Stuffocation: Living more with less 

‘Stuffocation’ means exactly what you think it means – it is the idea that we are suffocating ourselves with ‘stuff’. We have become so tied up in a culture of materialism that we are overwhelmed with things. We are drawn into a cycle where we work hard so that we can afford to buy things, to keep up with the Joneses, to acquire more and more, bigger and better. But having everything we thought we wanted isn’t making us happier.

In his book StuffocationJames Wallman traces the history of our consumer culture and proposes a new way of living which he calls “experientialism”, through which we reject meaningless stuff in favour of experiences.  Wallman suggests, and I agree, that experiences, rather than things, will lead us to happier, more meaningful lives.

International cover. Published by Penguin

I came across Wallman’s book via my friend Hayley’s guide to buying presents on her blog Mission: Mindfulness. Ever the minimalist and strong campaigner against stuff (really, I can’t handle stuff), I’m surprised I hadn’t come across this book before.  I recommend Stuffocation to anyone who feels overwhelmed with stuff, who rejects the culture of materialism or who wants to find ways to live a more meaningful life.

These are some of my key takeaways from the book (I know “takeaway” is the buzz word, but it always makes me think of Chinese take away containers. Anyone else?).

Buying things doesn’t make us happy

Now, I didn’t need the book to tell me this, but it was nice to read some evidence and case analyses to back this up.

Not only is stuff making us unhappy, it is ruining the eco system. Did you know that for every one bag of rubbish you throw out, SEVENTY bags of rubbish were created to make the rubbish that filled that bag. Me neither, but it’s scary. Watch this short video to find out more about the way we make, use and throw away all the Stuff in our lives. It’s eye opening to say the least.


Experiences are what make us happy

Like the Lenets, who gave up their jobs, rented out their house and gave away all their stuff to travel the world as a family, the rewards for success in the consumerist system – i.e. stuff – aren’t enough for me either. Life is about family bonds and personal growth, not about status measured by the size of your house or the make of your car.


We can reject the consumer culture without turning our backs on society

I do reject the consumer culture. We’ve never celebrated Valentines Day. We didn’t buy each other or our daughter presents for Christmas. We won’t buy a new car/phone/television/gadget just because there is a new make/model/colour.  But we are still very much part of ‘normal’ society. We haven’t packed our lives up to move to the country for the ‘simple life’, nor can we store all our possessions in one back pack. We buy things that will serve a purpose or which bring us joy (oh, how very KonMari of us!).



  1. Lauren | 3rd Jan 17

    This sounds like a great book!
    We also opt for family experiences over ‘stuff’. It’s wonderful that you feel you have achieved escaping consumerism for your family. I’m still working hard to find that balance in mine, but we’re getting better at it all the time

    • Lucy's Locket | 3rd Jan 17

      I found it really interesting. In some ways it’s a never ending battle – we’re consistently told we should be buying something shiny and new!

  2. thetaleofmummyhood | 3rd Jan 17

    This book sounds right up my street, I will definitely be investing. Spending time and creating memories with those we love is what’s most important.


    • Lucy's Locket | 4th Jan 17

      I agree – those are the things that matter most, not the ‘stuff’ we accumulate along the way. It’s definitely worth a read 🙂 x

  3. Hayley@MissionMindfulness | 3rd Jan 17

    So pleased you found the book interesting and this is a really good synopsis of the main points – you are always so readable. Experiences over material things any day here 🙂 xx

    • Lucy's Locket | 4th Jan 17

      Thank you for sharing it! Thanks Hayley, you’re too kind 🙂 xx

  4. mindfultreemama | 4th Jan 17

    This is definitely what I was trying to go for this year with Christmas. No stuff needed, just give me experiences! I’m definitely putting this onto my amazon wish list. Great review! And definitely a much-needed read probably for most, including myself 🙂 Also, great experientialist quote. I wish more people would consider that materials and happiness aren’t always correlated.

    • Lucy's Locket | 4th Jan 17

      Thank you! It seems funny buying something that is all about not buying things, doesn’t it! I checked my library first but there were 2 holds in front of mine and I was impatient! I hope you enjoy it too.

      • mindfultreemama | 4th Jan 17

        Books are always the exception I think! ????

  5. Bee | Better than busy | 5th Jan 17

    Oh how I love your blog! I think I have to get my hands on this book, I love contemplating consumerism and keeping up with the Jonses, I think many of us are on a hamster wheel and it can be really hard to jump off when everyone is on it. We have WAY too much stuff, we are dialling it down and have made a conscious decision to have less so that I can work less, but it sure is hard when everyone else has multiple nice cars and a lovely new home, whilst we have one old car and our little run down old house. Still – it’s our choice. We aren’t stressed about money, we don’t work long hours, we have dinner every day with our kids – I think its hard to put a price on that 🙂

    • Lucy's Locket | 5th Jan 17

      Oh, thank you. I’ve just been stalking your Facebook page, haha! Getting rid of ‘stuff’ is so freeing. Have you read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? I didn’t read it for ages because I thought it was about cleaning, but it’s SO much more than that. I recommend it if you’re wanting to dial down on stuff.
      Sounds like you’ve got your priorities right to me!!

  6. Celine Bell | 5th Jan 17

    Especially relevant after Christmas! So. Much. Stuff.

  7. Angela Watling | 6th Jan 17

    Great review! I have just bought this book…on my Kindle because I don’t actually want another physical book.

    I don’t like accumulating more stuff. We did buy Christmas presents but well considered ones that we needed. My daughter got a train set and 3 books. Some of her friends got SO much by comparison.

    It sounds like you have a great philosophy. We all have a responsibility to not add more waste to our world and mindless consumerism does not help!

    Thanks for sharing. Look forward to your next review x #DreamTeam

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 8th Jan 17

      Haha I didn’t want to buy the physical book either for exactly the same reason but it was checked out and on hold at my two local libraries and I was impatient! Maybe I should invest in a kindle!
      Well considered gifts are perfect! I saw a lady in the shop just picking things off shelves and putting them into her trolley (which was already overflowing!). I vowed never to do that!!
      Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think of the book.

  8. Hazel | 30th Aug 17

    SO glad you put me onto this book, Lucy! It’s fantastic!

    • Lucy Dickens | 3rd Sep 17

      As soon as you mentioned wanting to give people experiences rather than things, I knew you’d like it too!


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