Too Much Stuff: Consumption Is Not A Way of Life

Compared to most people I don’t buy or own much stuff but I still have too much stuff so I am slowly giving away, selling or throwing away all my excess stuff (clothes, gadgets, shoes, books etc etc etc)

I really don’t need all this stuff, I don’t even use a lot of this stuff. I think you’ll agree with me when I say that when you have too much stuff you spend more time finding space to store it and make room for yourself then you spend actually using the stuff.

The problems with living in an economy where consumption (buying stuff) is a way of life encouraged by governments and corporations are more than you think

Problem: Negative Externalities of Stuff

A lot of the costs of the stuff you buy are “negative externalities” not reflected in the cost you pay at the counter. “Negative externalities” is a terrible phrase which basically means let somebody else deal with the problems (pollution from factories, roads packed with transport trucks, sick overworked sweatshop employees etc)


Story of Stuff – Externalised Costs

Problem: Rental and Housing Costs

Most of us aren’t really thinking when we go shopping to buy stuff like another TV, better speakers, more shoes, another suit, a second car, a new set of dishes, more towels without stopping to consider: is it necessary, can I afford it and the most important: What is this new thing really costing me?

Australian household debt is growing at a fast rate and I think buying stuff using personal loans, credit cards and home loan withdrawals is a contributing factor.

All this stuff is costing us quite a bit in storage alone. We are building new homes with bigger kitchens and more bedrooms, bathrooms and closets than ever before. When you buy a bigger home to accommodate your stuff, you pay higher taxes, higher heating bills, bigger cooling bills, a bigger mortgage, plus whatever the upkeep costs are for the stuff itself.

Problem: Overwhelming Stuff

Comedian George Carlin wonders why we keep so much stuff and describes the problems it creates

In fact he developed a routine around the concept of “stuff”. Carlin’s belief was that we all have a large supply of stuff, possibly too much stuff, but we insist on storing it in smaller and smaller containers of stuff. When our closets become full of too much stuff, we move some of it to drawers. If we need stuff for a vacation, we put some of our original stuff in suitcases. We even buy smaller versions of stuff just to have on hand when we leave our big stuff behind on a trip.

What You Can Do

Looking at all the stuff in your bookshelf, cupboards, garage, floor etc can be scary and you may feel that it will never be organised or gotten rid of.

So I suggest a step by step approach. Every day choose something in your house (it can be big or small) and give it away, sell it or throw it in the recycling/rubbish bin.

And when you’re going to buy new stuff like clothes, electronics etc remember that most of the pleasure gained is from anticipating buying it. As soon as you buy it it will become of less value to you and get pushed aside in favour of new stuff.

12 thoughts on “Too Much Stuff: Consumption Is Not A Way of Life”

  1. When I buy new clothes, shoes etc. and bring them home, I go thru’ my wardrobe and drawers, pick out 3 items I haven’t worn for at least 12 months or longer, and put them in a bag which gets delivered to the Salvos or Vinnies.

    Almost the same with books. Well, sometimes with books, although I’m trying to use my local library more. A great way to de-clutter. (Aren’t libraries a great public service?)

  2. Totally agree – my attitudes to consumption have shifted greatly since having a family. However “old habits die hard” as the saying goes. There is so much stuff we never use in storage/garage and around the house that it’s time we did a massive cleanout. Your post has brought this top of mind – thanks for sharing this.

  3. I totally agree with you about material stuff. Our family used to have so much that we never used half of it; well when my husband lost his job we decided to downsize and save money; well today we own just enough and we are grateful for what we have. But to tell you the truth we are happier and have more freedom in our lives because we are not paying for big screen televisions or other things that we thought that we once thought that we had to have.

  4. I can’t agree with you more. I believe our society is built on over consumption. It’s not just about wasting money. It’s also about using more resources than necessary. It’s not just about giving away things you no longer need or want, but also about not buying them in the first place.

  5. Absolutely Agree!! My mom always told me to never buy on impulse. If you see something you want, wait at least three days before buying. Chances are, you’ll forget about the item completely by then. You can also use this time to find a better deal on the same item or find a cheaper, comparable one. I splurge sometimes at sales but it’s worked for me more often than not!

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  7. Great post, Neerav, on our fixation on consumption and our ramping of debt to fund it.

    The problem I see is that your views, which I share, are at odds with the majority of Australians who are happy being on the treadmill of ever increasing debt to fund bigger houses, more toys and the trappings of lifestyles they cannot afford.

    In much of the western world, the Global Financial Crisis has been a wake up call. Here in Australia I’m not sure we’re sleep walking off the side of a debt mountain.

  8. you are right, but most people do not think so. American people is buying too much stuff , then blame China

  9. Very impressive, It is true that we are living in consuming world that people buy lots of stuffs that they don’t actually need. On the other hand, we did have prosperous economy before GFC depending on large consumption which contributes to debt today. So can I say the consumption world is fraud that builds up debt and ruins environment and widens the gap between the rich and the poor.

  10. If it seems like a daunting task fear not – best way is to do little by little over time and voila few months later you’ll realise how much extra empty space is in the house.

    another benefit is if you gather all unneeded stuff in one place, some of it can be sold on Ebay etc for cash. I do it twice a year

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