Art Consumerism

Do I Need This?

Written by Sven Eberlein

…is the question I ask myself all the time. Living in times in which it often seems harder to avoid new stuff than to accumulate it, I ask this question not just for the sake of a planet drowning in junk but for my own sanity. And it’s not just physical things I get overwhelmed by. The onslaught of digital information and chattering, from emails to social networks to blogs to causes to advertising to news clips to films often leaves my head filled up but my soul empty. Everybody is talking and nobody is listening, so I try to choose my own words wisely, pondering first if the world really needs to hear them.

Every now and then though I come across a project or a message that just feels right to be released, that the world indeed needs. One of them — and not without irony — is Kate Schermerhorn’s movie idea currently collecting steam on Kickstarter, asking the very question:


Do I Need This examines our culture’s excessive, often questionable acquisition of possessions and asks the viewer to stop and examine what they buy and whether they actually need what they are purchasing – does your newborn really need that baby wipe warmer? Does your dog need another overpriced squeeky toy…do you need that hot dog cooker you found in the Sky Mall catalog…will that uncomfortable pair of new shoes be a good idea simply because they were on sale?

Using humor, quirky and engaging characters, and no preaching, Do I Need This pushes viewers to think beyond today, beyond the instant gratification of walking away with a shopping bag or carload of stuff and to look at the impacts of our endless world of purchases, on ourselves as well as on our planet. The film will engage viewers who may not view themselves as environmentalists but can still make a world of difference with changes to their buying habits.

Kate Schermerhorn’s directorial debut, Seeking 1906 (KQED co-production), won her a Northern California Emmy for Directing and a nomination for Best Historical/Cultural Feature in 2007. The San Francisco Chronicle described the one hour documentary about best-selling writer Simon Winchester as “sublime and fascinating.” Kate recently completed a second hour long documentary about modern marriage, “After Happily Ever After.” The film, which Scientific American describes as “delightfully quirky” asks some often overlooked questions about the institution of marriage. “After Happily Ever After” recently won the Council for Contemporary Families 2012 Media Award for broadcast coverage of family issues.

When I first heard about Kate’s movie, I felt not only that it needed to be out there and hopefully spread far and wide, but I wanted to do my part in amplifying its message. I pledged 25 bucks to the Kickstarter campaign and it felt good to hold a small stake in the documentary, but then I remembered that I had written a song called Shed last year, a kind of a tongue in cheek commentary on our collective gluttony that I thought would be a fitting and fun addition to the project. It was kind of a quickie home recording that wasn’t really meant for public “consumption,” but I thought, “what the hell, these guys (the documentary and the song) need to get together and meet.”

So I emailed the song to Kate offering her to play around with it (cautioning that it was not a professional quality recording and that I would go into a real studio if she wanted to use it), and she replied immediately saying how much she dug the tune but that she couldn’t pay for it. Since I never thought of it in that way and my long and illustrious musician life taught me all about playing for drinks and making the world a happier place, I told her that of course she was welcome to use the tune whichever way she liked, except in a Toys R Us commercial. (I didn’t actually say that, but it’s kinda fun to think of all the products this song wouldn’t work for).

A couple days later Kate emailed, saying Shed was now on her Kickstarter page. I certainly did not expect that, but figured now that the cat was out of the bag I may as well share it with the rest of the world. Does the world need it? You be the judge…

by Sven Eberlein

I’ve got a closet full of things
don’t know how they made it in
there’s that sweater I don’t like
and the tapes left behind by my friend Mike

I’ve tried to clear it out before
but all that stuff keeps getting more
my house is looking like a store
and now I can’t even close the door

Shedding thoughts, shedding fears, shedding layers, shedding years
shed the future, shed the past, shed what’s missing, it won’t last

I wanna buy a brand new car
wanna travel to Qatar
get my hands on the new Mac
be the first to buy the app

What the hell I wanna splurge
later I can always purge
there’s no deal I wouldn’t search
I just can’t resist the sudden urge

And now I’m drowning in my junk
oh Lord, why am I in such a funk?
but no, another gift, another chunk
where should I put it, in my trunk?

I’m overwhelmed, I start to pray
for all the stuff to go away
I wanna meditate all day
but then I gotta buy a cushion first — oy vey!

Shedding thoughts, shedding fears, shedding layers, shedding years
shed the future, shed the past, shed what’s missing, it won’t last
sit on the shed or underneath, find a little space to breathe’
clear the clutter in your head, if that don’t work, get rid of shed

I wanna set it all on fire
but that would get the carbon levels higher
my situation is so dire
my crap’s feeding the Pacific Gyre

Oh what can I do, what can be done?
my compulsion to consume seems so human
but when all else fails there’s still this song
all together, everyone:

Shedding thoughts, shedding fears, shedding layers, shedding years
shed the future, shed the past, shed what’s missing, it won’t last
sit on the shed or underneath, find a little space to breathe’
clear the clutter in your head, if that don’t work, get rid of shed
shed the garbage, shed the waste, stop the buying, slow the chase
get your shed together now, you don’t need much anyhow

Also, Kate’s Kickstarter campaign is just about to hit the $10,000 goal with 3 days to go, so I thought I’d give it a final push. Who knows, perhaps you’d like to hold a stake in this movie, and — if Shed ends up making into it — my song. But most importantly, in getting more people in this country to ask themselves “Do I Need This? before putting it into their shopping carts, homes and heads.

I’ll close with a few images that beg the question,

Do I need all of this?


Do I need any of these?


Do the kids need one of these?


Do I need to have all of these?


Hmmm, maybe one of these?


Definitely not this…


I think what I really need is this!



About the author

Sven Eberlein

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  • OMG! I have to introduce you to a friend in SF who runs this amazing business called Liberated Spaces! She’s about clearing junk out of your life so you can have more room for what’s truly meaningful. I just know you’d hit it off. What do you say?

    • Thanks so much, dearsuburbia, so glad you like it. I’m trying hard not to let it clutter up my head. It’s what we call an “ear worm” in German. : )

  • What a great find, Sven. This film is as important as a film can be. And it’s awesome that your song meshes so perfectly with the movie…another wonderful connection on the Great Wheel!

    • I can’t wait to see the film when it’s finished, but it might take a while as she’s just getting started. If Kate ends up wanting to use my song I’ll definitely have to re-record it for better quality. Either way, I do love it when things gel like that.

  • We don’t need the stuff “Sven”, but the “economy” seems to need it. What a weird system based on ever increasing consumption.

    • At least the way we think of “economy” currently, Al. It’s funny, I posted this on Daily Kos and some people commented that this is such a silly idea because in order to stimulate the economy we all need to buy and consume more. People just don’t seem to understand that you can’t shop on a dead planet, that there is no economy outside ecology, and that all we’re currently doing with our short-sighted perpetual growth-based idea of economy is charging everything on mama earth’s credit card.

      • I think that’s a good description “…charging everything on mama earth’s credit card.”