A friend is busy clearing his Dad’s house out and I quote “it has inspired me to radically thin out my own crap- don't want to leave the same mess for my son to sort out.”
When we took over the farm where I am in Ardèche, France, the 5 sons who had inherited the house and then sold it to us didn’t bother clearing it out, from the cellars to the lofts were piles and piles, shelf after shelf of Stuff, a lot of it broken. 40 years of accumulation of Stuff. It took me a month to make any headway with it all, not one of the great pleasures in life and a month wasted that I won’t be getting back.
Stuff, it accumulates and peoples’ houses are full, it spills over into the garage and eventually into rented storage lockers. Why? What are people doing with it all, why do they need it? Is it psychological? I have to say that the person I live with is an active accumulator, which I am not. This has been the cause of certain ….. discussions. Well yes there is a psychological component, some people need to fill their nest with ‘their Stuff’ in order to feel comfortable and feel that the place is their’s. Similar I suppose to a cat marking its’ territory. The more stressful the life of this sort of person the more they accumulate.
I don’t have much, when people visit they sometimes ask me why I have so few books. The reply is pretty simple, I ‘have’ hundreds of books and they are all stored by kind people in the public library, same with DVDs and CDs. Alright they are not mine but I have easy access to them. Why would I want spend money and then store loads of privately owned books at mine? When I visit some peoples’ houses and I see a wall covered by shelves bearing dozens of books my first thought is “well, that wall is well insulated”. Second thought is “when was the last time they read one of them?”
I heard a bloke talking on the radio and he seemed quite proud that he still has every mobile ‘phone he has ever had. What! All those rare metals and stuff stuck away in a drawer in his house and new ones being mined by children in countries far away. So much Stuff accumulated and stagnating. In the film Up in the air the character played by the American actor George Clooney gives a motivational speech, "What's in Your Backpack?" All about our mania for accumulation and how, in one way or another, we are carrying this Stuff around on our backs. Which is the case.
If we look at this from a standard economic theory point of view well, it’s a good things. People buy, accumulate buy, accumulate, rent storage lockers or buy a bigger house. All great stuff for the flawed measure called GDP. If, however, we look at it from a Prosocial, Earthcare economic theory it is complete bollocks and another great way to drain revenue out of a local community. Stuff that I have and don’t use all the time, books, tools, machines etc and which aren’t shared equals Stuff that other people in my neighbourhood have to buy and store themselves and on and on. We all end up with our own Stuff and each time I buy something and hoard it rather than sharing it means others, who want/need the same Stuff have to do the same, which equals a huge financial outflow from our local area. This wasted money could have circulated and multiplied within the local economy making us all better off.
Back in the day I knew the mother of a now renowned UK Sculptor, she ran a small bookshop, basically in one of a row of garages that had been converted to retail booths. People came and bought a book. They read the book. They came back with the book and got a fair credit towards another book. The books circulated around and around, job done.
Tools, machines, vehicles, buildings, books, films ….. all Stuff that can be shared. It’s time to stop digging in the earth, manufacturing ridiculous quantities of Stuff and to switch over to local economies where the emphasis is on sharing stuff and not stocking it up. Open the windows and let those books fly out and away to other people who can appreciate them and who will, in their turn, let them fly on, and on.
I can hear the arguments already.
People don’t look after stuff they borrow.
I got precious books that will get damaged.
I can’t be bothered to go and borrow the neighbours mower each time I want to cut the grass
I’m happy in my little castle surrounded by my Stuff, don’t want to share it and don’t want to meet the neighbours after a full day’s work.
Ok, fine, but take a moment to have a look at what we have done and are doing to our planet, frankly not great. Produce-consume-produce-consume in the way it is done is wrecking everything. We are leaving piles of tat for the next generation and the one after and so on and so forth. And we each keep running just to try and stay in the same place. It’s not working out well for us.
The best person to own and share something is the person who has the biggest local social network. Unfortunately said person has a wide local social network and doesn’t need to buy the kit because someone in her network has it to lend her. This is why buying to rent is probably the best option for that person. But in a local area there is ‘someone’ who knows everyone, the local council or local authority depending which country you’re in. Pressure them to set up a sharing network and if they won’t compost the m come the next elections and replace them with people who want, actively, to take care of their local area and by consequence the Planet.
Share Stuff, what’s complicated about that? Nothing except what’s in our heads and having to push back against what we been trained to do. So it’s time to get our local prosocial sharing economies up and running and instead of raising a glass to the king (for the Brits) raise a finger to the machine.
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