A Place for My Stuff

Posted: Dec 22 2014



That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. – George Carlin

It was Y2K. I was living in a pristine suburb of Philadelphia.  I worked as a freelance TV camera-person and producer for some pretty big clients that you’ve probably heard of. 

There was my husband, photographer Todd Wall (also my business partner).  There was my son, a “problem child” who eluded being placed in any particular box, despite the efforts of an army of “helping” professionals to find one for him.  And there was the school where every child was perfect.  Unless they weren’t.

I listened to OK Computer over and over because it resonated with the certain displaced, dis-ease I felt everyday.

The Third Place

The sociologist Ray Oldenburg talks about the importance of a “third place” in a healthy civil society.  The first place being home, the second the workplace and the third, adding an additional dimension, where one might encounter the vital human interaction that gives us a reason for being.

My first place was our house. We strategized, marketed and billed our clients from our home office.  We spent a lot of time on the phone and online. Sometimes we shared meals with friends.

When we ventured out to work, it was always to a different destination with a different cast of characters. As a result, my second place was the gym. 

My third place was the mall.

(My irregular work schedule made using free time to work as a volunteer impossible, as I could never commit to anything more than a few hours in advance.)

When bookings were slow, the weather was gray and the house started feeling small, off I would go on a misguided search for community. 

Outlet malls were a favorite of mine.  There I would find lots and lots of stuff.  Bales of it.  Sometimes with designer labels.  Most of it, regardless of the brand was of foreign manufacture from places I’d never been.  India, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh.   

These things had to have been touched by human hands. They didn’t just materialize from thin air. I’ve tried to sew. It requires skill. How did this stuff arrive at this place in such huge quantities and at such low prices?  How did that economy work? 

Although my outfit of choice regardless of the occasion was always the same jeans, tee shirt and leather boots (acceptable and utilitarian attire for my work), my closet was bursting at the seams.

I didn’t feel particularly good about this.  On some level I knew that all of my acquisitions had a not so nice back-story as I later learned when Rana Plaza collapsed taking so many lives.  Nevertheless as soon as the old malaise set in, off I would go again.


We no longer live in Philadelphia. 

The Economic Downturn whipped us around like a rogue wave.  At first fear set in but soon it was followed by a surge of relief.  Maybe this life, which didn’t feel so great in the first place, wasn’t for us anymore.

Things happen for a reason. It’s best sometimes, to still yourself and listen to the message that fate brings.

We had purchased 5 acres of jungle property in Tulum, Mexico just before the thunder of the new economy rolled into our world.  It was our intention to retire there. Someday. 

Someday had arrived.  Just a little bit prematurely.

When our son left for college in North Carolina, we drove south with him (and then west and east again) until we arrived in Tulum.

We’ve been living here for two years and have decided to call this place home.  It isn’t perfect but we’ve made many friends.

I studied architecture at City College in New York.  Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities was a touchstone work that had a huge impact on my world-view. 

By her standards, Tulum is a synthetic place.  30 years ago there was almost nothing here but Maya in traditional houses made of sticks.  Now it is one of the fastest growing cities in Latin America.  Almost no one is “from” here.  This bothers me.  But the social capital of the streets surely exists and this is a good thing.

Peoplemade was conceived as a reaction to everything I have seen and processed and internalized over the years. 

How could I take the malaise and fear that I had experienced and turn it into something positive?  The acquisitive nature of people can be destructive and unsustainable but it also powers our economy, supports creative artists and puts food on the table.

As Avi Fox, an entrepreneur and activist from my home town in Narberth, Pennsylvania says of “selling retail” with good conscience in world already bursting with stuff: “it’s like Star Wars; you have to go to the Death Star to blow it up.”  Change the paradigm.

Here at Peoplemade we provide a platform for small companies and artisans to bring their work to market.  Each piece is made by hand and in 10 years it will be just as relevant as the day you bought it.

Surround yourself with beautiful things that enhance your life.  Just don’t drown in them.  Lighten your load; then go out and walk around.


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