Stuff: items, things, or matter.
For decades our “dependence” or “need” for “things” has increased. As I recently sat at my one table, a table covered in my belongings at the local flea market, trying at times almost desperately to hustle a few dollars for something I originally paid much more for I wondered, “where do we get all this crap?”.
I had one table out of hundreds in one large barn like building in one city. Inside this building are vendors and dealers, some who have been there for over 20 years weekend after weekend selling their own and other peoples discarded “stuff”.
Just as one example, remember those VHS video tapes of all the hit Disney movies that came out long before the acronym DVD was ever invented. I remember people collecting those, waiting for the release of the next one, stocking bookshelves with their shiny white plastic cases that housed two spools of video tape contained within another plastic box. Disney had people eating from the palm of their hand, holding back releases of certain titles and then only releasing certain amounts to create even more of a demand. Well, it’s only been what, 20 years? Twenty years since some of those titles that went for $30 plus dollars each were on the top of many a movie collectors list. Fast forward to present day where if one were so inclined they could walk into the Vancouver Flea Market and buy all those Disney titles in VHS and in triplicate for literally pennies on the dollar. In more than one vendor’s booths I saw stacks of these movies standing as I high as I do. Going for a dollar or less each. The DVD versions aren’t fairing much better. Then, despite knowing that it’s because technology is changing so fast I still started to wonder why, even though we as humans know that something will be obsolete in 6 months to a year to we keep buying, buying, buying.
I googled the word “stuff” and in my online travels found this animated movie featuring Annie Leonard that really explains it well. It’s hard to take knowing that the corporations and manufacturers of the “stuff” we buy are to the point that they’re using practices like perceived obsolescence. Meaning that they can manipulate consumers through advertising and the media to believe that even though the product a consumer has is working fine the consumer is lead to believe that they “need” a new one, the better, newer model of course. Even worse is the “planned obsolescence”. This is where they actually plan for certain parts of a product to start failing after a certain period of time. Not too soon that you’ll be pissed off but soon enough that you’ll want to get the next newer version. After hearing that this is happening I started to wonder about the known Ipod glitch I just paid $100 to get repaired. Rest assured I was given the option to “upgrade” to a better larger version at a price that was VERY tempting.
Now, I’m not about to say I’m not guilty of justifying a new item when the old one is still perfectly fine. Six months after buying my current camera I was drooling over the newest, faster, better version. The difference is, I don’t cave into it. Even if I did I think I have a few “get out of jail free cards” saved up considering my idea of fashion is a t-shirt and jeans, until they wear out. I buy shoes that I actually wear and even my vehicle was bought with a purpose in mind, not to look cool. The box of the LCD TV I bought two years ago was recycled because I both never thought I’d be moving and was fine watching it until it dropped dead. (Oh how life can change).
So next time you’re about to turf that year old Blackberry or Iphone, to get the newest version take a step back and consider the consequences. Think about where that device is really going to end up. Maybe yours will get lucky and end up in a grungy glass cabinet at the flea market with a few of every other cellphone known to man since the invention of the plastic brick. Or maybe it will just end up in a landfill polluting the planet while we waste more energy and natural resources drawing petroleum from beneath the earth’s crust to run a factory that’s making your new one.
I’m not trying to preach complete abstinence as I too still love the feel of a new item in my hands. I’m just saying lets try to balance it out a bit, a little more “need” and a little less “want”.