Have You Got Enough Stuff?

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You can never get enough

If consumerism is the engine that drives our economy, will it eventually drive us over a cliff?

Consumerism was on the Lunch Bunch menu Tuesday. Ironically, it was “Giving Tuesday”, a day following Black Friday and Cyber Monday to join together to share commitments and rally for favourite causes and think about others.

We looked at the following three questions:

  1. Do you feel that the level of consumerism has changed in your lifetime?
  2. What do you see as the effect of a consumer culture on our society?
  3. Is it too late to put the brakes on consumerism? 

Has the level of consumerism changed in your lifetime?

It will come as no surprise that everyone agreed there has been an increase in consumerism over our respective lifetimes.

Post war, branding increasingly gained importance. We didn’t want a pair of jeans, we wanted a pair of Levi’s. Marketing got more creative, pervasive and ubiquitous.

Where once the decision to buy “stuff” was done through necessity or reward, it now seems an end unto itself.

“In the 1950s, the average home size was 1,200 square feet, By 2008, it was 2,500 square feet. The average US family size in the fifties was 3.67, in 2008, 2.56 with fewer extended families under one roof.”


What is the effect of consumerism on our society?

We identified 5 negative effects:

1. EnvironmentPlanned obsolescence fills our landfills. It’s much easier to replace stuff than have it repaired. (If you can even find a ‘stuff fixer’)

2. Marketers are more aggressive. Advertising invades every aspect of our life pressuring us to buy more and so, trash more. We want the new shiny toy. If “stuff” is disposable, will people become so too?

3. High debt loads. This level of consumption is fed by easy access to credit. The result, added stress on families as they plunge deeper into debt trying to live up to the American dream where the “pursuit of happiness” has come to mean the “pursuit of stuff”.  Credit cards enable instant gratification contributing to our disposable economy.

4. Confusing “needs” and “wants”. How many people buy things because they actually need them? People are tying their self-worth to their material possessions. They define themselves and others by what they have not who they are. When you attach your self-esteem and self actualization to external “stuff”, your wants become your needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

5. Stress on Families. There’s a high societal cost to trying to attain a lifestyle beyond our means.

In a Globe And Mail article by writer Adriana Barton cites Psychotherapist Graham Music, of London, England who raises an alarm at the rise of callous, selfish behaviour observed in three decades of clinical practice. He argues that:

“…harried parenting and rampant materialism are making children meaner and more self-absorbed. Raised to prize consumer goods over people, children with low empathy are turning into narcissistic adults who have never learned the intrinsic rewards of social belonging and interdependence.”


Is it too late to put the brakes on consumerism?

Have we gone too far to turn back now?

We’ve become more shortsighted, businesses more driven by quarterly profits, and politicians more preoccupied by perpetually campaigning than governing. This doesn’t bode well for us or the planet.

“As North America grows an environment and moral conscience, rampant consumerism is spreading to the developing world to the detriment of the environment, health, and happiness. (Worldwatch Institute in its annual report, State of the World 2004.)”

Every great movement starts with the actions of one person.


What can we do to make a difference?

1. Recycle when possible.

  • Newspapers and toner cartridges can be reused.
  • Donate old eyeglasses, cell phones and computers.
  • Take your own reusable, cloth bag with you when you go to the grocery store
  • Choose paper over plastic, and then recycle the paper.

2. Make your home green.

Use low-flow shower heads, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other energy-efficient devices. This will help your budget in addition to the environment.

3. Use public transportation when possible.

If you live somewhere where this isn’t possible, think about carpooling or consider buying a fuel-efficient vehicle. Plan your errands ahead to reduce car trips. Again, this will benefit your wallet and the environment.

4. Downsize where you can.

Do you really need a five bedroom home with seven bathrooms when there’s only two of you? Just saying.

5. Stop buying stuff!

We all have to buy stuff, but know the difference between needing and wanting. Spend the few extra bucks in the short-term for better quality that will save you money in the long term.

What ideas do you have that will help your pocketbook and the planet?


Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Stuff – Lunch Bunch Ep. 59

(Video Time stamp summary) 

0:10 – Ray

Intro to topic: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Has “consumerism Changed in your lifetime?

1:49 – Randy

Born in the fifties, grew up in the sixties – has it changed in my lifetime? – Hell yes.

Do we have more stuff? – Yes.

Are we constantly trying to acquire more stuff? – Yes.

Parents didn’t view me as needing stuff, they gave me stuff I desired and earned.

Most kids were materialistic back then as they are now. We were all brand conscious.

5:39 – Ray

Does materialism equal happiness – as in Life, liberty & the Pursuit of…? 

6:24 – Randy

The pressure to buy on credit was also present in my generation.

Credit is a sin that we individually control, but we’re not good at that.

7:40 – B.L.

Problem with stuff is even when you get rid of it, it always comes back. You just get different stuff.

9:29 – Randy

What do the baby boomers do now after having spent the 60’s and 70’s evangelizing for back to nature and healthy food?

We go to Whole Foods and have pesticide free products but it cost more than three times the normal cost of food. 

10:30 – Comment by Pamela Barroway:

 HOA Comment


12:36 – Scott

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Are we all self actualized or think we are then find out that the effect of having stuff only lasts so long. 

13:31 – Ray

A lot of it is about self-esteem and identifying who you are by what you have. 

What do you think is the effect that a consumer society has on our culture? 

14:00 – Randy

It used to be called keeping up with the Joneses, but we’ve gone way beyond that. The financial crisis hurt everyone. It also created a problem for those kids trying to buy a house.

They’re being told that what we had isn’t available to them but what we had wasn’t comparable to what is available today. That baseline is changed.

16:36 – Scott

Too much choice – too many options.

20:50 – Ray

What is the ecological cost of consumerism; is it too late to turn back?

21:53 – B.L.

There are many like me who feel all this consumerism is disgusting especially when you see people sleeping on the streets. We have to lead by example.

Find an organization in your community to help. #givingtuesday to find thousands of organization.

24:18 – Randy

I don’t think that genie will ever go back into the bottle. I don’t see a wish to do it. A lot of it centres around innovation and entrepreneurialism. Gadgets are fun. 

25:43 – Ray

Changing things won’t be a matter of choice.

26:49 – B.L.

One of the things that started to change is the sharing economy, people are sharing instead of buying

Minion Lunch Box


LunchBox: (Interesting articles curated by the Lunch Bunch)

27:20 – Ray

Personal Brand Punch: Why Your Brand Should Be Represented by Real People by Mark Traphagen  

27:44 – Scott

The “L” curve – Tour of the US Income Distribution.

29:25 – Randy

The ROI of Social Media: A retrospective by Jason Falls . “…measuring your success is not a matter of ROI or not. It’s a matter of ROI … AND.”

30:00 – B.L.

Fitness for Geeks: Real Science, Great Nutrition, and Good Health by Bruce W. Perry

31:00 – Vivek

MIT Conference 2012: featuring Sadhguru Jagg Vasudev


The Lunch Bunch:

Scott Scowcroft  – The Scott Treatment Repurposing Hangout On Air Videos.

Randy Bowden  – Bowden2Bowden Marketing and branding virtual consultancy firm

B.L. OchmanMaximum-Plus.com – Founder Maximum Plus – Training for GooglePlus Success.

Vivekananda Baindoor Rao  – Wake Technology Integrators – Software Engineering & Development company. 



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About Ray Hiltz

Thanks for dropping by. I'm the Director of Digital Marketing for Image-24.com. My background in business includes non-profit (performing arts), restaurants and Promotions. Having moved on from my own strategic consulting company, I now write about what interests me. So in this blog, you may read about my thoughts on marketing, health issues and business culture. You can follow me on Twitter @rayhiltz or @image24Call

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