Ponder This: Campolo on Consumerism

"Consider this," author and speaker Tony Campolo says.
"The typical size of an American house has increased 40 percent in the last 25 years. It's not because we're having more children; we're having fewer children! We need bigger and bigger houses simply to hold all the stuff we don't need. What's even worse is that we're renting out space in storage bins because we can't contain all the stuff we have in the huge houses we have at our dispoal. It has become an insane society as far as surplus is concerned."

- - Taken from "Laying it Down: Learning to Live With Less In a Culture of Excess", by Jesse Carey, in the May-June 2007 edition of Relevant Magazine


Serena said...

Oh, don't I know it! My house is smallish, especially compared to the 'typical' house nowadays. It's 700 square feet. And it has driven me crazy since we moved in. Partly, it's the inefficient layout. But mostly, it's ALL THE STUFF we have. It's absolutely ridiculous! How many clothes and shoes and THINGS can three people have? And how much do we actually need? I tell you, not more than a quarter of what we have. At the most.

I am a sentimental packrat. I have a hard time getting rid of stuff. But, I reached a turning point recently, and have been purging ruthlessly. My house seems larger, and I feel more at ease in a (slightly) decluttered house. Which is important to me, being at home all day. When the house is a mess, my mental state is a mess. When I look around and see at least a semblance of order, it's good. And, when you don't have too much stuff, it's easier to find the things that you actually need! (I must admit, though, I make an exception for books. I keep books.)

*~Tamara~* said...

Ugh, I wholeheartedly agree. We are the worst for waste and consumerism on this planet.

The other day Mark and I were watching (don't laugh!) My House Is Worth What (I think that's the name of it). This couple lived in the northeast and had a historic home that was huge. They had bought it in a broken-down ramshackle state and had remodeled it to the hilt...all the current amenities and luxuries. It was stunning.

They had two kids. And the reason they were getting an estimate on their house was...they needed more room! They were going to add a $350,000 or so addition to their house.

For what? For more stuff? So when you die your children can be overwhelmed with all that crap they have to sort through, sell off, give away? Seriously, how much stuff does one family need?

As you can see, this topic really bugs me. In fact I was muttering about it a month or two ago:

Bo Tai-tai said...

I have been pondering the size of living space needed. We have 700 sq ft for 3 of us. At times it is tight but it has been good in so many ways that we don't want to increase too much.

LisaM said...

If ever I say something you feel worthwhile to share, feel free to do so. :) I certainly appreciate all that you collect and share. This is a great quote, and an excellent reminder.

Mrs. L said...

The quote is true. We have been brain-washed into 'needing' things that are really wants. Last summer I did a post about 'stuff' and then thinned out my house room by room. Now we're doing it again. It's a lovely feeling, and things certainly run better in a carefully kept home that isn't cluttered and packed to death.

sarah chia said...

Along the line of things getting bigger for no good reason, anyone else get infuriated with the newer SUVs that take up more than a parking spot? I can't even squeeze my tiny little Daewoo Lanos into a space beside those monsters! And for what? More pollution and a status symbol, I guess.

magda said...

so true! i always wonder how many rooms people need? how far apart do they need to be? the same goes with the SUVs- if you have five kids, you need seven seatbelts. if you have two kids (like most people) how far apart do those children actually have to sit?

Jaime said...

i love what serena said:

When the house is a mess, my mental state is a mess.

this is so true, and it's something that i find myself trying to remember more & more often.

while I occasionally do want more living space, it's usually so that I can have a place to put an extra bed for guests. i just cannot fathom having an external storage space; if it's locked up somewhere, you are certainly not enjoying it, so why have it?

which reminds me... i know a few areas that need a good purging....

Kyla said...

What a timely post. We were just talking about if we ever get pregnant we might need to get a bigger house. We have 1500 sqare feet for two people and two puppies!! I think if we would just clean out and stop buying we would be better off.

Catherine said...

How true! About 2 years ago, I started praying about God dealing with my materialism. I was working as a family physician, making a comfortable salary, living in a nice (although not really ostentatious) home, and being able to have the "toys" that we wanted. Now, I'm a "disabled" stay at home mom and my dh is going to be student teaching this fall. I have insurance, so we aren't broke, but we certainly have less than we had. We bought a smaller home, so we have gotten rid of a ton of stuff. I have learned to shop well and buy second-hand. You get the picture. So, I have learned to be careful what I pray for because God is serious about making us like Him! Very timely post. Thanks.


P.S. Keep up the good work everyone - our stuff doesn't have to own us!

Mrs. U said...

Wow! Something by Mr. Campolo that I actually agree with!!!

Mr. U and I both grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta where big money lives and is demonstrated by the size of house you have. It's utterly ridiculous the size of homes with one or two children, both parents work, children are in daycare during the day and then the entire family is gone all night to extra curricular activities. They don't even have time to LIVE in the house that's too big!!

Mrs. U

Jen said...

Thanks for sharing this- it's very timely. I just posted pictures on my blog of our gross multitude of Legos. I'll hang my head now. We're actually in the middle of a year-long purge. I refuse to resort to a storage facility and while we're not there yet, it wouldn't take too many more birthdays to push us over the edge.

Mrs. Pivec said...

Pretty, pretty dresses! I love the pattern on the second one.

I've recently found your site. I can't remember where - on a couple of the blogs I read I think. Just wanted to stop in and say hello. I'll be sure to stop in again! :)

I completely agree with the quote you provided. We have moved from being referred to as "citizens" to "consumers." It's a sad situation. We need to step up and be disciplined. We can blame the advertisers and the glut of STUFF all around us, but they won't stop until we stop. My prayers is that more people will not only begin to pay attention to this, but DO something about it. It is hard, but it is beyond necessary.

Anna S said...

... And I wonder how much more trash an average American family produces these days, compared to 40 years ago.

desmoinesdem said...

Well, I was pretty sad in the fall of 2001, when the president of the United States told Americans (who were hungry to help their country) to keep shopping.

If he had encouraged people to take 10 steps to reduce their energy consumption or car mileage, we'd be better off.

But apparently Americans can't be asked to make any sacrifices--that would be going against the "American dream."

Don't expect this to change as long as consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.