Material World – Stuffocation

Have you heard of the Sustainable Book Club run by Eco Thrifty Living? No? Let me tell you about it…

I’ll start by telling you about the book we’ve just read.

It’s a book club all about sustainable living and I joined last month. The book was ‘Stuffocation’ by James Wallman. Intrigued by the title I started reading. It’s all about the amount of stuff we have in our lives. I didn’t finish the book, it was far too compelling and he does labour his point a little but, if Wallman’s depressing description of the evolution of materialism doesn’t depress you, then his statistics about the fire risk all this stuff creates, will.


The book club met on Thursday, online, to discuss how the book had made us feel, what we had learnt and how our behaviours might change. It was very enlightening. I’d already started destuffing or decluttering, however you want to put it and I was already feeling extremely liberated by it. I wondered how I’d accumulated all this stuff and began to analyse myself. It’s been a huge learning experience.

An interesting point, made by one of the group, is that as people who want to be a bit greener, we are often loathed to throw something out, thus accumulating yet more stuff. But by not using stuff it’s just as much a waste as throwing it away. It’s just in a different type of landfill, under your bed, in the spare room, stored in the loft or the garage.

Wallman talks about physical belongings but it occurs to me that we don’t just carry physical things, we carry psychological baggage too and sometimes the two are inextricably linked. I get a certain unexplainable security from buying things. To me, things solve problems and sometimes I almost invent a problem the thing will solve in order to avoid the real problem. But that’s a whole new post, which I may or may not explore another day.

Regular readers of the blog will know that from time to time I review products for different companies. I enjoy it. It’s not things that solve a problem, it’s products that I get pleasure out of and, as a writer, getting to sample a new product and write about it, is fantastic! And I get to tell you lovely readers about really great products.

I’m not saying you should stop buying things, that’s not something I can ever see myself doing, never mind telling someone else to do after all there is a certain amount of stuff we do actually need. It serves a purpose, has sentimental value, or simply brings us pleasure and why not?

Wallman suggests we are moving towards a society concerned with experience rather than material things as an antidote to Stuffocation. Whenever I think of the subject of materialism I always think of Madonna’s rather paradoxical line in Material Girl ‘experience has made me rich, and now they’re after me…’. Another point made during the book club discussion is sometimes you need stuff in order to have the experience, for example sailing; you need a life jacket at the very least!



I’m not saying consumerism or materialism are bad, anymore than I’m saying minimalism is the right path, in my opinion extremes of anything are not healthy. I’m saying I need to find more balance.

It’s a great little book group and it really got me thinking. The decluttering will continue and I will start to try to change my buying habits as I already have in the process of writing this blog.  I certainly think harder about the effect products I buy may have on the environment but I also need to ask myself, is this really a problem that needs solving with a thing or is it experience I should be using to solve it?

I’m learning to value the things I have, not that I didn’t before I just didn’t enjoy the whole of them. There was too much. the things that really mattered were drowned out in a noise sea of stuff. Now I shall concentrate on enjoying the experience of purchasing a new top rather than it being just one of three I bought that week. Revel in the new for longer than five minutes, seek out the experience and stop to enjoy the moments in my life that don’t necessarily involve stuff.

To help me do this I’ve started a Pinterest board: Experience; The Stuff Antidote.

Instead of pinning stuff, let’s pin experiences. It can be anything; the smell of lavender, stopping to play with your children and hearing them laugh, that first sip of your morning coffee, the grass under your bare feet or the sunset. Let us know and share your experiences. It’s a community board so if you’d like to join in then leave your Pinterest handle below and I’ll follow you. Once you’ve followed me back I can invite you to join and the fun begins!

There’s also a community pinboard for declutterers, here if you too are compelled to declutter after reading this post.

For now, I leave you with the inimitable, Madonna and a little ditty she wrote back in 1985 – thirty years ago!


You can join the Sustainable Book Club on Facebook or follow EcoThrify on Twitter or her blog. If you join now you can help us decide what to read next. We’d love to see you there. I’ll be back next month to tell you all about the next book.

I’d love to know what you think about this topic. Don’t forget to let me know below!


2 thoughts on “Material World – Stuffocation

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Fascinating post! Have you ever heard George Carlin’s bit about ‘stuff?’ It’s a hilarious take on this, but with a strong underlying message: we are too devoted to our ‘stuff.’ Our things. As you say, there’s comfort in having the things that you need, and we do really need certain things. But just try to move house and you see how many things you don’t need. I have a little rule that I try to use for my clothes and shoes. For every new outfit or pair of shoes I buy, I need to get rid of one that I already have. Some I donate; some (the ones that are too tattered for that) I toss. Keeps me in clothes I like without overburdening the closet.

    Liked by 1 person

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