Between gifts and post-holiday blow-out sales, the list of stuff we really, truly don't need will burgeon. And even though we can live without half of it (if not way more), it seems there's something about stuff--sheer stuff -- that rivets us.
Take "Storage Wars," for example. It's A&E's number one series of all time among adults 24 to 54. Almost three million viewers turned in for its first season to watch people manage, sell, and fight over giant piles of other people's accumulated stuff. And this year A&E's "Hoarders" (what is it with A&E?) was nominated for an Emmy. I can think of no worse psychological torture than living with someone who hoards thousands of horse collectibles, cat home décor and ornaments (strangely popular among the hoarding herd) discarded gas-powered outboard motors, busted electronics, and countless heaps of knick knacks.
But spending money on stuff drives our economy, not bartering goat cheese for suede boots (though wouldn't that be nice). And though most of us are not hoarders, the majority of us continue to buy stuff we know we really don't need, then pine away for clutter-free environments. The more people we have in our households, the more clutter-prone we become. We must prune our possessions on a regular basis lest we get snuffed out by them.
I could write a long list of all the stuff I could easily live without, from memory-foam slippers, insulated wine and cheese totes, iPod tabletop jukeboxes and stainless steel cutlery sets, to vacuum-mounted pencil sharpeners, matching garment bags and pop-up mesh food covers (not to be confused with food umbrellas and other assorted picnic paraphernalia you can live without). I generally loath shopping and would love to live in a clutter-free, Zen-like environment. Alas, I live with two messy kids who seem programmed to covet The Next Big Thing.
It doesn't help that in addition to what I actively go out and buy, I'm bombarded by catalogs (you'd think the Internet would've put an end to them) and direct mail solicitations for credit cards from banks hell-bent on getting us to spend beyond our means and accumulate even more stuff we don't need. Never mind that our economy is on the brink of disaster. Wall Street would like us to literally shop til we drop.
With this in mind -- and in the spirit of literally giving back - I was overjoyed to stumble on a YouTube protest video about how to simultaneously manage all that junk mail from banks and be a positive agent for change. It was produced by a young guy named Artie Moffa.
Moffa suggests returning blank credit card applications to banks in their postage-paid envelopes. If done en masse, preferably with hand-written slogans ("Hey there Big Banks, could you please stop messing with the economy?"), this would keep the banks pretty busy, send a simple but important message, and even possibly make an impact. Moffa's idea is that if you can't occupy Wall Street, "you can at least keep Wall Street occupied." Which leads to a twin ideology: If you can't stop buying stuff, you can at least buy stuff you really need.