The Story of Stuff : Making less mean more

story of stuff

Warning: The Story of Stuff Project could cause you to make a pact with your husband to not buy anything new for a whole year, do your shopping on Craigslist and at thrift stores and to cringe when entering Walmart. Is this a joke? Definitely not. I am here to tell you it happened to me.

In 2009, I watched the Story of Stuff and was confused and inspired. Was I really supporting a system that thrived on mass production and mass destruction at the expense of people and the environment? It just didn’t sit well with me… but could it really be stopped? I didn’t know, but I had to try. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that this was going on and that I was a vital part of it. Every trip to Walmart and Target where I would just browse the aisles for leisure and buy what I wanted only to toss out the next month— that was part of this system. I was guilty of playing into it and felt convicted.

the story of stuff

So what did I do? I talked with my husband about it and we decided to make a New Year’s resolution in 2010 to not buy anything new for a whole year (except groceries and underwear). This was a big step for us, but not the first. In 2004, we decided to get rid of our TV; and have been TV-free for 8 years now. We felt like if we could do that, then we could do this— and we did. It was extremely difficult and uncomfortable, and took a lot of fun out of going to Target. But the spark was lit and I knew that every time I left a store with just the essentials, I was standing up for what I believed.

After a few months of constantly pulling items out of my shopping cart at the checkout, I finally adjusted to not grabbing for my wants, but just meeting our needs. It eventually clicked and I felt like I was in control of my happiness. Not to mention our bank account looked much better.

We do occasionally buy something new— like a bike helmet for the kids or art supplies, but it’s rare. I’ll occasionally get a shirt at Target, but mostly we shop at thrift stores and clothing re-sale stores. I have an iPhone, my husband has an old 2008 LG phone. It seriously took 7 days of weighing the pros and cons, and just really thinking through the purchase of the iPhone. I analyze everything (and sometimes drive my husband crazy), but I do it because I care and I want to make the right choices for me, my family and for the world.

Two years later, we still follow the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. But reduce is the key. And that is what the Story of Stuff made me realize. It’s about making less mean more. Each time you say no to something bright and shiny and opt to reuse what you have or buy second-hand, you are stepping out of the consumerism cycle. You are literally saving the planet. Sure, it might not seem that extreme to you. But I like to believe my small actions can do that— and hope that one day they will.

Some people say it’s unrealistic, idealistic, that it can’t happen. But I say the ones who are unrealistic are those that want to continue on the old path. That’s dreaming. Remember that old way didn’t just happen by itself. 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. — The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff

Are you interested in making less mean more? Share ways that you do this in your home.

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4 Responses to The Story of Stuff : Making less mean more

  1. leslie April 23, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    ps. you rock. xoxo

  2. Popo Joy April 23, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    I just returned from Honolulu, where mass merchandising is everywhere. Living on Kauai, shopping is for neccessities more than luxuries is easy. But, when you’re in a place like Honolulu, you are overly encouraged to shop for new.

    I found myself wandering around, and not into buying anything new, then I spotted a tiny, old thrift shop across the street from an amazing Taiwan-style frozen dessert place. That little old thrift shop was a little gem. I walked out with an old carved wooded pagoda, a stainless platter with a bamboo pattern on it, from Italy, a handmade Inukchuk, from Canada (I wanted one when in Vancouver a few years ago, and regretted not buying one), and a super cute sun dress, all for $20. I subscribe to the “less is more”, theory, and it makes my life feel fuller, truly!

    Nice job, Jen, great message to share with the world!

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  4. Jeanne from France December 11, 2014 at 4:56 am #

    I’ve just read No Impact Man, and then watched The Story of Stuff, and now I’m reading your articles. I want to say a big THANK YOU to people like you, it feels so good to find real persons who share some of my ideas and put them into practice. It motivates me to have a No Buying challenge myself next month. I barely go shopping now, so why not? It does not seem as crazy as I thought. Thank you for making it real.

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