Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Story of Stuff - Lots and Lots of Stuff

Story of Stuff illustration, with Big Box Mart

"Buy green, buy fair, buy local, buy used, and most importantly, buy less." So says Annie Leonard, creator of the new on-line 20-minute video, The Story of Stuff.

Professional organizers see a huge amount of stuff - stuff that overwhelms people's homes, offices, and lives. So The Story of Stuff seemed like something I ought to watch, and I'm glad I did.

Here's a brief quote from the script:
Shortly after the World War II, these guys were figuring out how to ramp up the [U.S.] economy. 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.”

And President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisors Chairman said that “The American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods.”

MORE CONSUMER GOODS??? Our [economy’s] ultimate purpose?

Not provide health care, or education, or safe transportation, or sustainability or justice? Consumer goods?
Story of Stuff illustration - person with packages

And one more quote:
Each of us in the U.S. is targeted with more than 3,000 advertisements a day. We each see more advertisements in one year than 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.

Here's a little one-minute teaser video; click either arrow to play it.

[For those of you reading this in e-mail: If the embedded video doesn't work, you can watch the video directly on YouTube.]


Lissanne / SORTED! said...

This is a GREAT film. But Jeri, I am worried - are we related?? I watched this just 48 hours ago and was planning a blog LOL! You always pip me at the post :-)

The consumerism really has to stop. We are raping the world.

Anonymous said...

Jeri, thanks for the post and making us aware of this video. Hopefully it will make a lot of people think twice about what they are going to buy.

Claire Josefine said...

Hi Jeri,

Indeed, thanks for this post. The more we can do to help raise people's awareness, the happier we'll all be and the better place the world will be! I have an article on A Brief History of Consumerism ( in which I discuss what I call the Four-Pronged Fork of the Fifties. (That English degree... always attracted to alliteration!) Based on my readings, I found four primary factors leading us to our current consumer culture: government programs, television and advertising, credit, and planned obsolescence. I also remind anyone who'll listen to me that we may be products of our culture but we are not victims to it, we can choose our purchasing behaviors and break the cycle of consumerism, or at least bring conscious choice to our consumption.

Keep up the good work!

Claire Josefine

author of The Spiritual Art of Being Organized and Foilowing Raven, Finding Ground: A Road Trip in Search of Home

Founder/moderator of the Simple and Sustainable Organizers Yahoo! group