People Have Too Much Stuff

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather

People have too much sh*t. And by “sh*t”
I mean “stuff.” I debated using that word, but that’s kind of the way I
feel about it right now. Stuff is too cheap and we all have too much of
it.

I’ve mentioned previously about our recent de-cluttering
blitz. It started in the fall when we decided to have some of our books
shipped from our printer’s warehouse to our much smaller “warehouse”
here at Sunflower Farm. We had been storing them at our printer in
Altona, Manitoba, which is just across the border from our U.S.
distributor in Minnesota. This made it easy to move our books from our
printer to our distributor. But they charge us for warehousing so we
decided it was time to save some money and store some of the smaller
quantities here. This meant I had to clean out the room in our
guesthouse where we store our books and prepare them for shipping. I
also needed to build some new shelves for the boxes of books that would
soon be arriving. So the de-cluttering started slowly with recycling
some extra cardboard boxes that I had saved and then I ramped it up to a
full-scale war on clutter.

Around the time that I began to work
on my de-cluttering project, we got some extra cable channels and I
watched a few of those shows about hoarders. They showed people who
couldn’t even walk through their homes because they were piled so high
with “stuff.” They made me feel better about my own de-cluttering since
my house looks nothing like those ones.  But they also inspired me and
after every show about hoarders that I watched, I picked another room
and went at it with a newfound zeal.

I finally tacked my
collection of clothing. I never throw anything away. I had old jeans
that were full of holes. I kept them because I figured there was enough
material left to use them to patch up other jeans in the future. I had
t-shirts from concerts that I attended while I was in high school,
probably 1978 or so. How could I throw away those? But I did and we
ended up with bags of my old clothing. One day while Michelle was in
town she tried to drop them in to one of those charity collection bins
but it was full to the point of overflowing.

A
few days later we were in Napanee and The Salvation Army Thrift Store
had a big sign out front that read, “Not Taking Donations.” Really? The
Salvation Army isn’t taking donations? Turns out that their store and
trailer outside were filled to bursting.

Why is this? It’s because
stuff is so cheap that people can afford to buy way too much new stuff.
And then they end up with trunk loads of the old stuff to get rid of
when the styles change next year. It’s an epidemic and it’s gross.

Over the holidays I read the book called “The Value of Nothing”
by Raj Patel. There seems to be a number of books right now that
discuss the idea that we don’t pay the true cost of things. If you
factor in the environmental and social costs and all the
“externalities,” stuff would be much more expensive. If you haven’t
already done so, be sure to watch the documentary movie “Manufactured Landscapes.”
When you see how goods are produced in China, you’ll probably feel
physically ill the next time you’re in a dollar store and you realize
the human cost of all of that cheap stuff.  I don’t deny it. I have
shopped at dollar stores and have often found the most unbelievably
complex product on sale for a buck. It’s an economic miracle, but it
comes at a cost to someone else.

It’s early in the new year and
apparently everyone is decluttering, hence the inability to find a
donation box that is not stuffed to overflowing. And why not? After
Christmas many retailers put those great plastic storage containers on
sale so that we all have a place to store our new loot. But if you run
out of space in your house and have to declutter, just send it off to
The Salvation Army Thrift Store. No wait … they’re not taking donations
right now. I wonder how the landfills are looking these days?

I’m
going to try to be a better “conserver” and a worse “consumer.” If my
wardrobe looked old and tattered before, this is a scary proposition.
Maybe if I iron my high school t-shirts they’ll look better. Regardless,
I’m going to buy even less “stuff” than before. Especially now that I
know what a challenge it is to get rid of your old, excess stuff!

Photo
of charity collection box by Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL
(www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0
(www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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For more information about Cam or his books please visit www.cammather.com or www.aztext.com