Saturday, January 17, 2009

Less stuff, more experiences

In April 2008, Pete and I took a week off from work. We decided to stay at my house instead of spending $$ on a vacation. After a trip to Ikea, we came home with a new, larger kitchen storage unit to replace the one that was falling apart (a $5 yard sale find I'd had for 8 years). That Sunday we put the unit together, and Monday morning I moved everything from the old unit to the new one.

Somehow, that kicked off a spring cleaning spree. During that week, we went through every closet and cabinet and drawer in my house, and rearranged things (that's when the fabric stash closet was created; metal units were installed; fabric was sorted). I wouldn't have been able to do it without Pete; he was a motivator and big helper, especially for moving everything around my house. It would have taken a lot longer without him, and I doubt I ever would have made the storage units for the fabric.)

When we saw the mound of stuff I was getting rid of, it was overwhelming. My parents live on a busy road, so we took the stuff to their house to put by their curb, knowing that most of it would be taken by someone instead of thrown directly into a landfill.

A lot of the items were things I had bought on vacation; things I bought on impulse; gifts given to me; freebies I picked up; freebies given to me. From that point on, I vowed to stop buying so much stuff. Now when I buy things, I think about if I really need it, where it will be stored in my house, how long will I keep it for, and ultimately, when will it be given away or thrown out?

I also vowed that I would stop buying so many souvenirs on vacation. A lot of items were from our Hawaii trips, and were small items "which wouldn't take up so much space" (as I thought at the time). But the reality is, lots of little things are as bad as one big thing, or even worse, since the small items seemed to proliferate throughout the house, crammed into drawers, unappreciated.

It was also at that point that I decided "less stuff, more experiences" would be my mantra. If I'm going to spend my hard earned cash on something, let it be on something that creates memories (i.e. vacations) instead of buying more stuff that ultimately is thrown away.

Last Friday night, Pete and I saw the documentary Addicted to Plastic, by Ian Connacher. It traces the rise of plastic and what it's doing to the environment. There are several shocking parts to the film, but the most shocking of all is that any piece of plastic ever created, except for the small portion that was incinerated, still exists. It's floating in the oceans. It's in the stomachs of sea gulls and other marine life. It's washing up on the beaches. Plastic bags are strewn all over the world.

Before we saw the film, I had been thinking about my challenge for this year. I had thought about a year without plastic bags, or even a year without plastic. But plastic is absolutely everywhere. We're surrounded by it and we don't even realise it because it's so prevalent. It's relatively easy to have a year without plastic bags, but a year without plastic is simply impossible!

Please read this fantastic interview with the filmmaker, where he talks about some solutions for the plastic problem. I love how he says, "Remember that when you throw something away, there is no away. " Although it's not mentioned in the interview, both he and the filmmaker of Trashed independently said they believe that ultimately, one day we will be forced to go into the landfills to extract the useful materials from what we've thrown away.


  1. I very much like this idea. Less things more experiences. Now if I only had time for the more experiences, I'd be all set. Guess this is telling me that I need to be balancing better.

  2. Good mantra. :) And digital pics of those great experiences are free.


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