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Think Out Loud


Pete Springer/OPB

Kate Bingaman-Burt thinks a lot about stuff. No, not philosophical conundrums or brain teasers, but literally the stuff of everyday life. She’s been drawing her daily purchases for years. Recently the Oregon Humanities Magazine used her drawings for its summer issue all about — you guessed it — stuff. She has a new book coming out in a few months that compiles these drawings.

I wonder what I might learn from Kate. If I were to even list all my purchases or even just keep all my receipts — let alone draw what I buy — would that affect how much stuff I end up with? I don’t usually think much about my possessions, but I’m completely overwhelmed by them every time I move from one place to another.

Last month was no exception. I vowed to accumulate less stuff, to go through my stuff and weed out the detritus from the items of true sentimental value. (How do so many of both categories end up sharing space in the same boxes?) I don’t consider myself a packrat — and certainly I am no hoarder — but I have to admit, I have a deep identification with some of my stuff which — rightly or wrongly — tells me, at least in part, who I am. Why can’t I rid myself of those last few college notebooks? But maybe even more puzzling, why can’t I stop myself from buying that lip balm or that checkstand magazine that I really only want to read one article in? I’m on a budget, I don’t need this stuff.

There is some evidence that the recession is affecting our buying habits and consequently the waste we produce. But are we also thinking more about the role our stuff plays in our lives?

Have you been buying less lately? What does your stuff say about you, if anything? Are you consciously trying to avoid more stuff? Do you think about how your accumulation of stuff fits into a bigger social or ecological picture?



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