be done smartly to better the energy ratio. Join a recycling group to pool your efforts until curbside recycling is available.  Reuse what you can, donate what others can use, and recycle the rest.
  10. Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used, and most importantly, Buy Less. “Buying less may be the best option of all. Less pollution. Less Waste. Less time working to pay for the stuff. Sometimes, less really is more.”  But when you must buy, buy smart.

2 Responses to “Enuf Stuff”

  1. Sherry Wells says:

    I also am familiar with Anne Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff”, as a requirement from a class, in addition I would like to recommend a small book by John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning, titled, “Stuff”, it is a very interesting book taking you from creation of items to disposal. I have a copy of this book and would be happy to sell it to anyone interested, or it can be found on Amazon. It is quite amazing the steps that re involved in the items we take for granted, many that are not ever considered. Definitely opened my eyes.

  2. Jean says:

    I have been trying to work on my clutter for some time. This article may give me the impetus to make a move toward deciding what I really want to keep. It is very hard for me to let go and make decisions.