Wednesday, July 15, 2009

less stuff

I heard on NPR last night that if you converted the square footage of the nation's self- storage facilities into acres they would cover the entire city of San Fransisco and the island of Manhattan. Do we really need so much stuff that it overflows out of our already large (compared to the rest of world) houses?

My husband and I generally don't buy a lot of stuff. We have two weaknesses: books and gear. We love books. We love their smell, their feel.. I'm rarely without a book in the bag I take to and from work. I'd be happy if the walls of our house were lined with books just so I could gaze at their titles.

For gear we've got rock climbing ropes and gizmos, SCUBA gear, four bikes, ten surfboards, cross country skis, a snowboard, three kayaks and a canoe. But, we actually use all this stuff. To make up for our hoarding of books and gear we only have one small TV, a fairly small house with a tiny lot, and almost all of our modest collection of baby stuff is hand-me-down. And we still have plenty of storage in our small attic.

A friend recently started bugging us about our TV. It's old, it's small, and my husband found it on someone's porch. It works fine. Our friend told us we should by a new plasma screen and mount it on the wall. I honestly don't see the point. We don't need a new TV so why should we buy one?

A lot of Americans over the past few decades buy things because they want them. Over consumption has become a disease. As a society we really need to rethink what we need and what we want. If you treat yourself to something you want on occasion, as opposed to every day, then you will appreciate your possessions so much more. Plus, if you don't buy all that stuff you don't need you'll probably have less debt, more savings, and you can spend your extra cash on traveling to new places. And memories only require storage in your brain, not in a rented 10x8 storage unit.

Reduce Footprints has posed a challenge to all its followers to go on a "no spending diet" for a week: " ... don't buy anything new (except for food, health and safety products). No new clothes ... no new shoes ... no new gizmos or gadgets ... forget about a new car, new furniture or new appliances ... nothing new for one week! "

I propose to expand that challenge and make it a daily practice. Do you really need that new 60" TV, or those shoes you'll probably wear once, or that shiny new upgrade to your one-year-old ipod or cell phone? The last time I replaced my cell phone it was because it went for a swim in my biggest jellyfish exhibit. And I recycled the old one.


  1. Very insightful. I agree. Since I have retired I have made it my mission to buy less, use less, and keep less. I find it so much easier to live life without all the clutter.

    I don't have a big TV and I don't need a fill up your room energy hog for entertainment. I know exactly how you feel about books. I love to open a book for the first time. I know it sounds crazy but I look at both inside covers and feel it and smell it. Books are essential to my life. Take away all of my junk but never ever will anyone get my books.

  2. Minimalism is how we call it here, Kate. We don't overdecorate our house with things which are unnecessary, ONLY THE IMPORTANT ONES. Well the TV was a gift and we use the old one upstairs and the oldest TV we gave it away to a friend.



  3. Rae: I don't get those digital book readers. I can't imagine reading a whole book on a screen without the sensory experiences of turning the pages, feeling and feeling the paper...

    AL: I like your motto: LESS CUTTER LESS STRESS! I agree. A cluttered house really unnerves me.


  4. Books are definitely a failing here. But at least they're cheap, easily recycled to friends, and environmentally not too bad.

    The amount of stuff people buy and hoard is really scary. Some people's houses you cannot find an inch which doesn't having some crap crammed on it.

    Good luck keeping everything to a minimum though since the US exists to make us consume.


  5. Great post! Such an IMPORTANT message that people often hear but don't really take to heart. Consumption is one of our society's biggest problems...our landfills get filled with new gadgets (often because of poor manufacturing, which is another issue that fuels over-consumption) and we continue to think that we will die if we don't get the newest iPod or television set. Totally agree with you--don't get a new TV until it's broken. Otherwise, what's the point?


  6. one thing i like alot here is how you say that you like the smell of books...

    me too!!!

    that's almost the best reason to keep them around... eh?

  7. Cow: I agree, I'd rather have a house of books than a house full of discarded, obsolete, polluting gadgets on which to read those books. Plus you can lend books out, just makes sure you give them back to me. I get possessive about my books, which is why I'm not very good at taking them out from the library. If I like a book I must own it!

    Melissa: I think we'll have our TV until it literally catches fire. It works fine. Plus the new, giant plasma HDTVs burn so much more energy. Europe is actually trying to limit their power use.

    Jon: I think the smell of an old book is one of my favorite smells...perhaps I shall do a post about that. Good to know there are others out there who get the same sensory enjoyment from reading.

    thanks for visiting everyone! -kate

  8. hi kate, i agree with AL. it is good if we don't put too much decorations to our house which is not important. we should only put those important things inside our house. So that, our house doesn't look like to messy...

    Less Stuff, much more organized.^_^


  9. Are you speaking directly to me??? I am getting better and more aware of the need -vs- the want mentality. I'm heading over to the site now!


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