The Digital Journalism Blog

The USA: Unneeded Stuff Association

Posted in Uncategorized by com360bu on March 14, 2013
Tags: , , , ,

By Hollie Huntley

Too much stuff. Everywhere.

That was my initial reaction upon re-entering the United States after spending four months in Europe. It was the realization that how we, as Americans, spend our money wrong. We spend our time wrong. What we value is wrong.

I had the opportunity to spend the fall of 2012 in Denmark where I studied abroad and lived with a host family right outside Copenhagen. Though I lived in Denmark from August until December, my packing began in May. Two months prior to leaving is a bit early to start packing but my semester at Bradley had just ended and I was headed home to Oregon for the summer. Knowing I wouldn’t be back to BU until January 2013, I began to pack for eight months, which included three different seasons and living on two different continents, all in two suitcases. Yes, just two suitcases.

Living on limited clothes taught me a few lessons. It taught me what was needed and how to live on a minimalist level. I learned how much stuff I truly did not need and how spoiled I am to have another closet full of clothes awaiting my arrival back to the States. I learned how materialistic I had become and I learned just how American I was.

Starting with my arrival in Denmark, as my host family picked me up from the airport, they were in awe of all the stuff I had with me… yes, just the 2 suitcases. When we came to their house, I realized why they were in awe. This middle-upper class family, had nothing in their home. Well, nothing in my eyes at least. The home was bare and simple, just a few things on the walls and very plain furniture. There was no clutter. I soon learned it wasn’t because they were ‘neatfreaks’, but it was because their value was not in stuff.

After living in this simplified environment, I realized what they did value was time and people. I was able to notice this in a few different ways. One was just by a simple trip to the grocery store. Danish grocery stores are about the size of the produce department alone at your local grocery store. This leads to very few brands to select from when it comes to bread, dressing and other such products. Often times there were only two brands to select from. What happened to the whole aisle dedicated to bread? Or the dressing aisle? Or the pasta aisle? It wasn’t because they didn’t have these items, it was because of the value of simplicity. They don’t have the need of the 29 different ketchup choices like we do in America.

This idea of simplicity takes the focus on things and puts it on those relationships and time. Instead of showing off and competing with neighbors to have the newest and nicest house or yard, time is spent with that neighbor, creating that community. Instead of spending 10 minutes deciding which of those 29 ketchups to buy, that time is spent at home with the family. Americans spend so much time, energy and money on these things to show off or compete against others. I never really thought the motto of “bigger is better” was true for Americans, but my overwhelming reaction to stores once I reentered the States in January confirmed this and truly opened my eyes to what Americans value.

We value things. We want the newest, the bigger, the cooler, the nicest products. We find value in competition, amongst one another and amongst companies that are producing the 29 ketchups in that aisle. I learned what we value, what I value, is wrong. I learned that it’s not those nice, new and fancy things that bring people contentment. It’s the family and the friends, and placing faith in something of true value that brings contentment.

My favorite author, Donald Miler, said, “I used to think I needed stuff and status to be content. But all I needed was faith, a good project and a loving friend.”


Note: this post was written as if it could appear on


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