The Story of Stuff

by Lance Ekum on November 28, 2011

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Video courtesy of The Story of Stuff Project


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Maybe there's another way…

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I was taught to approach consumption from the perspective of moderation.

"Everything in moderation."

Hoo boy, how I hated being told this as a child. Moderation is so….MODERATE. Puritan. Buttoned-down. Laaaa-aaame.

"Yes, you can watch TV, but just a little." "Yes, you can have a cookie, but just one."

It's a qualified "yes, but".

And while we all love a "yes", nobody likes a "but".

It became apparent that this version of moderation was all about going without, based on cultural mores rooted in gluttony, politesse and virtues. It made for some complicated relationships: I want this, but can only have a little, which has me wanting it more.

It is the "more" that was – and remains – the problem.

For me. (And maybe for you?)

More food. More conversation. More obligations. More information. I had lost the sense of how I wanted to FEEL during and post-consumption. Back then, it was about filling up, not fueling up.

Big difference.

I wasn't savouring, I was shoveling. A bulging calendar meant a life well-lived. A heaping plate meant abundance. A full closet meant affluence.

So why was I feeling so depleted?

You know the answer: I was choosing quantity over quality.

In choosing dubious quality, I was producing dubious quality in my relationships, work and art.

Crap in, crap out.

There is this truth: there is only so much room, and there is only so much time. And mercy me, this truth becomes more and more acute with every passing year.

I now approach MOST consumption from the perspective of a small plate at a large and sumptuous buffet of life.

I'm not talking about scarcity here. I'm talking about INTENTION, 'cause, Darlin' I don't doubt for a nanosecond that you have the capacity to receive many more gifts, much more wealth and much more joy in your life. And don't you dare doubt that either.

What I am advocating is crystal-clear clarity about your intention as you approach that buffet.

What do you want from this meal, conversation, hour, visit? Do you want to feel energized? Inspired? Alive? Accomplished? Comforted?

Let this intention inform your every choice.

Will you be satiated with filet or filler? Fact-finding or Facebook? Meeting your mother or "How I met your mother"?

You get to choose.

And if you find yourself becoming overstuffed, overwhelmed, overscheduled or overweight, notice what – and how much – you've invited onto your plate.

Believe as I do that you can handle it AND choose differently the next trip to the buffet.


So go ahead and fuel up. Just don't forget to leave a little room for dessert.

by Tanya Geisler

Hope for the planet
Creative Commons License photo credit: kevin dooley

Consumption… would you be able to give up 80% or more of the things you have, eat and do for a million dollars? What if you were told you were going to die if you didn't? It's difficult for us to change unless there is a huge reward or if something dramatically bad is going to happen if we don't. Can you imagine yourself…

  • Spending a maximum of 10 minutes a day on facebook?
  • Spending a maximum of 20 minutes a day in your email inbox?
  • Selling or giving away 80% of your clothes?
  • Without a car?
  • Never eating wheat again? What about all grains?
  • Saying no to gifts this Christmas? What if you instead asked for love and time with people?
  • Being outside in nature by yourself for 10 hours reflecting on life?
  • Not spending a single second with technology for a 24 hour time period? 48 hours?
  • Engaging in only 2 10-30 minute strength sessions a week yet put on all the muscle you desire?
  • Living in a home with your basic needs and perhaps a few extra strong desires with no clutter?
  • Cooking simple meals and then taking the time to enjoy your food with family or friends?
  • Working at your job for half of the time you do now?

Does any of the above seem possible right now? All of it deals with consumption. All of it deals with health. More often than not, we don't need this or that. With less, we would enjoy life more. We would have more time to spend with those who are important to us. We would have more time for ourselves. We would be less stressed and thus more healthy. I could probably come up with 1,000 or more bullet points and elaborate on them. I'll stick with the ones that came to my mind first. I'll now elaborate on them to show you how all of them have improved or could easily improve my life in some way.

Spending less time on facebook

I have a "good excuse" to spend a lot of my time on facebook during the week. I don't have a job but rather rely on income I receive from my blogs. One of the best ways to market is through facebook. With this being said, I've noticed that when I take a day here and there to limit my time on facebook or even go a day without it, I have something meaningful to publish on my facebook wall when that time comes. When I let myself roam on facebook for an unlimited time period I may not have something useful to say but say it anyway because I'm on facebook. I'd be much better off limiting my time on facebook. I bet you would be too.

Spending less time in my email inbox

I used to spend an hour or so with email on a daily basis. Most of it was junk but I thought I had to deal with it. I've learned over the past few months that spending 10 minutes some days, 30 minutes others while taking some days off entirely, I am much more productive. I tend to work on things that are more important. During this month my eyes have rarely seen my inbox. Instead, I've focused on putting the finishing touches on my ebook, Toadally Primal Smoothies. The official product launch date is December 1 and spending time in my inbox is only hurting me.

Selling most of my clothes

I used to sell American Eagle clothing on eBay. This resulted in me having way too many freaking clothes. I had about 25 polo shirts hanging in my closet! This was absurd to say the least. However, I'm proud to say that I am down to 2 polo shirts! Along with the polo shirts I have sold or given away most of everything else. I simply did not need it and I now have less clutter in my life as a result.

I don't own a car

I sold my car about 2 months ago. It was one of the greatest days of my life. I have not bought a car since and I don't plan on buying one anytime soon. In fact, I'm literally looking to go carless till at least the year 2020. Instead, I'm going to seek out cities where a car is not at all necessary. I'm living in Chicago as I type this. I was in Oahu, Hawaii for 40 days where the bus will literally take you anywhere on the island. There are thousands of cities around the world where walking, riding a bike or taking public transportation is a riot. Life has slowed down for me and I am much more appreciative of life.

I don't eat wheat

Last month I asked you if you were ready to ditch wheat. I don't eat wheat as a normal part of my diet anymore. It used to be the centerpiece but since giving it up my health has improved in many ways. I'll eat the occasional food item that has wheat but this is truly very rare. It's getting easier and easier to say no to any wheat that comes my way. This is actually true with all grains as a matter of fact. Instead, I eat more quality meats (think grass-fed beef) along with more veggies and fruits.

Less Christmas gifts this year

I used to get a lot of gifts for Christmas. It was fun as a kid but it has grown old super fast. I told my mother I did not want any gifts this year. Instead, I simply want to spend quality time with my family. I'd rather have all of us go skiing even though none of us ski. I want love. I don't want gifts. She insists she gets me something but I'm confident it will be less than any Christmas before which I'm looking forward to! I have 3 siblings and we mutually agreed to not buy each other gifts this year. Instead, we will spend quality time when the holidays are here. To be honest, it's a huge relief to realize this.

Spending more time outdoors

I've never spent 10 straight hours in nature by myself but I do plan on doing so many times for the rest of my life. Imagine how slow life would go if you did this. Just 2 weeks may seem like a year. It's almost like you add years onto your life. We all complain how short life is. Well, why not slow it down? Why not get off facebook? Why not get outdoors? Why not just sit and reflect? I've definitely taken more time to reflect on my life. I walk a lot more. I'm living in Wrigleyville, Chicago, IL right now with my brother and have a one mile walk to Lake Michigan. It's where I am headed when I finish writing this post.

Technology fast

Have you ever gone 24 hours without technology? What about 48 hours? I'm talking about ditching your cell phone, computer, and anything else that eats up your time. I did this for just over 72 hours a couple months ago. I was on Lake Michigan and had no internet access and no phone reception. I'll admit that there was a TV but I hardly watched it. It was one of the best 3 days of my entire life. I was outside a lot by the lake. What did I do? I spent quality time with my parents and older brother. I read books. I did a cold water plunge in the lake. I ran on the sand. I chatted with my family over a fire. I cooked food and ate it. I reflected. I played Sudoku. Soon, I'll be doing this regularly. Are you ready for a 24 hour technology fast?

Less exercise, more play

I rarely exercise. I want to enjoy life. I also want to be fit. This is why I am a huge fan of bodyweight exercises. To me, it's fun but it's still a great workout. I usually engage in push-ups, pull-ups, squats and planks. I have no routine. I just do! I quit when I want to. I also engage in sprint intervals when I feel like it. Aside from that I may run if I feel up to it. I walk a lot, move around in general, play, dance, etc. Today, exercise is a blast. Do you love your workouts or dread them?

Living with less clutter

I want to see the world. I've been all over the place since the middle of July of this year. I was in Hawaii for 40 days, then back with my parents in Grand Rapids, MI for 2 weeks and am now in Chicago with my brother. I plan on living somewhere in Florida to start 2013. Guess what? All I have is a carry on bag and a backpack. Talk about living without a lot of clutter! Sure, I have some stuff sitting at my parents, where I lived for 23 years, but I plan on selling at least 80% of it. I don't want it. It's clutter and needs to go. I'm not suggesting you live out of a carry on bag, ok?! Why not take baby steps and just de clutter as time goes on? Go take 10 minutes right now. I'll wait…

Cooking simple meals and enjoying food with family and friends

Not much can beat a simple home cooked meal that is enjoyed with family or friends. Can you think of much? I'm not talking about bland meals. I'm talking about simple meals. For example… why not cook up some grass-fed ground beef with a few of your favorite spices? Throw in some apple cider vinegar too. Chop up sweet potatoes into bite sized chucks, throw on some butter, add salt and pepper to taste and throw into a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Feel free to mix the 2 when both are done. This is an incredibly simple, satisfying, nutritious, healthy, delicious meal. Create it with your family or friends and then enjoy it with them. If you are by yourself then take the time to sit, enjoy and reflect. Don't watch TV or read. Eat!

Working less

What if you only had half of the time to work? What would you do? Maybe you would take a few days to organize what you do at work. You would then focus on what is the most important. You would realize that a lot of the stuff you do on a regular basis is 100% unnecessary. I believe MOST people can work less but still get more done. We work way too much. If your boss all of a sudden told you that you only have to work 5 hours a day, 4 days a week, how would you react? I bet you would be ecstatic! You may tear up out of pure joy. As a result, you would become more productive because you would be less stressed and more happy. When I decide to limit my work time I end up doing what's productive and ignore what's not necessary. Life is a lot more fun this way. What do you think about all this? Are you ready to enjoy life instead of stress out about it? Are you ready to get your health back? Maybe there is something that you can add to this list. Please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

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