Thursday, April 29, 2010

Too Much Stuff!

I found a recent visit to Sister Marold’s room refreshing. It was simple, aesthetically pleasing, orderly and neat, not bulging with unnecessary stuff. I thought of my overloaded shelves and books stacked up on the floor, my mailbox bulging with catalogues, several messy drawers and the table next to my reading chair with topsy-turvy stacks of stuff. Do I need it all? Do I need even more stuff? Could I scale down, recycle, share some things with those who need them more than I do, put more limits on the stuff I accumulate? I think so!

For Americans, making do with less stuff is a radical shift away from a system deliberately geared toward consuming (and trashing!) more and more stuff. “More” stuff, the “right” stuff, “new” stuff is supposed to make us happy and make the world prosper. But does it? I don’t think so. It takes a lot of oil, a non-renewable resource, and a lot of potentially dangerous synthetic chemicals, even untested ones, to make, preserve and transport all this stuff. It takes a lot of unjustifiably cheap labor to make sure we get it at a bargain price. At the rate we are consuming stuff in the United States, we would need three to five planets the size of earth to ensure that everyone could live at our economic level.

The people of the world are our family; the earth is our home. Using the Rule of St. Benedict as our guide, we might consider the human family our community and the earth our monastery. Following Benedict’s counsel, we can join others in treating all the goods of our earth-monastery as sacred and ensuring that each human family-community member has what he or she needs. With them we can pray and work for ecologically sound means of harvesting and sustaining earth’s resources and for a more equitable distribution of goods.

To learn more about the impact of producing, having and trashing too much stuff, and how we can join others in changing this system check out the 20 minute video, The Story of Stuff, by Annie Leonard, which we've embedded below!

This blog is by Katherine Howard, OSB. S. Katherine is a member of the World Justice New Jubilee committee at the monastery and has agreed to contribute a blog on the fifth Thursday of each month related to social justice.

Image at the top of the page originally posted on (August 2008)


  1. I really enjoyed this post. I just went through a process of simplifying the 'stuff' I own a couple of weeks ago - 'stuff' accumulation happens in Australia (and in my home)too! I enjoyed the video, thanks!

  2. Great video. I have emailed it to League of Women Voters members, family, and any one else located in my contacts. Of course, I am using my current favorite gadget, the Ipod, which I may have to upgrade to the Ipad to stay cool.