If there’s one thing we’ve learned incredibly well over the past century, it’s to love stuff. We ogle large screen televisions, establish expansive collections of fetishised objects, and treat iPhone releases like the second coming of Christ. It’s a damning indictment of an “evolved” society that has the capability to see, do, help, and give so much, but instead puts its attention on shiny new things.
I’m not immune to this; in fact, I’m a master of cognitive dissonance, having crafted countless arguments and rationalizations for what I purchase. “It’s an investment;” “I’ll do more for my health, as a result of this thing;” “It will be good for our kids.” Oh yeah, I’ve used every one of ‘em, and am currently in the process of generating more—in spite of being part of a blog that encourages simpler, more sustainable, living.
Some days, though, a massive invisible crowbar from the sky appears, and forces my eyes open. It’s at these moments that I see clearly and consider the fleeting nature of life, alongside the absurdity of our conspicuous consumption. This happened while watching Thomas and Erik Haemmerli’s hyper-personal documentary Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse—perhaps the most compelling argument I’ve ever witnessed for our love of things being a kind of illness.
The film begins with film director/journalist Thomas learning of his mother’s death. What would commonly be a devastating event in its own right, becomes outright grisly when he, and his brother, are forced to deal with the mess left by a rotting corpse. This situation becomes increasingly more emotionally complex as they sort through a mountain of debris left from their mother’s hoarding behavior—and are consequently forced to dissect their personal histories.
Latin Lovers, Nazi officers, Kofi Annan, are just part of the story, set against a landscape of expired foods, lightbulb collections, and a cat infested holiday home. At times funny, at others sad, this poignant film asks viewers to consider what their things mean about them, and the legacies they leave behind.
The trailer is embedded below (apologies for the commercial which precedes it). You can watch the full film on YouTube Movies, or NetFlix.
Many people have stuff, its just that some people have far too much of it and they have difficulty letting go (for many reasons, usually psychological).
If someone has stuff that they haven’t used for a very long time, and possibly haven’t used more than once, then it’s probably not worth keeping – sell it or get rid of it in a sensible way. No excuses.
While I think you’re right in principle, it seems more complex than that. Television programs like “Hoarders” didn’t exist a decade ago. The fact that we’re in this sort of a spot, says something about all of us.
As a society, we’ve taken objects to a whole other level. They are representative of more than what they actually are; additionally, our decisions around them aren’t just about “editing,” any longer. I feel like we can look at our things as a barometer for our health as a populace—and that the prognosis is particularly grim.
I am in the process of reducing my “stuff”, as is a close friend of mine. It was the first time I had lived in a house for more than a year (7 years coming, but it won’t be longer than that as I’m moving to the other side of the world). When I moved a lot I had less stuff. And I notice that a less cluttered home = a less cluttered head. I don’t know why I knew it but I still managed to collect way too much stuff in my house. I was even thinking about it as I walked through the airport contemplating the duty free shopping opportunities. I then thought of all of the books I bought but haven’t had time to read. Just because I want it doesn’t mean I can actually have any time to enjoy it. There is a point where it gets stressful to realize that so many things are sitting around that you hoped you could enjoy. Guilt. Frustration. And temptation to buy more. a vicious cycle.
Well said. I increasingly feel like buying a thing is a quick thrill, followed by a number of responsibilities and new problems to solve.
I am a fan and follower of the three Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. But when i look around in my own house, i realize that it is not easy for people to give up the charm of the new.
We need to reinvent our old stuffs – give them a new zing, a new life – and that makes life interesting too!
With a few friends who have the hoarding gene, it is so hard for me to understand. I have way too many things, as we all do, but try and go through and cull it back once a year. I also believe in the “make do and mend” philosophy.
I respond very physically to an overly large number things. Opening a closet that’s crammed full of stuff overwhelms me, and chaos in the house actually makes me angry. I have plenty of things to think about; I can’t allow stuff to clutter my mind even more.
I’m a couple of days late on this post, however I thought the iPhone comment was very timely. I wanted to vomit at every photo my friends posted on facebook yesterday of their new iphones (only 3 did so but 3 was enough). I’ve owned a mac of some kind since I believe 1991. But I’m a web developer and true geek. The current consumer obsession over mac products makes me sad.
I thankfully married a woman who is the opposite of a hoarder. We do not buy what we do not need. You can walk into any of our closets. Our second kid is coming in Feb and if its a boy we will not be buying anything new that is not disposable. And probably won’t buy many toys or clothes since so many people give you those.
There is a true peace that comes from not having all of that stuff.
I’ve also never understood garage sales. I’ve never owned enough stuff to even have a garage sale. Especially nick nack stuff.