Last night my daggy family and I pretended to be hip by hovering hopefully on the fringes of the In crowd at the 6th annual West End Film Festival. Starry-eyed, we clutched our plastic wine glasses and $1 lolly bags ($1??best value ever!) and rubbed metaphorical shoulders with the great and the good of the local film scene. WEFF, a thoughtfully curated collection of Australian short films, always delivers: by turn charming, confronting, funny, wry and thought-provoking. One item on this year’s run sheet particularly caught my Uncluttered Living eye. “What’s so good about dead people’s stuff?” by filmmaker Paul Butler of Fifty:Fifty Films, explores the quirky, oddball and sometimes competitive world of those who can’t let old things go gentle into that good night.
Antique dealers, kerbside recyclers, knowledgeable collectors, addictive up-cyclers and discerning resellers stand shoulder to shoulder in this warm and engaging short documentary. All lay bare for the camera their obsesssions with other people’s old stuff and why for them, the older the piece the more richly woven its history with the unknown and sometimes unknowable lives of its previous owners.
Heather Mildwater, the vivacious and likeable doyenne of collectors, is disarmingly frank about her 20 year heroin addiction and addictive personality. Now clean, she feeds her addictive tendencies by collecting and re-selling other people’s unwanted stuff. It makes for great viewing … but it’s not an easy life.
It got me thinking, all this talk about dead people’s stuff. As Chief Organiser and Declutterer of Uncluttered Living, I too see a lot of other people’s stuff. Admittedly–and happily–most of my clients are still alive, but nevertheless they are often plagued with oodles of stuff they don’t like and don’t want but can’t get bring themselves to get rid of.
Stuff is all well and good. There’s no doubt that well-chosen and well-loved possessions can make our lives richer and more comfortable and bring us much joy. But for better or worse, as a society we seem compelled to keep acquiring; often going into debt or making huge sacrifices to buy endless new possessions. So here’s the rub. Often, the thrill of that possession lies in its very newness. And once the novelty wears off, what then? More stuff, and yet more, on the endless stuff-o-go-round? All that dead people’s stuff? Makes you think.