Eye of the Beholder: My Story of Stuff

When my multimedia training group at the Knight Digital Media Center was assigned to cover the East Bay Center for Creative Reuse, I knew it was going to be a fun ride. An obsessive recycler and passionate thrift store shopper, I’ve always been allergic to waste. 

Even the word stuff is juicy to me. I think of George Carlin’s hysterically funny routine about how Americans need ever-bigger houses to store all of our stuff. A refrain from a poem I heard 25 ago by Ntozake Shange resurfaces: “Somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff.” And lately, that clever viral video called The Story of Stuff comes to mind.

Well, at last week’s training, I was teamed up with a group of serious journalists: Folks who usually cover hard “stuff” like murders and complex environmental stories. It was a relief for many to take on a lighter topic than usual.

Let me share with you the results. Here’s the video and audio slide show we cranked out, along with this simple game created using flash. We also developed the web page where that content lives.

Since we spent time at a place where people bring their junk for others to repurpose, where “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” I like to think that our team also created something out of nothing. It might not be art, but we learned a lot along the way.

Many thanks to my comrades: Robert McClure of Investigate West, Andrea Alexander of The (Bergen) Record in N.J., David Reynolds of the Star News in Wilmington, N. C., and Kwan Booth of

And, in case you were curious, I didn’t actually buy anything at the Depot, although a lot of very cool things caught my eye. My focus these days is on getting rid of stuff, not accumulating more.