Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff. When I say “stuff” I mean things. Objects. Possessions. I’ve been pondering why we want stuff, why we keep stuff and why we care about stuff, and thinking about my own relationship with things. So it was rather timely when I stumbled across a piece in the latest issue of Frankie called “Stuff Does Matter”. The article was written by Megan Auman who writes about stuff over here. Megan beautifully summed up everything I had been thinking about things, and her words were particularly poignant as Reubs and I packed all our earthly possessions into boxes.
“… I believe that stuff does matter. I believe that caring for things is not wrong. In fact, I believe that our current problems of excess and waste result not because we place too much value on stuff, but too little” Megan says on her website. Those are pretty much my thoughts exactly!
While I strive to live a simple life, less focused on the accumulation of material things, minimalism certainly isn’t for me. Nor is living super frugally and never treating myself to anything nice. Like most people, I like pretty things! I want to surround myself with things I find beautiful. I am also nostalgic about my possessions and attach feelings and memories to objects. While I know it is unhealthy to be driven entirely by the accumulation of stuff, I believe it is natural and perfectly ok to want objects that make us happy, things we find beautiful and items that are meaningful. I believe the problem is not wanting, keeping and treasuring stuff. The problem is not caring about stuff enough. As Megan so eloquently puts it “the current system of production, consumption, and waste from which we get most of our stuff is deeply flawed.” The problem is seeing things as disposable and buying objects for a fleeting moment of pleasure, rather than long term enjoyment.
While packing all our things into boxes last week, I was struck by a couple of things. Firstly, how much stuff we have accumulated in the year since we left Sydney (with just a ute and a tiny trailer!) But secondly, and most importantly, how little we had to throw out this time compared to previous moves. In the past I’ve had a lot of junk to dispose of (mostly trend-based items and impulse buys) but this time I wanted to keep almost everything. Though I still buy things, I’m learning to buy items I will love and treasure for the long haul. I now disregard what’s “in”, in favour of things that fit my personal style. Megan quotes environmentalist writer Jonathan Chapman with “waste is a symptom of a failed relationship” and I think that’s very wise indeed. Instead of entering into short term fling with the latest trendy items, I now aim for long term relationships with lovely, special things. I value hand made. I value things that are made ethically. I value vintage. And I want to surround myself with things I will adore and cherish for years to come. I want the kind of things I will one day pass down to my children, rather than things that will be in landfill by this time next year.
Stuff does matter. Where it comes from, what it means to us, where it goes when we are finished with it; it all matters. Most of us don’t take the time to think much about the role stuff plays in our lives or in the world, but I think it’s really important to consider. Megan’s words while I packed up my stuff were a reminder that while I am on the right path and have come a long way, there is room for a lot of improvement yet.
What do you think? Does stuff matter to you?