The Story of Stuff

This is an introduction to the video we watched at the Sustainable Living on a Budget class I attended on June 18. When it first came on, I found it’s presentation a bit cutsey, but by the time the 20 minute segment was over I was both charmed and intrigued. In the days following the class, I found myself thinking a lot about the topic.

You can watch the whole thing in bits on YouTube or go to The Story of Stuff and download the whole thing. (It’s 50 MB, though.)

Sustainable Living.

Last night I attended a workshop about sustainable living. ( I read about the workshop series a few months ago in the Oregonian–there is a link on the site–and was intrigued. Last year, I was introduced to the food philosophies of the Weston A. Price foundation, read the book Nourishing Traditions and implemented a few changes. The whole fermenting, soaking, baking thing has been a bit beyond me. Along comes this series of classes. They include: Introductory Sustainable Living on a Budget; Homemade Dairy Products; Whole Grains and Meal Planning; and Fermented foods and Condiment Making

I was particularly interested in these classes because Monique Dupre, the woman who teaches them, never goes grocery shopping. The article also reported that she spends $65.00 per week on groceries for a family of four. In the workshop she clarified that $65.00 is her base budget, which includes, grains, vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy. She will spend a bit more than that on stinky cheeses because she really enjoys them.

The introductory workshop met all of my expectations and was well worth the $35.00 I spent. One of the first comments she made in the workshop was to not judge. Once you start to judge, you draw a box around that person which puts a box around you and you aren’t able to think outside of any of those boxes. “Oh Monique can do that because she lives on a farm and grows her own food.” (She doesn’t.) “I could never do that because my husband/kids/job won’t support that.” These are not helpful thoughts. She also reminded us to make one change at a time, establish that change, and then move on to the next change.

She then discusses—and I didn’t write down the exact term she used—the “chaos contests” that we like to engage in as Americans. “This weekend, I had so much to do. I did all the laundry, then we went to a soccer game, then I had to this, then there was this, then that, etc.” It’s very popular in the United States right now to be overly busy. I would say this is a true fact in my life and, though I have been working to spend my weekends calmly and restfully, I haven’t really achieved that state yet.

Also not fashionable in the United States right now: organization. I am well aware of this because I am a fairly organized person. I am kind of hard-wired that way, but the Flylady ( took care of the rest. I often find other people drawing a box around me when they see me cart my lunch to work every day. “I could never do that.” they say. And with that attitude they probably never will. I don’t much like the box drawn around me though.

She then talked about the concept of enough. Yet another thing not popular in our country. When do you have enough stuff? Enough work? Enough activities? Enough things to do with your day? Enough money? Think about it. There is seemingly always something in the way of where you want to be, but what can you do right now to have enough?

After those introductory remarks, she then launched in to how she lives sustainably on a budget, walked us through some of her routines (something near and dear to Flylady’s heart) and then talked about saving money and getting off the consumption bandwagon in every room in the house. I’ve got some great ideas about meal planning and attitudes towards my house as well as an idea of how some household products I buy now will be replaced with more sustainable things as they are used up. The thing that I have a big block around is learning to live without my Rubbermaid containers. They are a big part of my success in cooking so much at home. But I don’t have to start that right now. It can come in its own time.