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Stuffalanche

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, November 1st, 2009 - 12 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Environment - Tags:

I read a fun piece by Charlie Brooker in The Guardian recently:

There’s too much stuff. We live in a stuff-a-lanche.

I’m fairly certain I recently passed a rather pathetic tipping point, and now own more unread books and unwatched DVDs than my remaining lifespan will be able to sustain. I can’t possibly read all these pages, watch all these movies, before the grim reaper comes knocking. The bastard things are going to outlive me. It’s not fair. They can’t even breathe.

Every day we humans gleefully churn out yet more books and films and TV shows and videogames and websites and magazine articles and blog posts and emails and text messages, all of it hanging around, competing for attention. Without leaving my seat I can access virtually any piece of music ever recorded, download any film ever made, order any book ever written. And the end result is that I hardly experience any of it. It’s too much. I’ve had it with choice. It makes my head spin.

In short: I’ve tried more. It’s awful. I want less, and I want it now.

Brooker concludes that he wants “to be told what to read, watch and listen to”, tongue-in-cheek I’m assuming, but the underlying point of wanting less stuff is rather more serious.

First, most of us (me included) have too much stuff. It’s a truism that we live in a “consumer society”, built on production and consumption, geared to disposability and waste. It isn’t rational, it isn’t good for the planet, it isn’t going to last. We’re running out of time on the environment and on resources like oil and rare metals. I believe that these are the decades of “peak stuff”, and that future generations will look back on our wasteful lifestyles with disgust.

Second, it isn’t even clear that (after the necessities of life are met) having more stuff makes us any happier. It’s the points that Brooker is making comically: at some point stuff becomes a burden, at some point choice becomes oppressive. (For some odd reason the latter gets me most strongly with toothpaste. There’s too many kinds. Buying toothpaste drives me nuts.)

So? Well – it would be good if we all took a leaf from Brooker’s book, and wanted less stuff. We could do that voluntarily as a culture. I think it’s highly unlikely, but we could, and we might even end up happier as a result. Or of course we could just carry on as we are and wait. Because the constraints of a finite planet and a fragile environment are going to impose their own reductions on stuff soon enough.

12 comments on “Stuffalanche ”

  1. Rob Carr 1

    Far too true. Since moving out of home I have become increasingly minimalist and have been trying to dump off everything I don’t use regularly if its not a present. It has been a long time since I went and bought a book.

    Most of the time we don’t need to. I rent all my DVDs each week for $1 weeklies it is ridiculously cheap, if I don’t watch them it doesn’t really matter and I end up getting some really class old ones sometimes just by picking up random things. Latest gem I found was “satan’s little helper” I would never have found except for picking out random movies. For books we have a library. You don’t really need to own them anymore. For clothes, stationary etc I really don’t see why it always has to be different, having a few is just as good as having many because you only ever want to wear your favorites anyway or use your favorite pen.

    I have found these days rather than the feeling you get from buying something which takes 5 minutes and then you wonder if you made a mistake there is a far more satisfying feeling in getting rid of a bag of stuff to the local charity shop. It’s the simple life for me.

  2. Zorr 2

    Just to start with, Charlie Brooker is excellent and has produced several excellent shows.

    I am like Rob Carr in that I have mostly lived my life in a minimalist fashion until recently (due to the addition of family which naturally adds to the amount of “stuff” you need). However I don’t think that it is necessarily correct that we need to live in such a fashion. There is a “tipping point”, if you will, where our collections of books and movies turn in to a simple pile of “stuff” which we will never get around to completing.

    To combat this, we just need to turn a critical eye to what we stock our bookshelves with. For me I firstly consider if I will want to share it with visitors – “If I have people over, is this one of the things I may want to watch with them or lend to them?” Secondly, am I going to get repeated enjoyment out of the experience granted by it – “Will I watch or read this again?” And finally, have I enjoyed it enough that I feel considerably moved to give my money to the providers of this wonderful content.

    The problem I see a lot of people running in to on a regular basis is that they like to collect and stockpile. I mean, who knows, maybe they will get around to reading that book one day? I mean, people say it is good right? Never stopping to consider the fact that they won’t due to life requirements or that it isn’t their kind of book and they never stopped to consider that either. As a society we are pressured to consume but, like a someone on a diet, we have to be careful what we take in. Our heads can only hold so much stuff.

    • lprent 2.1

      My problem with books is that they are so damn unportable. I have a very high reading with retention speed and routinely read a book a day. I also reread books because you often don’t get it one decade, but do the next. It is mostly science fiction, history, and science. Those I’ve found bear rereading.

      Consequently I have a an ever increasing stockpile of paper books.. Biggest hassle is that they complicate my occassional moves through shear bulk.

      However I’m now starting to get them all in formats that my iPhone can read on Stanza. Its only flaw is the occassional habit of freezing up (typical of java), and that they don’t have a desktop version for linux (and since it is java, who knows why).

      I’m looking forward to my books steadily dropping in bulk to a DVD…

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        I try to get all my books in e-format now. Hell, it’s why computers were invented 🙂

  3. Yes I can’t believe the ad industry lied about this but it turns out material acquisition isn’t actually a very effective path to self-fulfillment and happiness.
    A bit of rain and some nice loamy top soil is all you really need.

    • Zorr 3.1

      haha… so true.

      Myself, I am a video gamer mostly. However, unlike what seems to be the craze at the moment of buying everything in store I much prefer to pick a select few games I will enjoy and supplement with some of the wonderful free offerings out there. Just mentioning this as it seems to be very analogous to the discussion on film/books.

      And outdoor activities can be very enriching too (even though I don’t do them nearly as much as I should).

  4. RedLogix 4

    If Rob is at the start of adult life, and Zorr somewhere in the middle… I’m definitely off at the back end of it… yet we share the same feelings here.

    At my stage of life I’ve managed to accumulate a reasonable net worth, but still my partner and I have eschewed accumulation for it’s own sake. Indeed if many of you could actually see the very, very modest 100m2 house we live in, the 16yr old car I drive (but at 5.2l/100km the Dutchman in me just won’t let it go), the clapped out 18’TV we watch, the ordinary practical clothes we wear, our mismatched tired old furniture… most of you would be surprised, if not a little shocked. Seriously.

    All of our tenants have better things than we do.

    We don’t do gadgets, no wide screen tv, the ‘puter I’m typing on is a recycle from work, no fancy big kitchen, no bloated barby rusting on the back lawn, no motorised junk… at our age we can still move house in one smallish vanload.

    The other thing missing in our lives is unproductive debt, no credit cards, no HP. Yes I have a substantial mortgage, but it’s working capital that the cash flow readily covers. There is nothing wrong with debt IF it is spent on an asset that produces income… but you have to be very clear where to draw the line.

    The trick is to only attain and keep things that are of real value to you. The next trick is to be clear on what these values are. What we do have is a lot of tools, a big garden, several good bicycles and some very carefully chosen tramping gear. If I need something we haven’t got we rent it… always more cost effective.

    Usually I’ve got three months income sitting in cash for emergencies.. or what a very wise friend once called your “get fucked money”, because one day you be forced to choose between keeping your job…and doing something you will end up hating yourself for. I’m a ways short of financial independence, but with luck (and you always need that) I should reach retirement without needing National Super.

    In many ways my role model, when it comes to money, is the father of an old friend. He’s worth more than John Key, a lot more… yet he his influence is primarily the reason why I’m a socialist. Nor if you met him would begin to guess at how wealthy he is. He lives in an nice but unremarkable house, and nothing about his lifestyle would give much clue as to his real wealth.

    The crucial lesson he conveyed to me is that wealth is only a tool that is given to you in stewardship. And as with all tools you either master it, or it enslaves you.

  5. Quoth the Raven 5

    This is a good read: MOLOCH: Mass-Production Industry as a Statist Construct. In it Carson demonstrates the pernicious influence of the state’s interference in the market tipping the balance of favour towards mass production, the corollary of which is supply-push distribution and mass-consumerism.

  6. Deemac 6

    research shows (I know, I know) that beyond a simple level, choice does indeed stress us out. People can cope with a choice of economy jam, luxury jam, or regular jam (for instance) but give them a choice of dozens of jams and they are more likely to leave the shop with no jam at all.

  7. randal 7

    hey you just gotta have stuff or you are a nobody.
    you just gotta go somewhere and burn up gas or you are a nobody.
    modern civilisation is predicated on turnover and stuff and oh I forgot making a noise to show that your stuff is better than anyone elses. i.e. louder.

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  • Is Britain doomed (again)?
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    Point of OrderBy xtrdnry
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  • After The Deluge.
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  • Minister of Education (who might be replaced later today) left it to his ministry to apologise for i...
    Buzz from the Beehive There has been plenty to keep the relevant Ministers busy in flood-stricken Auckland over the past day or two. But New Zealand, last time we looked, extends north of Auckland into Northland and south of the Bombay Hills all the way to the bottom of the ...
    Point of OrderBy Bob Edlin
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  • The other ‘big one’: How a megaflood could swamp California’s Central Valley
    This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters When early settlers came to the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers before the California Gold Rush, Indigenous people warned them that the Sacramento Valley could become an inland sea when great winter rains came. The storytellers described water filling the ...
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  • Tuesday's pick o' the links: Wayne Brown's WTF moment
    Wayne Brown managed a smile when meeting with Remuera residents, but he was grumpy about having to deal with “media drongos”. Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty ImagesTLDR: In my pick of the news links found in my rounds since 4am for paying subscribers below the paywall:Wayne Brown moans about the media and ...
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    Wayne Brown managed a smile when meeting with Remuera residents, but he was grumpy about having to deal with “media drongos”. Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty ImagesTLDR: In my pick of the news links found in my rounds since 4am for paying subscribers below the paywall:Wayne Brown moans about the media and ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
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  • Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The gamechanger PM and polls
    Dr Bryce Edwards writes –  Last night’s opinion polls answered the big question of whether a switch of prime minister would really be a gamechanger for election year. The 1News and Newshub polls released at 6pm gave the same response: the shift from Jacinda Ardern to Chris Hipkins ...
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  • Dawn Chorus: Why 2023 will be a year of indecision & delay
    Hipkins’ aim this year will be to present a ‘low target’ for those seeking to attack Labour’s policies and spending. Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty ImagesTLDR: Anyone dealing with Government departments and councils who wants some sort of big or long-term decision out of officials or politicians this year should brace for ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
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  • Dawn Chorus: Why 2023 will be a year of indecision & delay
    Hipkins’ aim this year will be to present a ‘low target’ for those seeking to attack Labour’s policies and spending. Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty ImagesTLDR: Anyone dealing with Government departments and councils who wants some sort of big or long-term decision out of officials or politicians this year should brace for ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    6 days ago
  • Bryce Edwards: The Gamechanger PM and polls
    Last night’s opinion polls answered the big question of whether a switch of prime minister would really be a gamechanger for election year. The 1News and Newshub polls released at 6pm gave the same response: the shift from Jacinda Ardern to Chris Hipkins has changed everything, and Labour is back ...
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  • After the deluge – initial thoughts on the Auckland floods
    Over the last few years, it’s seemed like city after city around the world has become subject to extreme flooding events that have been made worse by impacts from climate change. We’ve highlighted many of them in our Weekly Roundup series. Sadly, over the last few days it’s been Auckland’s ...
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  • Ever Get the Feeling You've Been Cheated?
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  • Ani O’Brien: Luxon can’t afford to continue ‘small target’ politics
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    Democracy ProjectBy bryce.edwards
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  • Shaking up science
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    PolitikBy Richard Harman
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  • Dusk Chorus: Auckland schools closed til Feb 7
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    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
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  • Dusk Chorus: Auckland schools closed til Feb 7
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    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
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  • How we get a new Prime Minister – it’s a simple matter of vice-regal appointment without a swear...
    The news media were at one ceremony by the looks of things. The Governor-General, the  Prime Minister and his deputy were at another. The news  media were at a swearing-in ceremony. The country’s leaders were at an appointment ceremony. The New Zealand Gazette record of what transpired says: Appointment of ...
    Point of OrderBy Bob Edlin
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  • Advancing our relationship in India
    Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta departs for India tomorrow as she continues to reconnect Aotearoa New Zealand to the world.  The visit will begin in New Delhi where the Foreign Minister will meet with the Vice President Hon Jagdeep Dhankar and her Indian Government counterparts, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    10 hours ago
  • Government Northland housing investment to spark transformational change
    Over $10 million infrastructure funding to unlock housing in Whangārei The purchase of a 3.279 hectare site in Kerikeri to enable 56 new homes Northland becomes eligible for $100 million scheme for affordable rentals Multiple Northland communities will benefit from multiple Government housing investments, delivering thousands of new homes for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Battle of Ohaeawai remembered
    A memorial event at a key battle site in the New Zealand land wars is an important event to mark the progress in relations between Māori and the Crown as we head towards Waitangi Day, Minister for Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis said. The Battle of Ohaeawai in June 1845 saw ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • More Police deployed to the frontline
    More Police officers are being deployed to the frontline with the graduation of 54 new constables from the Royal New Zealand Police College today. The graduation ceremony for Recruit Wing 362 at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua was the first official event for Stuart Nash since his reappointment as Police ...
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  • Further support for upper North Island regions hit by significant weather
    The Government is unlocking an additional $700,000 in support for regions that have been badly hit by the recent flooding and storm damage in the upper North Island. “We’re supporting the response and recovery of Auckland, Waikato, Coromandel, Northland, and Bay of Plenty regions, through activating Enhanced Taskforce Green to ...
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    3 days ago
  • The Princess Royal to visit New Zealand
    Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has welcomed the announcement that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, will visit New Zealand this month. “Princess Anne is travelling to Aotearoa at the request of the NZ Army’s Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals, of which she is Colonel in Chief, to ...
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  • Government and horticulture sector target $12b in exports by 2035
    A new Government and industry strategy launched today has its sights on growing the value of New Zealand’s horticultural production to $12 billion by 2035, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said. “Our food and fibre exports are vital to New Zealand’s economic security. We’re focussed on long-term strategies that build on ...
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    4 days ago
  • Cost of living support extended for families and businesses
    25 cents per litre petrol excise duty cut extended to 30 June 2023 – reducing an average 60 litre tank of petrol by $17.25 Road User Charge discount will be re-introduced and continue through until 30 June Half price public transport fares extended to the end of June 2023 saving ...
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    4 days ago
  • More Kiwis in work as rising wages match inflation
    The strong economy has attracted more people into the workforce, with a record number of New Zealanders in paid work and wages rising to help with cost of living pressures. “The Government’s economic plan is delivering on more better-paid jobs, growing wages and creating more opportunities for more New Zealanders,” ...
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    4 days ago
  • Government boosts fund for Auckland flooding
    The Government is providing a further $1 million to the Mayoral Relief Fund to help communities in Auckland following flooding, Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty announced today. “Cabinet today agreed that, given the severity of the event, a further $1 million contribution be made. Cabinet wishes to be proactive ...
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    5 days ago
  • New Cabinet focused on bread and butter issues
    The new Cabinet will be focused on core bread and butter issues like the cost of living, education, health, housing and keeping communities and businesses safe, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has announced. “We need a greater focus on what’s in front of New Zealanders right now. The new Cabinet line ...
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  • Prime Minister to meet with PM Albanese
    Prime Minister Chris Hipkins will travel to Canberra next week for an in person meeting with Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. “The trans-Tasman relationship is New Zealand’s closest and most important, and it was crucial to me that my first overseas trip as Prime Minister was to Australia,” Chris Hipkins ...
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    5 days ago
  • Government makes first payment to Auckland Flooding fund
    The Government is providing establishment funding of $100,000 to the Mayoral Relief Fund to help communities in Auckland following flooding, Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty announced. “We moved quickly to make available this funding to support Aucklanders while the full extent of the damage is being assessed,” Kieran McAnulty ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government steps up to assist Auckland during flooding
    As the Mayor of Auckland has announced a state of emergency, the Government, through NEMA, is able to step up support for those affected by flooding in Auckland. “I’d urge people to follow the advice of authorities and check Auckland Emergency Management for the latest information. As always, the Government ...
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    1 week ago
  • Poroporoaki: Titewhai Te Huia Hinewhare Harawira
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    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Enhanced Task Force Green Approved following Cyclone Hale
    Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Social Development and Employment, has activated Enhanced Taskforce Green (ETFG) in response to flooding and damaged caused by Cyclone Hale in the Tairāwhiti region. Up to $500,000 will be made available to employ job seekers to support the clean-up. We are still investigating whether other parts ...
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  • General Election to be held on 14 October 2023
    The 2023 General Election will be held on Saturday 14 October 2023, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. “Announcing the election date early in the year provides New Zealanders with certainty and has become the practice of this Government and the previous one, and I believe is best practice,” Jacinda ...
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  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces resignation
    Jacinda Ardern has announced she will step down as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party. Her resignation will take effect on the appointment of a new Prime Minister. A caucus vote to elect a new Party Leader will occur in 3 days’ time on Sunday the 22nd of ...
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    2 weeks ago