Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Too Much Stuff

I have been trying to get accross my view of the overly materialistic world we live in and the difference between buying the stuff we want rather than the stuff we need as being pointlessly wasteful for a very, very long time.

To me (remember, this is merely my opinion), there is a distinct, bold, bright line between the two. When I mention my philosophy of the difference to most people, I usually end up getting a snarl in response. In time, most realize the direction of my thinking, but won't admit it. To them, it seems I'm dissing their possessions. They're like a dog with a bone - "Don't mess with me about my stuff! I love my stuff. How dare you suggest I actually discard some or not buy more stuff?!"

Why do people love their stuff?!

There are simple questions to be asked to decide if an item should be purchased: "Do I need it, or do I simply want it? Will I use it every day, or only occasionally? Is there a purpose to this, or will it simply make me feel good to own it? Will this thing make my life any better, any easier or do I just think it will? Is this a planned purchase or in impulse buy?"

Colleen, over at In The Garden Online, touched on this very point regarding a rather expensive piece of jewelry directed at gardeners, but did it with much more couth than I would have mustered over the subject. Seriously, do any of us need expensive (or cheap, for that matter) jewelry? Why? Simply because it makes us feel good or other people will admire our bling? Honestly, call me a weirdo, but I don't believe in having bling just for the sake of having it or because it's pretty hanging off my wrists, neck or ears. By choice, I don't have an engagement ring. I don't even wear a watch. Anyone who knows me, at all, knows they would get a smack upside the head if they ever bought be jewelry - I would consider it nothing more than a waste of money. I don't need stuff to express myself artfully or emotionally - It's just stuff.

I came across this 2007 essay written by Paul Graham. He pretty much says what I'm thinking, but puts it in a more articulate way than I ever could:

July 2007
"I have too much stuff. Most people in America do. In fact, the poorer people are, the more stuff they seem to have. Hardly anyone is so poor that they can't afford a front yard full of old cars.

It wasn't always this way. Stuff used to be rare and valuable. You can still see evidence of that if you look for it. For example, in my house in Cambridge, which was built in 1876, the bedrooms don't have closets. In those days people's stuff fit in a chest of drawers. Even as recently as a few decades ago there was a lot less stuff. When I look back at photos from the 1970s, I'm surprised how empty houses look. As a kid I had what I thought was a huge fleet of toy cars, but they'd be dwarfed by the number of toys my nephews have. All together my Matchboxes and Corgis took up about a third of the surface of my bed. In my nephews' rooms the bed is the only clear space.

Stuff has gotten a lot cheaper, but our attitudes toward it haven't changed correspondingly. We overvalue stuff."

Maybe the economy has finally hit the point at which this will start to ring a bell with people who were previously unwilling to stop buying all that unnecessary stuff.
Click to continue reading Paul's essay about 'STUFF'


Flighty said...

I've never been one for material things other than what I really need and use.
I guess that over the years I've also become somewhat of a minimalist as well.
I found this post really interesting and so relevant to today. xx

Tina said...

Hi there, Flighty.
See, I haven't come accross many people like you. Most definitely aren't minimalists at all and they freak out when you ask why they have so much stuff.
I find it interesting that the older people get, the more stuff they seem to gather.
Yet, the older I get, the more I loath clutter. (OK, except for plants and seeds, but lets not go there. lol)