Our Obsession with Stuff

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Last week, we watched the Story of Stuff. It explained to us the process of how our material possessions come to be and the flaws within the system. It really got me think, why exactly are we so crazy about shopping and endlessly buying more and more things?

One reason, is like the video showed, we have this never ended source telling us we need to consume more things and not only that, but we also need to keep up with the latest trends of buying the newest, fastest, and best version of something we already have that’s working perfectly fine. After class I saw the new Macbooks that came out and funnily enough I thought to myself “Woah I want a touch bar!” but then, another thought came into mind which was “Why?”

This lead me to  my next article reference which overall states that we use consumption as a way to promote our self-image or somehow change how other people view us as individuals. Having the newest technology makes us look ahead of the curve. As though, we are some how the most advanced and willing to spend whatever amount we need to have the best of the best. Its all about status. Additionally, in class Dr. Sastry mentioned driving an SUV and the fact that most people driving SUV’s never use them to their full capacity. He also mentioned the whole idea of green lifestyle geared consumerism. I myself am 100% guilty of this! I felt like such an idiot for falling into this trap. I have bought countless pairs of Toms, I buy products that give back to charity ALL the time, oh and I drive s Subaru Forester (SUV). It really blew my mind how targeted I have been my entire life as a consumer.

All of this thinking about consumerism and endless amounts of things brought me to ask Dr. Sastry, if consumerism is so terrible, how do we break the cycle? Does donating to goodwill solve any problem? He essentially told me that good will is better than throwing the stuff out straight away, but it still aides in the cycle of donations covering up a problem rather than pointing out how widespread poverty is which forces people to buy things at Goodwill in the first place. So I decided I’m really going to try my absolute hardest to pair down what I have by giving it to friends or family who would have a use for said clothing item or object and if that doesn’t cover everything, I’m going to either try to  sell clothes on Poshmark or last resort, donate them. Once I’ve only kept what I need to be comfortable, I’m going to challenge myself to go 30 days without buying anything. The only exception my be Christmas presents, but even with those things I’ll either buy used, or make presents. How do you guys feel about this? Did watching that video have an effect on you and how you spend money? Also if you have any good ideas for handmade Christmas presents please let me know because all I can think of is cookies or muffins!

Carly Dovale

http://www.alternet.org/story/145997/our_obsession_with_stuff_is_trashing_the_planet,_our_communities_and_our_health

http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/schor-overspent.html

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6 thoughts on “Our Obsession with Stuff

  1. I also started to feel very silly about wanting so many material things after watching that video. The amount of time we keep items that we buy astounded me. When Dr. Sastry was talking about SUVs, I did think that maybe some people buy them because they ride much higher than cars, and so they are perceived as more safe (not sure if this is actually true).

    Your 30 day idea is awesome! Every time I pay my credit card off, I think, “Oh. My. God. What am I even buying???” I feel like it is especially difficult around the holidays to not go wild when I am at a store because I am such a sucker for holiday themed stuff. Are there any experiential things you could gift instead of material things? My little brother loves basketball, so I might take him to a UC, or something. Probably a different, bad kind of consumerism, but at least there isn’t as much physical waste!

    Good luck!
    Chelsea Walters

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  2. I completely agree. Watching the video didn’t necessarily make me want to change (ironically that’s just the nature of society), but it definitely sparked a notice when I think about buying certain things. After reading your article, I looked at the new MacBook online and answered that same question, “Why would I even need one of those? Even if it looks kind of neat?” I’m most likely going to manage what I purchase slightly better, but I’m still going to want certain goods as a status link. But now that I recognize that it’s all status, it certainly angers me to think about how much we’d be saving if we purchased quality goods meant for needs only, not for style or status.

    Andrew Ebding

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  3. The video more or less made me realize how I was living a material lifestyle. I do try to recycle and donate what I cannot use anymore that some else could use, but it essentially only prolongs the cycle in a sense that I would probably buy stuff to replace the older stuff. I think to truly escape the buyosphere would require such a dramatic shift in the social dogma within consumption itself. We would essentially all have to buy only what we needed rather than wanted, then the stuff we could no longer use would be donated/recycled until it could not be used further. We could escape with that, but such a shift does not appear likely to occur anytime soon.

    – Josh Obermeyer

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  4. Americans are very competitive and often focus more on how far ahead of others we rather than how good we have it. Stuff is how we keep score. But the stuff has a hidden cost, and the cost is the time it takes to get the stuff, often leaving little time to enjoy the stuff.

    The best presents I ever receive are when someone does something for me: bake some bread (one of my employees just brought me two loaves), pick up my dry cleaning, wash my car, cook dinner or just simply get me a glass of water when I have time to watch Netflix. All these things are simple, cheap, green, and show that the giver really cares.

    MC50

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  5. The video did make me look to my own life and evaluate what I could eliminate. I do see that I don’t care for many products I buy. Knowing I can replace them at a reasonable price I’ll leave it somewhere never to find it again. The one thing I have tried to do is sew my own clothing. Overall this is not a cost saving method, between the sewing notions, fabric and patterns the dollars can rack up fast, but after establishing a few garments that are special and having them be what I wear every day I treat them with far more care then an “on sale” dress at Kohls. I’ll repair the rips and tears and try and get a longer life out of the garment.

    ~Asha Brogan

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  6. Consumerism is forced upon us as a basic necessity of life. Which is not true. You don’t need that 6 speed Blender, you don’t need that 55 inch high-def tv, and you don’t need those Gucci heels. But what would you expect when you live in a consumer-based economy? When people stop buying things from malls or online, the economy does poorly. This is partially why commercials and companies make you want to buy what they are selling and make you think you just HAVE to have the newest edition of whatever product they are selling. (But it is important to note that some brand names use slave labor or treat their employees unfairly in order to make these products and pay the workers an extremely low wage which in turn means the product is worth significantly less than what you bought it for all so the company can make a big profit.)
    Elizabeth Mullett

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