I’ve been going through a ‘de-cluttering’ phase for a while now. Some bulkier low-value things I’ve given away on freecycle , I’ve done charity shop drops, and I’ve sold some things on ebay. My latest discovery is selling stuff on Amazon. And that’s really made me think differently about ‘owning stuff’.
Lots of the stuff we have in our home has arrived there courtesy of Amazon. I signed up years ago for the ‘prime’ membership, so we no longer paid for individual deliveries. This meant that I largely stopped shopping on the high street (I never was one for retail as a leisure activity), and had stuff delivered. The stuff was mostly books and DVDs, but extended, amongst other things, to batteries, electric toothbrushes and a food processor. It was quite startling, to look back over five years of online shopping. Embarrassing even. I’d been on a long term consumption binge. I’d somehow fallen for the marketing promise that I would be happier/thinner/more successful (delete as appropriate) if I had certain stuff in my life.
I was tickled by the recursive realisation that this stuff could now leave, just as it arrived, via Amazon. And boy have they made it easy. Log into Amazon, set up a ‘seller account’ (connected to your regular account), call up the list of things you’ve previously bought and click the button that says “sell yours here’. It’s lower-involvement than ebay – you don’t even have to write the product listing. Loads of DVDs and books have been leaving our shelves this way.
I’ve come to realise that I really don’t need to “own” much of this stuff. I rarely watch a film twice, and if by chance I do, I can always subscribe to Net Flix or Love Film for the cost of a DVD.
I like that someone else will get use from the physical product. The DVD doesn’t wear out when I’ve played it once. The print in the book doesn’t disappear when I’ve read it.
The internet has changed how we can consume media like films and music. And now its changing how we consume physical things – like Amazon enabling the re-circulation of stuff. And sharing sites like EcoModo that enable collaborative consumption.
I *need* very few of things we have gathering dust in our home. They haven’t made me magically happy. I’m lucky to have people in my life that do that.
I wonder about the wider impact of our collective fixation on having stuff. Our towns have a proliferation of storage depots for folks with possessions out-stripping their homes. IKEA sells millions of ‘storage solutions’. Big corporations are making shedloads of money selling us this stuff. And Wonga is trading in the currency of a big fat marketing lie. Stuff doesn’t make you happy.