Channel 4 recently screened an interesting documentary called Life Stripped Bare. The premise was to take three households of youngish people (20s – 30s) and take away all their possessions, allowing them to retrieve one item per day from a nearby storage container. All meant pretty much everything. They got to keep a bit of food and the places they lived but pretty much everything else was taken away.
I imagine toilet roll was probably allowed, since there was no mention of people retrieving that, but all(!) clothes were verboten at the start. I suspect that was mainly a ratings trick since nobody actually revealed much more on camera than might be seen in beachwear – the word which comes to mind begins with g, ends with s and ratuitou in the middle. As a documentary it would have been kinder and possibly allowed the program to go deeper if they’d started on Day 1, allowed to retain one item, than Day 0 with nothing; most chose body covering clothes although kudos to the participant who instead picked a roll of fabric and, without proper tools, fashioned a complete set of garments including sandals and underwear.
At the end of the twenty one day ‘experiment’ and the return of their remaining possessions, most of them got rid of a chunk of stuff but far from everything. What counts as a thing anyway? A toolbox or each individual tool?
Overall, it wasn’t the apogee of documentary programming. What would be interesting – although probably not attractive enough to raise the necessary funding – would be to come back to each of those people featured in a year’s time and see what about the experience has led to lasting changes. Sadly, I expect the answer is probably not much and, given the generally poor reviews of the programme, the chance of seeing a follow up is even slimmer.