Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Story of Stuff

In case you're looking for a good solid reason to get off the consumer bandwagon, here's 20 or so. Very cool video. Takes 20 minutes. Here's an intro sample:

Watch the rest of the video by clicking here...

I know the problem is huge, but we all have a role to play in changing the way we (especially we Americans) live. Honestly, I'm still trying to sort it all out. Probably the biggest change I've made so far is to cancel my cable TV. I also don't get the paper. Without either of those, I no longer get bombarded by all the ads. It was a weird adjustment at first, but I have to tell you that one year later, all I feel is relief. I had no idea how much pressure I was feeling from all that advertising, constantly pushing me toward discontentment and buying more and more stuff to make it all better. Of course, I've still got internet, and it troubles me to see the ads becoming more and more frequent and invasive on the web. But I do my best to avoid them.

What are some ways you're getting off the consumer hamster wheel?


Anonymous said...

I can't bring myself to cancel my cable TV, but I make liberal use of the mute button and/or channel surf lots and lots to avoid those nasty ads.

I took a hard look at the Hollywood glitterati some time ago and saw that if all the stuff, all the money, all the glamour really lived up to what it was advertising then Hollywood would not be full of people who are compelled to get into drugs and alcohol and out-of-control behavior to fill the emptiness they feel inside. The incredibly dysfunctional and desperate lives of the "elite" is an excellent testimony to the utter emptiness of all the stuff that promises to fulfill but actually sucks the life out of us.

M :-)

Steve Taylor said...

Congratulations on getting rid of the paper and cable. I gave up all TV and news papers (including magazines) 25 years ago and don't miss them one bit. Once you get used not having them you'll wonder how you ever lived with them.

Recently I stopped looking at catalogs. Even good ones such as garden plants and Christian books. Found myself wanting too many things I didn't NEED. I keep finding that the more I die to myself and my needs, simplifying life, the freer I am.

Here's some lyrics from Michael Card's song "Things We Leave Behind":

Every heart needs to be set free,
from possessions
that hold it so tight
'Cause freedom's not found in the things that we own,
It's the power
to do what is right
Jesus, our only possession,
giving becomes our delight
We can't imagine the freedom we find
from the things we leave behind

Michael D. Warden said...

Awesome, Steve! I had completely forgotten about that song by Michael Card--hits the spot.

And here's some more lyrics, this time from Shawn MacDonald, that have spoken to me recently too:

Well, take a look around and tell me what you see
We are consuming everything
And I must confess that I fall
Isn't this the story of us all?

Falsely advertised
Into believing that we need this stuff in our lives

'Cause what we got is what we need
And everything else is only greed
It's greener on the other side
Oh, why can't we be satisfied?

Anonymous said...

Could this be another facet of what's being stirred, as noted in your previous post about freedom? Simplicity of life + freedom to free others = shaking up the status quo. Shaking up the status quo = an authentic life of dangerous radical freedom.

Just a thought...

Michael D. Warden said...

Great thought, Anon. Definitely rings true!

Anonymous said...

Ah, Grasshopper. The ringing of truth shakes up a lot of things... ;-)

Tim Frankovich said...

Good stuff, Michael. As for us, we've never had Cable and we almost never watch regular TV. When we do, the commercials get muted.

I refuse to give the Houston Chronicle my money and won't even accept it when they offer a free two weeks or whatever, so that's never been a factor.

As for internet ads - popup blockers and adblock are your friends, along with Safari and Firefox! Internet Explorer is ALWAYS your enemy (as are most products from Microsoft, but I disgress).

Michael D. Warden said...

Ah, have revealed yourself.

Snatch the chip from my hand...

Anonymous said...

Grasshopper, nothing is revealed.

The Force is strong with this one. Learn well, you must, young padwan...

Sara Conley said...

Hey there!

Kenny and I watched a National Geographic special on Earth Day last year that has changed our consumption habits. The documentary visually showed how many things average Americans consume in a lifetime. Oranges filled a kitchen. Makeup and toiletries filled a bathroom, etc. We realized that landfills were going to be our son's inheritance, if we didn't get on the bandwagon for change.

Transforming a life takes many small steps, but slowly and surely we've been making those steps. Here are few things we've done in one year:
1. Start budgeting and monthly tracking our expenditures. This helps us see exactly what we've bought in a month and better evaluate what we really need.
2. Eliminate and cut down on as many small consumables as possible. Instead of paper products we use real washrags, kitchen towels, cloth napkins, dishes and silverware, reuseable grocery bags,and longlife energy efficient lightbulbs. Next we plan to switch to rechargeable batteries.
3. We've tried to minimimize packaging. We eat more "real food" now - fresh meat, homebaked goods and produce. We eat less fastfood. We've mostly replaced soft drinks with water and use reusable water bottles and cups.
4. When I shop for meat and produce I pay attention to sale items. Many times the sale items are local and fresh, minimizing energy consumption required for delivery.
5. We made some major changes too. Since we were moving anyway, we downsized our house by 1,000 square feet to minimize energy consumption. We sold a car and didn't replace it. We're driving a total beater just because it's still very reliable, has great gas mileage and hasn't reached the end of it's life.
6. When we do have stuff to get rid of we use ebay, craigslist, or yard sales to sell it or donate it to a charity before throwing it out. We also shop for items at secondhand stores more than we used to. This gives stuff a second life.
7. We're taking advantage of Austin's new recycling program. It's super easy. One bin is available to collect so much stuff, and no sorting is required. I keep a second bin to collect recycling in the kitchen now, to combat the laziness that might keep me from walking to the garage to throw away recycling.
8. I started composting too a couple months ago. It also is so easy, and my compost is just about ready to start using in our landscaping beds.

So, all of those ideas are pretty basic and rather mundane, but the small steps took away the fear factor for us and are adding up to big changes.

Michael D. Warden said...

Fantastic ideas, Sara. thanks!