We can't avoid buying and using stuff. But we can work to reclaim our relationship to it. We used to own our stuff; now our stuff owns us. How can we restore the proper balance?
I remember talking to Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, at the end of his year of living as low impact as he could manage in New York City: no waste, no preprocessed meals, no television, no cars, no buying new stuff. He shared with me his surprise at journalists calling to ask what he most missed, what he was going to run out and consume.
What he said has stayed with me as a perfect summation of the shift in thinking we all need to save the world--and ourselves--from stuff.
"They assumed I just finished a year of deprivation," Colin said. "But I realized that it was the prior 35 years that had been deprived. I worked around the clock, rushed home late and exhausted, ate take-out food, and plopped down to watch TV until it was time to take out the trash, go to sleep, and start all over again. That was deprivation."
Fortunately for the planet and for us, there is another way.
Annie Leonard wrote this article for The Human Cost of Stuff, the Fall 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Leonard's "Story of..." series started with the 2007 "Story of Stuff" and now includes eight titles.