ON LOVING THE SH*T OUT OF STUFF!
Because you were born that way. Plus my first ever MVP pop quiz (pretty please take it!)
He sees shiny covetables everywhere. He loves exploring how things are made and wants to hack every bit of scrap he finds into an elaborate machine, preferably something he can glue onto some wheels. He loves things new and old, crappy and wonderful, homemade and store bought, garish and gorgeous. He always asks if he can have it, if you can buy it for him, if he can keep it forevah. He wants everything, including a marshmallow gun, which is exactly what you think it is. He would eat the world for breakfast if he could.
He isn’t bad. He isn’t trying to be wasteful. He’s just interested in the literal stuff of life. He’s a maker and a taker. And he was born that way.
She doesn’t need or want much. If you take her to the store, she’ll pick out only what she needs, just enough, and no more. She wears the same clothes all the time, despite a cornucopious closet of lovely hand-me-downs. She appreciates beautiful objects, but doesn’t fixate on them. It’s not that she doesn’t love nice things, or ask for occasional frivolities (a velvet dress like Violet Baudelaire, if you please!), but they don’t hold any deep tactile magic. When I find tacky treasures for her, she usually abstains. Unlike her mother, who wore a Bart Simpson T-shirt with seven scrunchies and red converse high tops for most of her adolescence, she favours the simple, minimal, unfussy. When her aunt took her to Dairy Queen to experience her first Blizzard, she proclaimed it good but “too much.”
She isn’t holier than thou. She does care about the planet, but this way of being came before she knew what a climate crisis was. The stuff of life is immaterial for her. And she was born that way.
The Rest of Us
The key message of my book was that it was OK to like things. That it was OK to want things. We aren’t bad people for coveting stuff. Artists and designers spend their lives making beautiful treasures for people to covet. Marketers spend billions of dollars trying to get us to buy these beautiful treasures. And then we beat ourselves up for feeling guilty about our desire to acquire.
Watching my two children and their opposite attitudes towards objects, I see the range of willpower demanded of them will vary greatly. I worry the Stuffist will feel guilty about his acquisitive nature. Like me, he may spend more time thinking about things, deliberating, running his hands across the textures of his life, telling himself not to take, take, take, and admonishing himself when he does. I envy my daughter’s disinterest. She doesn’t think about shoes the way my son and I think about shoes (Yesterday, he put on his “fashion boots” to help me garden). She isn’t burdened by stuff. She’ll have more time for ideas. At the same time, my son turns his stuffy penchant towards making art and science, and it gives him creative fulfillment and dexterity.
A few weeks ago I touched on the idea of impurity, of never being good enough for the climate movement. I fret that this feeling plagues Stuffists more — no matter what we do, inside we harbour a guilt that comes from knowing our true self would collect all the Kinder egg toys or ’70s jumpsuits if we could. There’s a feeling of imposter syndrome, because this talk of a world where we all happily use and get less feels unnatural for the stuffist who wants to make, devour, covet, grow, embiggen. Embiggen is a gross word, isn’t it?
Having battled stuff and mostly come out the other side, I’m hopeful that my son will do likewise. And that he’ll explore his fixation with stuff to positive effect. Maybe he’ll be curator of the Museum of Things (Unsurprisingly, my favourite museum in the world). I love looking at the things people make, the things they wear, the spaces they create and decorate. It’s why I can’t get behind the Uniqlo sameness, or the increasing homogeneity of AirBnB lyfe. Stuff tells us stuff. I hope my stuffist will see that his interest in shiny objects means that he’s a meaning-making magpie and not a maximalist monster. Only time will tell. In the meantime, no more remote-control cars.
SO, are you a Stuffist or a ‘Nuffist? Let me know!
My friend Jordan told me she read my newsletter, and I was drunk so I turned red. Sometimes I forget that there are actual humans reading this thing that I publish in the world for all to see. Sorry for my panic-stricken look, Jordan! And thank you for sharing the most lovely thought, and one highly applicable to everything I just blathered on about. Jordan talked about how she’s setting new norms for her kids. They’ll grow up with less and it’ll be normal. It’ll be how things are. If you grew up in tandem with Costco, this gentle reduction in consumption is a highly deliberate, if modest, privation. If you raise your kids with muffins that are the size of normal muffins, that’s their perfectly satisfactory carb normal. It’s the positive spin on Shifting Baseline Syndrome. Thank you, Jordan!
Send me your ideas too please, dear readers.
THE COOLEST THING
Honestly, this is the most genius staycation campaign OF ALL TIME. Amiright?