Story of Stuff, Part Deux

Thats a lot of gifs.

That's a lot of stuff.

Growing up, there was a girl in our apartment complex that was pretty spoiled. Not only was she an only child, her grandparents lived in that same apartment complex so she had lots of stuff. And she had the good stuff, you know, all the stuff from the cool commercials during Saturday morning cartoons. The first time I walked in I couldn’t believe a girl could be so lucky.

But it wasn’t fun to play in her room. When we would try to play with the toys, the were in bad shape. Not overused, just mistreated and abused. Expensive toys were drawn  on, broken, destroyed and then strewn carelessly aside.

Her room was a mess. You’d trip over toys any time you tried to walk across the floor. If I would try to pick up one toy, a giant mass of tangled messiness came along and it was SO not worth trying to untangle whatever I was reaching for.

Gilded Cages

It’s  sad to me how many grown-up versions of that child we encounter. And their toys are much bigger and way more expensive. And it never fails that the people who have the most, take the least care of it.

I have a friend who has a lot of money. She gives me a lot of the stuff she doesn’t use and it’s really nice. When I get it, it’s always scuffed up and dusty, like it’s had a hard life. But then I wipe it down with soap and water, use a little elbow grease, and it’s good as new. And I realize how little it has been used, which is nice for me but makes me sad for her. Because she has way too much stuff. And just like my childhood friend, she doesn’t seem very happy. These gilded cages are oppressive, ya’ll!

Fly out of the guilded cage.

Fly out of the guilded cage, little wing.

The Golden Arrow of Consumption

Yesterday, I posted Story of stuff video and discussed the people who are hidden in the materials economy. Today, we will focus on the idea that we are consumers, first and foremost. Annie Leonard describes the golden arrow of consumption:

Thin heels, thick heels.

Thin heels, thick heels.

This is the heart of the system, the engine that drives it. It is so important to propping up this whole flawed system that protecting this arrow is a top priority for [Government and Big Business].

That is why, after 9/11, when our country was in shock, President Bush could have suggested any number of appropriate things: to grieve, to pray, to hope. NO. He said to shop. TO SHOP?!

We have become a nation of consumers. Our primary identity has become that of consumer, not mothers, teachers, farmers, but consumers. The primary way that our value is measured and demonstrated is by how much we contribute to this arrow, how much we consume. And do we! We shop and shop and shop. Keep the materials flowing.

First off, I’m sorry for the excessive highlighting, but this lady doesn’t waste one single word. She states very plainly some powerful truth, I don’t want you to miss it.

The primary way that our value is measured and demonstrated

We all have the friends that are stuck in that vicious cycle of keeping up with the Joneses. Perhaps you are the Joneses. Or perhaps you are desperately trying to keep up with them. I’ve never really gotten stuck in that trap, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am much too frugal to try to keep up with the people around here.

Just enough, not too much.

Just enough, not too much.

But as I confessed yesterday, I do like my fashion. It is my something, my biggest contribution to the golden arrow of consumption. So I try to shop very responsibly.

I only buy what I went into the store for and I only go to the store when I need something. Turns out, I don’t need much. I haven’t shopped for myself in months.

When I buy something, I get rid of what it is replacing. I pass it on, craigslist it, or donate it, depending on what it is and how  much time I have. This has really kept the stuff from slowly creeping back in, like ivy taking over our living space.

Stewardship, resourcefulness and thrift were valued

Growing up in New Mexico it seemed like everybody had just enough, but not that much. Part of it is there is not much to be had and part of it is people don’t want to work THAT hard to get it. And I don’t mean people are lazy, I mean they have different priorities.

And mind you, this is not a color thing, the majority of white people that live in NM are there for lifestyle choices as well. If you want to chase the buck and hit it big, go to New York or Cali, or at the very least, Phoenix, Denver or Dallas. If you want a slower pace of life, among  vibrant landscape and people, with a focus on relationships, not objects, New Mexico is the place for you.

And when those are your priorities, stewardship, resourcefulness and thrift are valued. Ya’ll would not believe how far Ole Bonita can stretch a dollar. When I do buy things, I take my time and find a great deal. And I don’t buy things until I can pay for them up-front. All of these things keep me from trying to keep up with anyone which keeps us out of debt.



Special shout out to Stewardship

We have lost our sense of stewardship. We are not taking care of our environments. And I’m not just referring to the planet, I’m talking about your house, yard, neighborhood, community. I wrote about the Stewards of Twin Ponds in a previous post, The Silent Machine.

These stewards are a volunteer group of 5 – 6 people in our community, who attend a weekly work party to clear out blackberries and plant native species in a local pond area. Blackberries are notoriously hard to remove and they grow so fast, you can actually hear them growing at night.

It is back-breaking work, yet they return to do it every week. Why? Because they know we are all stewards and it must be done. Everything around us is in a state of neglect. Be a steward, it’s all of our responsibility.

And always nice to stick it to the man!

My kids require more shopping, just because they grow like weeds.  I shop exclusively at used stores for their stuff, Clothes, toys, SHOES, gear, everything. I get great stuff, with no packaging, hangers nor tags, and save tons of money.

And most of it shows little sign of wear and tear when we’re done, so there is always someone after us who gets another use out of it That’s three families getting use out of one item. That’s revolutionary. If you know me, you know that I like to stick it to the man! Oh, I feel so good walking out of the used stores with my reusable bags full of sustainability and equity.

These are all the toys the Littlest Applebum needs.

These are all the toys the Littlest Applebum needs.

Let’s create something new

And finally some quotes from Story of Stuff to leave with you:

  • Retailing analyst Victor Lebow articulated the solution that has become the norm for the whole system. He said:

Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption . . . we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.

  • President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisors Chairman said: “The American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods.” Our [economy’s] ultimate purpose? Not provide health care, or education, or safe transportation, or sustainability or justice? Consumer goods?!
  • We each see more advertisements in one year than a people 50 years ago saw in a lifetime. And if you think about it, what is the point of an ad except to make us unhappy with what we have. So, 3,000 times a day, we’re told that our hair is wrong, our skin is wrong, clothes are wrong, our furniture is wrong, our cars are wrong, we are wrong but that it can all be made right if we just go shopping.
  • It’s not like gravity that we just gotta live with. People created it. And we’re people too. So let’s create something new.

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