Posted by: conradvisionquest | January 25, 2010

I feel empty… Let’s go shopping! or Our Love Affair with Stuff

My mom always tells me that when my brother and I were little that we were “poor,” and that we just never knew it.  I think “poor” is relative.  We had food to eat, a roof over our heads, new clothes to wear at the beginning of every school year, and gifts under the Christmas tree.  I would hardly consider my childhood lacking in anything.  I guess what my mom meant was that they had to sacrifice so that my brother and I could have everything we needed.  My dad was a police officer and my mom stayed home to raise us kids.  My mom grew up on a farm and is very self sufficient.  She made alot of my clothes, and clothes for my dolls, as well as for herself.  My dad would make games for us to play at our birthday parties, which we had in the garage.  Eating out at a restaurant was a rare treat, not a weekly occurence.  However, when I think of my childhood, I don’t get a feeling that anything was missing, I only remember feeling loved.

I think it is this feeling that we are attempting to create, or re-create, when we set off in life to chase after stuff.  We think, “If only I could afford X and Y, then I’ll be happy.”  Then we purchase X and Y, and we still aren’t happy.  So we chase after Z.  We think things can make us feel better, worthy, cool, deserving of love.  I fell victim to this thinking as a result of being a product of our society, an environment packed with media messages in every form.  Once I figured out that happiness exists only in right now (and has nothing to do with stuff), I realized that the pursuit of happiness is futile.  There is no pursuit.  All you have to do is change your thinking to become instantly happy. 

In the past few years, my love affair with stuff has thankfully ended.  I no longer feel a slave to the feeling of constantly “needing” and “wanting” more stuff.  And I’m ashamed to say that I was the typical American consumer, sometimes buying stuff that I never even used, from groceries to clothes.  But buying more stuff did not make me a better person, more beautiful, or more worthy of love and attention.  Our actions are what make us who we are, not all this useless stuff!

This was one of the stock photos that came up when I put the search word "consumer" in. Hilarious!

What brought me to write about the subject of consumerism was this post on care2 about the illusion of need.  Such a wonderful and truthful way of putting it.  Do you need that new pair of shoes?  Do you need the latest cell phone? Do you need BOTH of those melons, mister? Oh, sorry, I couldn’t be serious for this entire post!

On the same day I also came across this web site called “The Story of Stuff.”  It’s about the effects that the production of all of our stuff has on the planet, our economies, our governments, everything.  As with anything else, the point of view expressed on this web site has its critics and controversy.  It’s been called an extreme leftist view by the extreme and moderate right.  It’s been called the truth that we are all resisting to face.   It’s been called propoganda that should not be shown in schools.

What do I think?  I’m not sure I would take this video as 100% gospel, however, I do consider it an important message: Think about where your stuff comes from and what impact it has on the Earth and others.    I recommend that you watch “The Story of Stuff.”  It may change your perspective on being a consumer, and the never-ending pursuit of stuff happiness.

Update: Also check out this article about a family who downsized their house and gave the profits to charity.  Now that’s anti-consumerism!

What do you think? Is “The Story of Stuff” just leftist propoganda? Or is it the ugly truth that we are unwilling to face? Comment here, people!



  1. Wendy, I think you’re so right, and I’m really happy you’re talking about this. Isn’t it true how “things” tend to “satisfy” us? It’s more like they temporarily anesthetize us from life, and make us feel all is good. And I mean really temporarily! It’s okay to enjoy physical things (cars, toys, shoes, purses, etc.) but to have your life revolve around the next “thing” is sadness. Of course, it’s easy to say, “find the meaning of life” or “just live,” but how does one say that to someone who’s lived/born/bred in our materialistic culture? It’s like telling a fish to start breathing air. Most people really need to have their universe shaken before they’re able to see outside of this consumerist pop-culture mentality, which is laser-beamed into their eyes and ears through mass media. To boot, most people are very content with consumerism. Afterall, what is happiness? I think perhaps it’s more correct to say that LASTING happiness comes not from things, but rather, from one’s own inner being. But that’s too abstract, isn’t it?

    • i agree totally. i feel that if you can’t find happiness in the way things are right now, you will always be searching for it and never be enjoying it.

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