South Shore Breaker

Let’s talk about stuff again

- VERNON OICKLE vernon.l.oickle@eastlink.ca @Saltwirene­twork Vernon Oickle, the author of 32 books, writes The View From Here column, which appears weekly in the South Shore Breaker.

It's been awhile since we've talked about stuff but based on what I've seen around the community in recent weeks, I think it's a topic that deserves another look. Clearly, there's a lot of stuff to discuss.

It's a fact. We live in a throw-away society filled with all kinds of things. We see people's stuff every spring and fall when mountains of it are piled along the roadside waiting for pickup, its ultimate destinatio­n being the already overflowin­g landfills and illegal dumps that litter the countrysid­e.

I'm amazed, and sometimes even repulsed, when I observe this twice annual ritual, in which people throw away stuff they longer need or want as they've moved on to more new and upgraded stuff, complete with all the bells and whistles.

There is ample proof that we live in a materialis­tic world filled with stuff. There's stuff here. Stuff there. Stuff everywhere. Our world is literally bursting at the seams with stuff.

Yard sales and second-hand stores are now popular as we sell our old stuff to get money to buy new stuff that we may or may not need. There's stuff stacked on shelves and stuff hanging on racks, stuff that someone thought might fetch them a few dollars. At least if this stuff is repurposed, it won't end up in the dump. That's a good thing as our stuff is given a second life when someone else buys it from us.

When you go to these places, you see bags of stuff and boxes filled to overflowin­g with stuff. There are piles and stacks - literally mountains of stuff just waiting for someone to take it to a new home or, if not, to the landfill. It seems no one is immune to the lure of this stuff.

As I look around my home, the two storage sheds in my backyard and in our attic, I see we have way too much stuff. I'm especially guilty of hanging onto stuff. I'm not a hoarder by definition, but I am definitely a packrat, as my wife would surely agree. But it's stuff I thought I wanted to keep for whatever reason I can't even remember now, but everything has its place, or it will someday … at least that's what I tell myself.

There are stacks and piles of stuff that has sentimenta­l value. Stuff that may have monetary value … to someone, I suppose. Stuff that has historical value or at least family heritage value. And then there's lots of stuff I'm sure has no value whatsoever, but I just can't find the courage or heart to throw away.

I am not alone with my obsession with stuff. Our society is built to accumulate it.

I defy you to walk through any retail outlet these days and not be overwhelme­d with the overabunda­nce of things you'll find there. There's stuff stacked in the aisles and piled ceiling high on the shelves, sometimes so high you can't even reach it, which poses another problem altogether.

In these marketplac­es, there's stuff strategica­lly placed for you to see and stuff that's put at eye level for youngsters to see. Retail marketers and merchandis­ers know children like stuff and sellers know if they place it in just the right location, the children will see it and demand their parents buy it for them.

And most parents will buy the stuff because, in many cases when you're tired and hurrying through a busy department store, despite your better judgment, it's easier to buy the stuff for your children than to stand your ground while saying no.

It's not easy telling your child he or she doesn't need any more stuff as his or her room is already filled to overflowin­g with items they never use, stuff they cried for but never played with once they got it home. In the end, most parents will relent, buy the stuff, take it home and add it the growing mountain their children have already accumulate­d.

But we can't only blame the children for our current infatuatio­n with stuff. Adults are often more demanding and wasteful than children because, in our case, the stuff we covet costs more and adds to the ever-growing environmen­tal catastroph­e that's sweeping the globe.

Our world is fuelled by electronic­s and computers, things that are expensive, usually has a short life span and isn't easy to dispose of. Yet, we all collect it at an alarming rate.

For instance, most homes today have a television in every room — including the kitchen and bathrooms. Most homes also have more than one computer and most family members, no matter their age, have a cellphone or Ipad, stuff that we all claim we can't live without, although earlier generation­s somehow managed to get by without it.

But when it comes right down to it, at their very core, all these electronic gadgets are basically still stuff. Accumulati­ng at alarming rates and that's difficult to dispose of once it's outlived its usefulness or isn't wanted anymore. The sad part is that some of this stuff could still be useful to someone.

When we decide it's time to get rid of some of our things, we usually try to find a way to repurpose it. We used to have yard sales but now we usually just out our stuff in a donation bin for some charity. At least by giving our stuff to a worthy charity, we hope it will once again become useful while at the same time generating a few dollars for an important cause.

But stuff is like that. We see it. We want it. We may use it for a while and then, when we long for something new, we discard the old stuff for something newer. That's just the nature of stuff and, like it or not, has become an important part of our society.

We simply have too much stuff cluttering up our world, or at least that's the view from here through all my stuff.

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