Written by S. Bowyer

 

  



   
MY STUFF is the experiment/documentary of 26-year-old filmmaker, Petri Luukkainen. His rules are simple: all his stuff will be locked away in a facility, and he's only allowed to claim one item per day, for a year. He cannot buy stuff from stores, or use money to fill the gaps. The documentary is very candid, including profanity, and scenes of Luukkainen running down streets, naked, covering his man parts, in the first day when he had nothing to clothe himself.

     The film is very amusing, yet thought-provoking, and includes his friends and family such as in this trailer:

 

 

 

     The trailer has subtitles and is not in English, as is the whole movie. However, the Finnish language with English text is preferable than some dubbed-over voice that might have detracted from Petri's persona and his overall message. I didn't find the method of communication off-putting.

     The movie starts jumping between several different scenes. We start with a clip of him 6 months into the experiment and how he's not coping very well. Then we jump to seeing his empty house on day 1, a nude Petri running down a stairwell, down the road, and to the storage facility to pick his first item. He proclaims he is a "stuff lover". The third scene is some archive footage from 3 years ago when a girlfriend left him. He speaks about being a mess and shows us around his apartment and all the stuff that makes him happy and he says he feels like it's the "flat of his dreams."

     We finally switch to how the experiment starts, the preparation such as buying a storage facility, moving all his stuff out and packing up. He speaks about what stuff means to him and how he wants to change his life. We soon meet his grandmother, who is everything to him. He talks about his experiment with her and asks her opinion about stuff being based on our generation. 

     His grandmother says, "People didn't have so many things after the war. Nobody had very much at that time. It was good if you even had a job. When I was younger, of course I bought things, that maybe weren't always necessary. But nowadays I've started thinking that it is all left behind." 

     "So you'd see what you need. That sounds wise," she responds when he explains he plans to take his own stuff away. "It's probably the only way to find moderation."

     Petri challenges his grandmother with the question of what items she'd want to keep. She says, "I'm a woman, so of course I would take the refrigerator."

     Petri remarks he likes his idea, but candidly says his friends don't agree. "we've wondered whether you've gone crazy, but I guesss you haven't, or maybe you have," one friend says. At the same time, his friend speaks of his holidays away with no TV, Internet or phone and agrees it's nice to escape his 2 weeks of holiday per year.

Day 1: A long coat

     He settles down naked using the coat as a pillow, then decides to use it as a blanket because he's cold. The next morning he notes that he didn't sleep so bad without a bed and it helped to put his legs in the sleeves and button it up like a sleeping bag. 

     That morning, Juho arrives with a small amount of food. He is Petri's brother who is his "safety net", his promised helper. Petri sets out to find a way to keep his food safe with nothing in his apartment. How do you keep it cold and fresh with no appliances or assets? And how will he eat with no cooking appliances or cutlery?

     Juho laughs, as Petri works out how to keep his milk from spoiling. "This is really stupid, you know? It doesn't make any sense."

Day 3: The waiting game

    Petri admits he tries to estimate when it's midnight so he can go to storage to get both "day 2" and "day 3" item. Without a clock, he waits in his apartment with his coat on. Then he runs down the street in his coat in the early hours of the morning. 

     From the first day we see he's going to be a guru of invention with his limited items. In the first few days, the long coat becomes a towel, a sleeping bag, a pillow, and body coverage for public outings.

     The documentary flicks between present item-selecting and limited living, to the pre-scenes before the experiment. It gives insight into what his social network did in response to his planning and preparing, and what he assumed about his own experiment. I liked this, as it helped connect the preconceived ideas with the reality, and meant we could dive into day 1 straight away without having to cover the background first. I was curious to know what items he had considered most important and if those were his early selections.

Day 5: Real decisions

    Petri debates which item he's going to take from the storage facility. He debates between warmth and versatility when it comes to selecting a piece of clothing. He decides he has enough items (5) to return to work and that he can be paid in cash because money isn't stuff, therefore he's not cheating his experiment.     

 

Day 7: Rewards

     Petri notes that every time he gets a new item, his standard of living increases a great deal. He wakes up feeling like he is lucky with the 7 items he has. His perspective is starting to switch. He states he doesn't even need 1 item per day anymore. 7 items is living. He says he's going to go sockless for a year, and he won't take his chair because he can sit on the floor. It makes me wonder what happens between now, and the scene in 6 months time, where he seemed miserable that we got a brief glance at early in the documentary.

     Petri then refuses to go to the storage facility for 10 days, forgoes 10 items and doesn't record anything. On day 18, he returns and selects 10 items.

 

Petri sits by the storage facility, considering what stuff to favour.

 

Day 41: Mum arrives

     The apartment seems to be collecting items, and Mum arrives to see how his experiment is holding up. She is amused by his appearance, and laughs joyfully. After a look around, she gives her comments on his first few changes and what she notices first. He tells her he's up to 20 items as he's been skipping days and items. Petri also remarks that often stuff comes in pieces such as table has to be with chair, so they would be more than one item and it's easier to "bank up" and take more at the same time. His mother is confused when she finds out he still doesn't have a fridge.

 

Day 70-80 (estimated): Friendship tested

     After banking a further amass of points, he returns to the facility to gain 50 items. The house is starting to look fuller, and yes, he has a fridge. He also speaks about the pressures work gives him to have certain items, which he would not have chosen to prioritise. His friends also add pressure, telling him to hurry up and get a phone. They email him on his work computer, "A phone is directly proportional to how one values a friendship. However, if the Project is more important, we have to accept that." Then one comes to visit, and the argument seems null.

     Later, Petri debates the social isolation. "It's felt good when people can't reach me. It makes you free. However, it closes out those who don't use e-mail regularly, such as my parents and some of my friends."

     "The main thing about the phone is that I proved myself that I can be without it. Now I've proved it. I haven't had a phone for almost four months."

Day 81 to 114: Tide turns

     Interesting, it appears our experimenter might be sliding back into wanting stuff. He complains he needs curtains because he can't sleep in his room, despite now having a more comfortable bed. This seems in complete contrast to what he said on day 1, saying it was possible to sleep fine on the floor, with nothing but a makeshift sleeping bag made from a long coat.

 

Day 153: Halfway-ish

     It's been almost 6 months of the experiment, and Petri travels to his hometown where he talks to Jesse, a young cousin, about his experiment. The boy interviews him on how he's feeling about the experiment in a straight-forward manner. He demands to know everything. Although simple questions, they challenge to really consider a lifestyle of limitation, the amount of items he's not using, and how he spends his time. 

     And then we loop to the scene, where Petri is "pissed off about the whole thing."

     The viewers are thrown into the real motivation behind the experiment, and what he now feels about the happenings of his last 6 months. It appears he's hit a wall. Some more insightful words from his grandmother push him to explore more into these factors he's been ignoring.

 

Day 210-365: No spoiling the end!

     The final months include debates about clothes washing and the mess that followed, a new acquaintance, more item tabulation, replacing stuff without buying, new entertainment that doesn't involve items, and a sick relative and their items of importance.  

 

     When you first start watching this documentary, you will ask yourself what items you'd want to take with you the first week. However, as Petri starts to question his real motives, you forget the items he's using and the focus is on him as a person. What is he missing that isn't material? What will he achieve after the year? What will he come to understand about himself? What is this hidden factor that was ignored? We watch him develop from a naked man running down the street on day 1 into a possibly transformed man who re-enters civilization through the year. 

     In the final moments of the documentary, Petri reflects on the experiment and what lessons he might take with him. In the final scenes, the cleaning out process of the storage facility gives hint of how his life might be, and what influences have changed. This became more than a simple experiment, it became a mental journey of a man who was bound by stuff. 

     The ending credits feature his list of claimed items in order, to give the viewer the "priority order" he'd given them. Would it be the order you'd select things? Probably not. While "stuff" doesn't define who we are, who we are defines what "stuff" we choose.

 


PANEL COMMENTS

 

Sandy Chugg: Some people buy and accumulate things just because it makes them feel good.

 Some women have many clothes and pairs of shoes. Some men have many tools that they rarely use. Some people buy lots of gadgets and some amass fitness machines that often just get put into a spare room or out in the shed.

Do material objects bring true happiness and satisfaction?

Many households are full of collectibles that many others would consider are dust collectors. Often things have a sentimental value and often things are received from someone as a present that they did not want, but feel they should keep  because it would be rude to get rid of.

For a lot of people owning more seems to fulfill their life, yet many others do not feel they need possessions to have a happy life.

At times people feel they should be entitled to what someone else has and therefore will just take it.

 For a lot of people, when accumulating becomes hoarding, can become a very distressing and overwhelming experience because they are unable to let go.

The items people amass can define who they are.

The fact that people are all individuals creates the differences to what a person values compared to what another may feel and think they need or want.

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