Les rêveries du retraité solitaire

Les rêveries du retraité solitaire


The late American comedian George Carlin said interesting things about stuff in one of his monologues.[1] At one point, he says, “A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” It’s funny but it makes you think. Do we really need that much stuff? In this article, I’d like to elaborate a little bit more on that subject.





George Carlin



Let’s consider this. If you buy on average one new object a week, only one, you’ll end up with 52 new objects after a year. Most people buy more than one new object per week, and I’m not talking about regular stuff that you need to replace like toilet paper, garbage bags and soap. I’m talking about the stuff that ends up permanently in your living room, kitchen, bedrooms, basement, the stuff that ends up in your closets and drawers. Imagine a pile of 52 objects. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you consider that you need to find a place for each and every one of those objects, that's a lot. How many drawers and shelves do you have in your kitchen and bedrooms? How much stuff can you put in each of those drawers or on each of those shelves, those drawers and shelves? How many closets do you have in your house? How much more stuff can you put in them? After ten years, it’s 520 new objects that you’ll add to what you already have in your house. 


I’m not saying that having stuff, even a lot of stuff, is a bad thing. Stuff can make your life better as long as it’s the right stuff and you don’t have too much of it. I, myself, have quite a lot of stuff. When I became bald, I started buying hats, all kinds of hats. I have tons of them and I keep buying more. I also have a lot of stuff to prepare my cross-country skis: jars of waxes that come in different colours depending on the temperature of the snow, sticky stuff in tubes for warmer conditions, stuff to remove the sticky stuff, plastic brushes, metal brushes, and blocks of cork (natural and synthetic) to spread evenly and polish the wax on my skis. That stuff is important to me. If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t enjoy skiing as much as I do now. All I’m saying is this: Before you buy new stuff, ask yourself a few questions. Is that stuff going to make me happier on a long run or just in the moment when I'm buying it? Where am I going to put that new stuff in a house that’s already full of stuff?


Globalization and cheap labour in China and other Asian countries made stuff a lot cheaper. My wife even ordered free stuff from China. And don’t tell me that the shipping cost is extravagant. It’s not. I think they do it to get consumers hooked to their website. Publicity encourages us to buy more and more stuff to make us look better, feel better, and have a better life. Economic growth is the measure of success of a country. When we buy, we help create jobs and keep the economy rolling.  After September 11, George W. Bush urged the Americans to go shopping in order to show the terrorists that they didn’t affect our freedom and our way of life.


In the old days, people used to cherish the few objects that they had. They didn’t call them stuff. Objects become stuff when we have too many of them and they become less important in our eyes. The word ‘stuff’ itself carries the idea of “too much” or “too many.” We stuff a turkey and when we eat too much, we say that we stuffed ourselves. The word also refers to things that are not very important. Young people use the word, not only to describe objects, but also to talk about what they do. Here’s an example:


“What did you do yesterday, Kevin?”


“Stuff, you know, just stuff”


“Anything special?”


“No, just regular stuff.”


It’s true that the word is also used in the expression ‘serious stuff’, but, to me, it sounds a little bit ironic. I may be wrong. English is not my first language. Sometimes, when it comes to words ans expressions, I see things that are not there and I don’t see things that are there. I don’t think any English-speaking people will ever read this article. If by any chance there is one, please correct me if I'm wrong.


Before I finish, I’d like to make a parallel between the greater accessibility of objects in a global economy and how easy it is to make new friends on Facebook. You may end up with 800 friends or more but you don’t have time to know them all individually, and they don’t know much about you either. And when you need a true friend to help you through hard time you are often alone. Friends can be like precious objects that you appreciate and cherish, or they can be like a pile of stuff that you don’t really have time to appreciate or care about.


I’m not against buying stuff, but before we buy new stuff, I think we should think a little bit more. When we buy a house, we buy a living space for us and our family. If that living space becomes so full of objects that we can hardly move, maybe we should think of getting rid of some of our stuff. Who wants to live next to a pile of stuff with a cover on it?




[1] For the video on YouTube and the transcript : http://www.thefrug.com/george-carlin-stuff/


3 Poster un commentaire

A découvrir aussi

Ces blogs de Religion & Croyances pourraient vous intéresser

Inscrivez-vous au blog

Soyez prévenu par email des prochaines mises à jour

Rejoignez les 8 autres membres