The Story of Stuff

After seeing Annie Leonard speak on last night's episode of the Colbert Report, I decided to look up her website, The Story of Stuff. It is a 20 minute animated short illustrating the Materials Economy.

Don't get me wrong, I love stuff. (So does Leonard for that matter.) As a teen and early 20-something, I spent money on stupid stuff, and enjoyed it, and even have some of that stuff still now. But a lot of it, it is gone--the clothing, the furniture, the books, the dishes-- and I'm not entirely sure where it went...

I know I'm not alone in committing this consumerist crime, which I believe was not only fueled by teen mall gotta-have-it envy, but also by the larger ethos pushing the entire (US?) population to keep up with the Joneses like never before.

But it is only as a more proper adult that I am understanding what stuff really means, what my stuff really means, and what my stuff means to everything else. For me, I've reached a point now where acquiring something is no longer just an investment of money, but an investment in a future relationship with that object, in maintenance, in commitment, and in long-term utility. And it now takes me a long time to acquire any kind of stuff. A lot of this selectivity comes from living in a small space (see my Design*Sponge feature here), but I believe this sense of value and sanctimony that Leonard touches on with regard to stuff is important, and the idea that our mindset must no longer be to consume, devour, and replace, but to purposefully integrate objects into our lives in satisfying ways.

I deal in the buying and selling of stuff. And there is A LOT of stuff out there. Good, usable stuff. True, I deal in what I like, and what I believe will make profits, and am leveraging sourcing and editing into a business enterprise. And, well, I want you to buy my stuff. But in a grander sense, what I hope I am doing is connecting people with beautiful objects that are endowed with import by virtue of design; passing this on--these things--this stuff, to continue their purpose to the satisfaction of their owners. And this makes me happy. Stuff makes me happy. Or to put it more accurately, good stuff makes me happy. And I hope my good stuff makes people happy.

The Story of Stuff makes me happy also, because I like to think that this ethos of consumerism is slowly being wrested away and being replaced with the ethos of living well. And stuff is merely a component of living well, not the only driving force of happiness (or national success for that matter, to reference a number of points in Story of Stuff). I do think generally people are eking out happiness outside of consumerism in ways like eating better, forming better communities and creating ways to be more sensitive to global as well as local movements, and the connections between, and becoming more aware of the effects not socially, but the irrevocable environmental impact. At least I think. And I hope. Then again, maybe I've been living in Brooklyn too long.

Regardless, my stuff makes me happy, the stuff I buy to sell makes me happy, and the stuff that is sold makes me happy.

Here are some further thoughts I have on having stuff that makes me happy:

1. Aesthetics: beauty should not be underestimated. Do not buy something because the opportunity presents itself.

2. Functionality: within the totality of the stuff that you have; the physical place and actual purpose this item will take.

3. Finality: there will be the moment when you will no longer have this object. Consider what you hope to have gotten from this object.

4. Serviceability: consider how and if this object will be maintained, repaired, recycled, and or disposed.

5. Necessity versus Luxury

6. Source: foremost, consider buying second hand, keeping not one, but two objects out of landfills. It may not be the convenient, but it is responsible.

Vintage is about history, present, and future, and hopefully if you're already on this blog, you're participating. Either way, here's to hoping we're all shopping with integrity.


  1. well put!

  2. oh also--you might find this interesting: